Gravity, the best app in the world?

Posted on 01/07/2011

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I love Gravity. It is simply one of the best mobile apps in circulation. If you are simply looking at what an app is designed to do and how well it does it, then I can’t see too many apps out there on any platform bettering Gravity. Call it Functional Fidelity. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how good an app looks (and Gravity scores well in this department) if it is lacking in functionality. This doesn’t mean that the user interface and design has to be overlooked, but it must tie in with what the app is meant to be doing. Great design plus full functionality is ultimately what one wants to see. The gold standard for apps based on some website or other, like social networking site, will be how they are able to take all the things you do on the desktop and package them logically for mobile use, without sacrificing functionality. That is functional fidelity and is a  critical  measure for me when judging an app.

I have tried a number of clients for Twitter on S60/Symbian. This includes Tweets60, Trill, Nokia Social on the N8, and the underwhelming mobile site. The only worthwhile solution is Gravity. The app supports virtually all functions of Twitter and is also beautifully laid out, making it easy to naviigate through. Viewing the timeline, mentions, tweets, messages and friends is a breeze. Unlike Nokia Social for example, Gravity also supports retweets and what I like also is that you can edit the post before you retweet. One of the main things I use Twitter for is content aggregation. This saves me having to visit multiple sites to get my daily news digest. Clicking or tapping on a post brings up options to reply, retweet, forward, favourite. If there is link this will appear here too and clicking/tapping brings up options to open the link in the default browser or copy to clipboard if you want to use another browser like Opera Mini. The best thing that I can say about using Gravity for Twitter is that it can fully replace the desktop experience, due to the well thought out design and incredibly rich functionality.

Of course there is more to social networking than Twitter. Gravity supports Facebook, Foursquare and Google Reader accounts. I have a Foursquare account but have still to find any real world use for it. I have used both the official Foursquare app for Nokia Symbian devices and Gravity’s implementation is better in my opinion, but a regular user’s opinion will probably differ. The Google Reader support is impressive, again like support for Twitter can fully replace the desktop experience.Since I follow pretty much all the sites I used to get feeds for on Google Reader, I have actually stopped using the service, but I would recommend Gravity as a more than worthy replacement. The only limitation, if one can see it as such, is that you can only view ‘all items’ or feeds from your categories. You can’t view the feed from a single site only but it’s a minor quibble.

When it comes to Facebook, the mobile site more that fulfills my need. It’s a good example of how a site should be written for mobile devices, offering all of the core features and the omissions are for the most part logical. One thing that has baffled and annoyed me with first the standalone Facebook app for Symbian and now Nokia Social, is the hopeless notifications system. In Nokia Social for example, notifications refers to calendar events and inbox messages. Wall posts? Likes? Comments? I know other platforms have these so why not Symbian. What is the use of having an app for facebook, if there is no way to tell if your friends are interacting with you. This is why I have stuck resolutely with the mobile site.

Until now.

The first alpha of Gravity 1.50 was issued recently with enhanced support for Facebook that I was keen to try out. Previously support was adequate just the basics like checking and posting status updates. Gravity is primarily a Twitter client so t is understandable that the developer will prioritise that over the other networks, but the Google Reader implementation shows the scope of Gravity. Gravity 1.5 now introduces a  notification system similar to that of Facebook mobile, so at last I can know who is doing what. There is support for the inbox as well. Now navigating through Facebook, there are four tabs, news feed, status updates, messages and notifications. There is still a lot of functionality missing but in this states Facebook on Gravity now becomes relevant. Just by adding a notifications system, for interacting with your friends on the fly it surpasses Nokia Social and the standalone Facebook app. Some parts need work. You can write on people’s wall for example but unless they have posted a recent status upadte or appear in your notifications, you cannot navigate to their wall. It would be nice if like in Twitter, a friends list could be added, which at the least would take you to their wall. There is no support for full profile views. Disappointingly you cannot  view your own wall or profile. Photo uploads are currently not supported as well. Another thing I noticed is that Gravity truncates long posts in the news feed and status updates tabs, and I wonder if this is related to the 250 character limit imposed for posts in the app. If you go to the person’s wall however you can view the entire status which is a little confusing. I have to say though, considering that the Facebook part is merely a sideshow to the main feature, Twitter, it allows basic access to the core features of Facebook and is implemented well.

Gravity is a simply phenomenal twitter client, and with support for additional social networks it gets better and better with every release and this latest alpha is no different. Considering it’s alpha status it is an impressive release, providing useful enhancements and stability. I have yet to experience any gremlins from a stability point. I feel it will not be long before Gravity is not just the perfect Twitter client but a fully comprehensive social networking tool.

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