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Widgets for handsets. Utilities and goodies

Onrush of technology enhances the language with new terms. The term widget is one of most recent language gains. As for me, the term gizmo explains its essence in the most proper way. A widget for a mobile phone is some network application expanding users capabilities when receiving data via Internet at that this data is of personalized character and are available for tweaking.

Being cross-platform apps per se, widgets require a client (or engine, if you wish) to be installed on a mobile terminal which helps information to get delivered from certain online source to a particular users handset. Up to date, the only client for getting widgets in gear is Java-midlet although many developers have already announced that software products (mobile browser Opera 9) or operating system immediately will be added with a built in widgets-specialized engine. But itll occur in future, and for now Java is the only way for mobile devices to pick. We managed to discover a number of Internet pages with bevies of ready-made widgets, which we are going to tell you about now.


On www.widsets.com you can find Nokias brainchild which allows you to join in the world of widgets for handsets.

After registration you get to your personal home page where the widgets you have selected are shown.

To enrich home page with more content you may use the item Library. There are plenty of widgets lying around the site that is why all of them are grouped up by categories. Search by name is available, or you can look through a list of recent additions and most popular apps.

After choosing the necessary goodie you should mark it and after that it gets added to the manager and will be available for loading onto a handset.

Most sought-after widgets include Wikipedia, BBC news, logic games, client for eBay auction search.

The third part of the homepage is presented by Studio where you compose your own widgets. For the time being, using the studio you can create a widget for RSS-feeds. To make up a widget of your own, you should choose the icon format and skin (determines widgets color scheme) and put in an address for loading news and picture from the feed. The thing you get in the end is thrown onto your personal list automatically.

In order to install the client on a handset you should move to the options category (Settings) and tap the Reload button. The phone number specified in registration options will receive an SMS-link for midlet upload which will contain your personal information. This way, on the handset youll see the content which is on your personal page at www.widsets.com.

How all these thing look on a handset

After you have launched the client on your handset you should get access to the network in order to retrieve updates. The icons of all widgets marked on the personal page are displayed on the screen. For scrolling between different apps you may use the joystick, at that the active widget is highlighted with a red frame and the screens left corner holds number of new entries for it. The number of applications is not limited by your screen size shifting left/right, you get inactive moved off the display. The active column is placed in the middle, for widget selection you have to move joystick up/down. Upon activation, the widget puts up its contents onto the screen. Depending on type it can be news feed, puzzle, client for gmail, blog, clock and etc. For every widget you are free to customize messages alert types. Once the content is loaded it can be viewed in offline mode without data session running. Depending on settings news feeds can include images.

From handset to handset, the speed of content processing may vary considerably. When we loaded content and browsed widgets on the Nokia N80 IE smartphone, our experience did feel sluggish on shifts this smartphone has always been known for its being somewhat slow in spite of all firmware updates. With the Nokia N93 everything looked up. There were practically no slow-downs when were we swapping between widgets and their contents. Widsets.com is not the only place to find a selection of widgets for mobile phones. A decent widgets section can also be found on www.plusmo.com.

That site is remarkable for phone simulator, on whose screen you may view widgets contents immediately at the site.

This one offers mainly news feeds, but there are serious problems with Russian encodings. The matter is that symbols in UTF encoding are shown properly, though not all RSS-content suppliers use this one. As a result in the majority of cases loading news feeds, you will regularly come across illegible symbols, and should you try to create your own widget you get an error message.

What these things are all about?

Internet is getting to be a very vital part of any handset and widgets advent is what brings this to the foreground. The data upload function still cant get in line with voice services, but the volume of data transferred and received via mobile devices is steadily increasing. The only difference from desktops is that on a handsets small screen, any widget is not only an amenity on the screen, but a quite able application giving you the capability to receive retrieve required information directly from the Web. To be blunt, a widget is any program installed on a mobile device, and thats the reason we should narrow down this term a bit. In fact, when speaking of mobile devices, widgets are apps uploading data from Internet when starting up or updating. Unlike their elder brothers they are still unable to work in real time mode, but this is something to be rectified in the near term.

The above Nokias announcement on tools for development of widgets for S60 platform will allow shifting from sluggish Java-applications to highly tailored clients.

And in our turn, we will get new means for using data from the global network. More importantly, the data which we really need, be it news, exchange rates or games.

Viktor Dashkevich (viktor.dashkevich@mobile-review.com)
Translated by Oleg Kononosov (oleg.kononosov@mobile-review.com)

Published - 22 May 2006

Have something to add?! Write us... eldar@mobile-review.com



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