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It's a bird! No, it's an app! No, it's Tweetie 2 for iPhone!

Users of Tweetie, the popular Twitter client for both Mac and iPhone, have reason to be excited: a new version of the iPhone app, Tweetie 2 (aptly codenamed "Bigbird"), is confirmed to be on the way.

In a preview of the new version, Scott Kleinberg of ChicagoNow detailed his experiences with beta builds of the upcoming release. From the screenshots provided, it's clear that several interface improvements have been made, including a quick menu that provides easy access to several new features while posting a tweet. Other improvements include the ability to send video tweets, persistent session handling that restores the app to its previous state, conversation threading, draft management, and geotagging.

While Scott's review suggests that the changes and improvements make Tweetie 2 feel like a whole new app, Tweetie developer Loren Brichter indicates that it really is -- it's a complete rewrite from the original app. In addition to the major features, the new version also boasts integration with several 3rd party services, and a host of configuration options, from new gesture options to custom Twitter API settings.

Of course, not everyone will be happy with the update. There is already a stir among beta testers over the app's use of pinstripe backgrounds on the profile and single tweet views. Also, there is the issue of cost: Tweetie 2 will set you back $2.99, as it is being offered as a new app instead of a free upgrade to existing users. When it comes to upgrades, most desktop applications follow a pattern where minor updates (such as upgrading from version 1.0 to 1.1 or 1.1.2 -- often refered to as "point releases") are provided free of charge, and major updates (from version 1.0 to 2.0) usually require the user to purchase the new version of the software.

With iPhone apps, however, Apple does not provide a system to allow developers to do this. Developers can release upgrades and bug fixes as free updates to their applications, but if they invest a lot of time into a major update to their app, they have to submit it as a new, different version of the application rather than an upgrade to the old version, and there is no option to allow users who have perviously purchased the original app to receive a discount on the new version. So users are faced with having to pay full price for the upgrade, which in this case, is another $2.99.

In my opinion, this is not an unreasonable amount to pay for a major upgrade to an already great application, but there are users who feel they shouldn't have to pay for the upgrade. My advice to them? If you can't spare $3 for the amount of time and effort that was put into making a decent, feature-rich upgrade, don't bother using it. Stick with the original Tweetie or find another app that you're willing to pay for.

So, controversy aside, Tweetie 2 looks very promising. The latest beta build that was provided to developers is expected to be the final build, and if things go well, we should see it hit the App Store in the coming weeks. An update to the desktop version of Tweetie is also in the works, and will probably surface after the iPhone app is released.

Update: TUAW reader Ahmed drew our attention to this tweet, indicating that Tweetie 2 has been submitted to Apple! Assuming there are no hold-ups, we can probably expect to see it hit the App Store in a few weeks.

What do you think of the new version? Will you be upgrading when it's released? Let us know in the comments!

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