WidSets: More than just RSS


Cell phones have become the premier device for people to keep connected. And one aspect of keeping connected is to get timely updates of the news and web sites we regularly follow. If RSS reader and/or Twitter were the first things that popped in your mind then you're along the right lines. I personally stick to RSS readers too since almost every web site offers a RSS feed.

While I was going through Nokia's Download! service, I noticed an application that I've heard a lot about but never tried before, WidSets. Widsets is available on almost all Nokia phones as either a Java application for Nokia's mainstream S40 handsets and phones from other manufacturers or as a native S60 application for Nokia's S60 smartphones. It provides a consistent UI and framework for developers to develop online applications called widgets.

For this blog I am reviewing WidSets version 3.1.4 on a Nokia E71. Find out if WidSets is worth trying after the jump.

When you start WidSets it requests access to connect online. Of course you can keep it offline but you'll only be able to see what's cached on your phone the last time you were online and won't get updated content. To quickly tell if you're online or offline, the background of WidSets is black if it's offline and blue if it's online. In a way, offline and online resembles Google Gears and how, just recently, you can browse your Gmail while offline based on what you've previously viewed.

Once WidSets is connected, the workspace background turns blue. I guess it's to say it's daytime. The AccuWeather widget will display the current weather right on the widget button.
Without any widgets on your screen when you first start, you'll want to browse through Widset's list of widgets. A quick glance at what's available may lead you to believe it's just another RSS reader since you have Nokia Discussions, Wall Street Journal, Howard Forums, and Wikipedia. And that isn't too far from the truth. Unfortunately most widgets don't give you much functionality and the quality between them vary greatly. So to be fair I'm going to review one of the popular widgets that is a little more than just a news reader and one that you may find useful too.

Browsing through the widgets (left) you can see the popularity of the widget and only the widget title is displayed. You can also search for a particular widget (middle). The detailed view (right) doesn't give you any added information. Click images for larger versions.

The popular Facebook social networking application makes its way onto WidSets and impresses with its features.
It's a popular social networking web site that has a native application for almost all smartphones like the Blackberry and iPhone. You may have seen your friends adding the application. It's Facebook and for Nokia handsets it comes in the form of a widget. Unlike most widgets (I'm looking at you, the Howard Forums widget), you can interact with the Facebook widget by logging in. Inside you'll get all your latest notifications, browse through your friends and read their details, browse through photo galleries, update your status, and even upload photos to your own gallery. This is almost everything you can do in the real Facebook web site minus the custom applications. If you were put off by most widgets, I definitely recommend the Facebook widget if you're a Facebook addict.

Browse through your friends and view their details. Browse through photo galleries. Zoom in on any photo. Update your status or even upload a photo. Click images for larger versions.

Most WidSets widgets like Wall Street Journal Online, Howard Forums, and Nokia Discussion are just a newsfeed and do not feature any interactive features like posting comments.
Unfortunately, all widgets are contained within the WidSets application so as good as the Facebook widget is, it never feels great as you can't access the widget directly as a shortcut from your home screen. The weather widget is nice that it immediately updates with the current weather when you open Widset, but wouldn't it be even better if the weather widget appeared as a dedicated application and its icon automatically updated based on the weather? You're left continuously clicking back into the WidSets application and that's the weakness. First it takes a few clicks to go into the WidSets application unless you have it on your home screen. Secondly, the UI for WidSets is laid out horizontally while all the widgset icons are horizonatally wide and fairly large. With at most 3 widgets stacked in each column, you can't see all your widgets at once and scrolling doesn't wrap so you'll be scrolling a lot to get to your last and right most widget.

Some really great widgets like Facebook, it's offline capabilities, and wealth of widgets make Widsets a very useful application to add to your phone. Since widgets are designed for mobile devices, all the content are easy to navigate on small screens. Lot of medocre widgets that don't do any more than a RSS reader, a clunky UI that needs a lot of scrolling and provides little detail to the widgets available, and a framework that limits widgets to being within the WidSets application hurt the overall user experience while using Widsets. I recommend giving WidSets a try to see if there are any widgets that interest you and whether your appreciate the WidSets UI layout.

Eric's Software Rating: Worth a try
WidSets: More than just RSS WidSets: More than just RSS Reviewed by Eric on 1/30/2009 Rating: 5

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