It's five dollars. It has half the functionality of Twittelator Pro. But Birdfeed just became my default iPhone Twitter app.

It's fast. The fastest Twitter app I've seen since Twitterfon (which isn't that fast anymore, once it started inserting ads.) The user interface is even cleaner and more spare than Tweetie's—the app it will inevitably be compared to the most. For instance, the "load more" button at the bottom is gone—you just keep scrolling down, and it keeps loading new tweets.




Gone, even, is the ubiquitous row of buttons that line the bottom of most Twitter apps for one-touch access to mentions, direct messages and other features. You have to slide back to a list-style menu to reach any feature besides the one you're currently looking at, meaning it's at least two taps to get from a timeline to mentions or vice versa. It solves this problem in part by making it so that you only have to do that when there's a reason to—a number pops up in the back button whenever you have new mentions or DMs telling you many are waiting (pointedly, it badges only new mentions and DMs, not new tweets in your overall timeline). The problem is when you use multiple Twitter clients, since you'll have to look at the same mention twice to get rid of the badge.

Like most every Twitter app except Tweetie, it does cache tweets on your phone, so you can read them offline. Caching is also part of the reason it feels fast. Beyond search and integration with Instapaper, however, it lacks any of the other "power features" that are the bread and butter of say, Twittelator Pro or TweetDeck, like grouping or multiple windows.

It's the opposite: A remarkably focused and well thought out exercise in restraint. It's the details like a timestamp marking every time you open the app so you know where you left off, that shine. If you only use the core Twitter features, Birdfeed is the best app you can buy.

That's not to say it's necessarily better than TweetDeck or Twittelator. The amazing thing about Twitter is that you can do whatever you want with it, and having all of those features is fantastic if you need them. Birdfeed is simply the most essential Twitter app for iPhone yet—it's only what you really need, beautifully designed.

It's not perfect—it freezes for a second when loading new tweets, like you hit the bottom of a timeline and starts pulling in more, and then there's that account amnesia bug.

But whether or not it's worth the extra $2 over Tweetie or the same $5 as feature-rich Twittelator Pro depends on how much speed, focus and design really matter to you. [Birdfeed, iTunes]