Twitter for Android gets optimization for Ice Cream Sandwich, Kindle Fire, Nook Tablet

by Phil Hornshaw

Twitter has rolled out a bunch of new updates for its Android app, mostly aimed at making it work better on the newest tablets and newer versions of Android.

Part of the update has been to change the way the Twitter app does things like access a device’s address book and contacts lists, something that was the center of a big controversy among mobile users during the past month. Like many other social networking apps, Twitter uses your address book to enable its “Find My Friends” feature, which allows it to scan through email addresses and other information to locate other Twitter users. But also like other social networking apps, Twitter was hanging onto that data, reportedly for as long as 18 months.

So one of the more noticeable changes in the new update is to add a privacy gate that notifies users their address book information is being accessed by Twitter and why, in the form of a confirmation dialog box. Now when you access Find My Friends, Twitter puts up a warning and asks you to confirm that you’re okay with your address book being accessed. It’s a minor thing in practice, but something of a big deal given the climate around social networking apps right now.

More subtle are the optimizations geared toward tablet use and devices on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The latest version of Google’s mobile operating system has been slow to roll out to lots of devices, but for those that do have access to the newest version of Android, the Twitter update should make the app run a little more smoothly and take advantage of more of the built-in features of the software. The update also includes optimization for Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Tablet, both of which have 7-inch screens and are less powerful technically than other tablets on the market.

For users who aren’t on a newfangled ICS device or the latest tablets sold by the booksellers, the rest of the Twitter updates are nice, if somewhat underwhelming. Twitter has brought back a feature that allows users to “swipe” across tweets in their timelines, which brings up a number of options for replying, retweeting and so on. Twitter also says it has improved network performance and scrolling performance on all devices, so in general, Twitter should look and feel better.

All of the little tweaks in the latest release of Android are nice, but that’s exactly what they feel like: little tweaks. This isn’t a big and meaningful improvement to the app you already use. There are some added conveniences and the segments of the population using ICS, the Kindle Fire or the Nook Tablet will probably have a better experience going forward, but for the rest of us, this is the same old Twitter with a little bit more polish.

The plus side is that Twitter has made some solid improvements behind the scenes to beef up security and protect user privacy. Those things should help users feel a little better about using the app in the future, as well as douse the flames of outrage over privacy concerns that arose earlier this month. All of Twitter’s improvements seem like positive steps.