The best Apple iPhone apps for social networking, blogging and social media – group test review

Twitter, Hootsuite, Facebook, BlogPress, Boxcar, Google+ reviewed and rated
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Everybody’s talking, all the time, about everything, all the time – or so it seems. So how do you keep on top of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and all the other ways there are to interact with friends, family and – hey – complete strangers on the Internet. This month we’re rounding up the best iPhone apps for your social network.

Please feel free to email us your feedback on the apps we’ve tested, and let us know about at apps or categories you’d like us to look at in future.

APP OF THE MONTH: Twitter
PRICE: £FREE
RATING: 5/5

Based on Tweetie, the app from Atebits, a software developer that was acquired last year by Twitter itself, this app virtually destroyed competition on the iPhone at a stroke – not only because it’s free, but because it’s also a rich, enjoyable client for the world’s favourite chat room.

Though it’s perfectly possible to log into your account and start tweeting, the deceptively simple interface conceals a powerful client that supports multiple accounts, location-based tweeting, automatic URL shortening, quick access to @mentions and direct messages, as well as trending topics, good search features, support for lists, push notifications and more.

Yet the real appeal of Twitter for iPhone (£FREE) is that it’s such a pleasure to use and never gets in the way of the business at hand – letting the world know what’s on your mind. There have been mis-steps along the way – the ill-judged QuickBar springs to mind – but these have usually been addressed quickly enough and for most Twitter users (casuals and obsessives alike) this is both fantastic and free.

HootSuite
PRICE: £FREE
RATING: 4/5
HootSuite (£FREE) is the client for a free web-based service which bills itself as a social media dashboard for users of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare – just sign up at www.hootsuite.com, download the app and once you’ve linked your HootSuite account to the relevant social media services, you’re ready to start posting to each one.

The benefit to aggregating all your different social media accounts in this way is that you can send the same post to multiple services – the drawback being that anyone who follows you around the Internet will see the same messages repeated over and over again.

That’s not Hootsuite’s fault though, and if you’re conscientious it’s easy to choose which services or profiles to post to on the fly (just tick or untick the relevant icons above the message) so you don’t end up spamming your lists with the same message.

Elsewhere, the interface is a bit dense for our liking (features like stats are buried too deep), and there are short bouts of being unable to update when HootSuite’s server gets overloaded, but overall it’s a hit.

Facebook
PRICE: £FREE
RATING: 4/5
Users of the official Facebook app (£FREE) may be surprised to see with such a high score, given that it’s routinely derided as being buggy and unpredictable, but on reflection we’ve decided it’s nowhere near as bad as some people suggest; perhaps, like many products, the more users you’ve got, the more complaints you attract.

From the main screen you can read the latest updates, arrange them in various ways, add a photo or video from your library and update your status or check in using your current location; you can also ‘Like’ and comment on what your friends are saying directly from the main list.

Skip out to the icon view, and you can go through your friends, pages, outstanding friend requests, check messages, photos, upcoming events and use Facebook chat to gossip with friends online. Yes, the official Facebook does hiccup from time to time and it’s annoying that you can’t edit your profile from inside the app and that the Account Settings feature just opens the Facebook website – but progress has been made (which is more than can be said for the iPad version – that’s right, there isn’t one).

BlogPress
PRICE: £1.99 inc. VAT
RATING: 4/5

There are a few blogging apps around (though not as many as you might think), but BlogPress (£1.99) wins out thanks to its support for all the major blogging platforms (including Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr and TypePad); some Open Source content management systems (like Joomla and Drupal); and links out to Facebook and Twitter, so that what you post on your blog is automatically pushed to these services in truncated form with a link to the actual blog entry.

You can link to multiple blogs and then post to them using straight text or HTML, adding photos and video as you go, either live from the camera of from the library. There’s the occasional bit of interface clunkiness (the refresh button overwrites blog headings beyond a certain number of characters, and some of the screen ‘furniture’ is too cramped together) – but for the price this is way ahead of the other blogging apps we’ve seen, and turns the iPhone into a proper tool for recording an online diary, telling the world what you think or doing a bit of citizen journalism.

Boxcar
PRICE: £FREE
RATING: 4/5
Boxcar (£FREE) offers push notifications for social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook as well as the less popular FourSquare, Gowalla and Reddit, and even relatively niche stuff like World of Warcraft-related news and events.

That means instead of having to check for yourself you can sit back and wait for Boxcar to tell you when someone sends you Facebook mail or you’re mentioned in a tweet and you can set the service up to track trending topics, Twitter lists and more; it’ll even work with your existing email account and let you know when anything drops into your inbox.

You’ll need to sign up to the Boxcar service first, but it’s free and after that, you can get on with whatever you’re doing, safe in the knowledge that you’re not going to miss out on anything important just because you’re too busy to keep checking a particular service every five minutes.

Google+
PRICE: £FREE
RATING: 4/5
This is the official client for Google+, Google’s Facebook-killer and the company’s latest attempt to invade the social space. The app lets you do all the things you can do online and wraps them up in a sparse, elegant interface – think new-look Google Mail rather than old-style Google Docs – so you can monitor your Stream, manage your Circles, join or start your own Huddles, find new friends and so on.

None of this make sense? Hop on over to here and it’ll start to. Remember what Facebook was like when you logged on and didn’t have any friends, and couldn’t see the point? Google+ (£FREE) is like that now, but when its time arrives – and it will – this will be the client to use.

All apps are available from the Apple iTunes Store.