I Could do Widgout It…

android_widgets-300x283There is a rather familiar phenomenon in life when we want something…  we want it really, really bad.  Then we get it.  All of a sudden, all that we imagined this something might bring magically seems so faint and/or insignificant.  The problems we thought it would solve and value we thought it would bring to our lives just don’t match up to the reality.  Well… I have yet another of these experiences to add to the long list.

Widgets… man, they sounded great.  Of course I want to see my incoming emails, messages, weather information, upcoming appointments and news headlines right on my home screen without have to navigate around all over the place.  I mean, this works just fine and dandy with most non-smart phones and Windows Mobile has done this kinda okay for a good while now.  Surely this would have to work at least as well with Android, no?

Well, I gave them a try, I really did, and it just didn’t quite work out the way I hoped.  They made my device run slower, they ate up a ton of screen real-estate, and they rarely provided enough information.  About the only exceptions I’ve found for my dislike of widgets so far have been some of the weather widgets and the toggle widgets for WiFi, GPS and so forth.

I’ve tried the RSS feeds… wow, what a waste of space.  I tried the Facebook widget.  Weeeeee… one friend’s current status and the option to scroll through others while it constantly goofs up and takes you back to the most recent one.  And the list goes on.

Part of the problem is the layout constraints of the home screen itself.  You end up wasting so much space with boarders and spacing issues and so forth.  Not having vertical scrolling kinda goofs things up to.

So, if widgets don’t do it for me, what does?  Well… I am a notification bar junkie.  I love it.  As soon as something comes in you get a nice little notice and when you’re up to it, just a quick flip down and there you have it.  I think notifications really do a great job of giving you access to quick information without seeming to put too much of a burden on the system.  With widgets, there is an expectation of currency.  Sometimes they seem to stay up to date and sometimes not so much.  You also seem  to lose that sense of being actively informed that you get with the notification bar.

Simple little icons let you know what sort of notification is there for you.  It gives a really nice, uniform way to present quick bits of information.  Weather, calendar details, emails, messages, etc…  add in all of the great third part apps with their associated notifications and you can really have a tremendously informative setup.  I really like the active notification when there is something to look at.  When I look at a widget, I don’t know if it’s not updating or if there is just no update to be had.

I still think widgets could find their place, they just haven’t yet.  Like I say, I like the weather stuff and I like the toggle stuff, but if I really want to get into something I’m gonna want a full app for it anyway.  If the primary purpose is notification or updates, I definitely vote for the notification bar.

  • Lak

    dude try the pure widget set, there is a weather one, messages and emails, and two calendar ones they are amazing and can be skinned and coloured to suit your theme and wallpaper

    • Karl

      Listen to this man. The Pure Calendar Agenda Widget is indispensable, puts the stock calendar widget to shame. I'm gonna look into the others. I also like Reader Widget Small, Taskiller, the Clock/Weather Widget, and Mippin's Battery Widget (for the simple fact that it gives me the battery remaining percentage).

      Pandora's ok when I'm listening to pandora, Couldn't agree more about the facebook widget though.

  • lap

    The calWidget is much better than the original calendar widget that comes with cupcake

  • Miguel

    I feel sort of the same way about widgets. They are cool at first, but then I realize that I don't use them enough to justify the overhead. Right now I have the Facebook widget, Pandora widget on my left screen, stock Calendar widget on my my center screen, and the Google Search widget on my right screen, with the Taskiller widget, and the wifi, blue tooth etc widgets.

    Did Google add a Wifi, Bluetooth, etc widget in the 1.6 update? Because I found a really nice one installed after I got 1.6. It's white and takes yo minimal space. Nice design!

    But again, if you don't use, widgets, then I'm curious as to what your homescreens look like. Are they cluttered with apps to make it basically look like the Menu window. I'd be fearful of that, as it would make Android look like Windows Mobile!

    • Eddie

      Cluttered with Apps… hmmm. Sounds like the iPhone.

      • Nathan D. Cole

        No… I like some space. I let my backgroudn picture come through a bit. I've got the google search box and the new google power toggle widget. I also have a few folders. I like to group my apps by things like "Shopping", "Media", "Games" so I have a few of those.

    • I totally agree. My phone has to be able to be able to make and receive phone calls first and foremost. Widgets cause major lag and clutter and even without widgets the phone needs to be MUCH more responsive. I think a lot more can be done with the hard buttons on the phone to hide and reveal programs and for now the Notification bar is where I have my Quick Calender to make sure I'm not missing any appointments, but even that can get cluttered. Google exists because they simplified the internet — I wish they start taking the same approach with Android. Right now Android seems more of a Yahoo creation than something from Google.

      • Nathan D. Cole

        I like my Quick Calender too. Simple and effective.

  • John

    Maybe be it would have been a better world if HTC magic didn't try to murder android os with only 192 mb ram. (No homework at all)I have tried all the home replacements to have more screens to add widgets. Some look really nice, but all take up space, ram and slow the system down. I wish my system had more ram and i would keep some there, but speed is very important to me. I wish we could install more ram, like in a pc. Android is the most advanced os on any phone in the world but they give us 192 ram, for what? Most of the ram is used by android core.
    You said you like the notification bar, well to get notified a service must be running in the background. So more ram wasted. I honestly don't know how many, many times i hit a taskiller button everyday.(lots) I come to the conclusion that i have a great operating system with crippled specs phone.

    • Nathan D. Cole

      Absolutely… better hardware and networks will make a big difference, but you still have the real estate issues.

  • Jose

    I could not agree more. Widgets, for me, have proven to be the Christmas gift I waiting all year for only to have it in the closet under some shoes by late January. Only a select few grace my home page.

  • If you like apps that exploit the notification bar, check out my apps: StatusNotes, and StatusToggle. Publisher name: "Finer Mobile".

    • Nathan D. Cole

      If we haven't reviewed them yet… send us an email and get them on the review list!

  • I agree. The only widgets I've stuck with are Francois Deslandes' weather widget, grid calendar, CurveFish's silent mode toggle, and mippin's batter widget (I like to see the %). Otherwise the rest have been pretty useless to me.

  • Quick Search Box enabled the new generation of widgets!
    Search the market for "QSB"
    Use Quick COMMAND box to input data without opening any apps!

    • Nathan D. Cole

      If we haven't reviewed your stuff yet, make sure to shoot us an email to get it on the review list!

    • Nathan D. Cole

      A quick look at the descriptions on the market definately make it sound like an intersting approach though. Definately has some potential I think.

  • Just wondering why most here some to use the Google Search Widget? When you press inside the text box, all it does is bring up another search overlay, which you get the same exact effect from pressing Menu > Search anyway.

    I dunno, I guess it's just me. Being a programmer, I'm always about learning how I can grab a hold of more resources and how I can be efficient with what I have. The same goes for having the settings icon on any of your homescreens when you could just press Menu > Settings, or having the Dialer and Contacts icons on your homescreen when you could just press the call button (This is assuming your device does have a call button, which all Android devices released thus far do have.)

    Anyway, I'm largely not a fan of widgets. I only have 2 enabled: Advanced Task Manager (which is only a 1×1 sized widget which kills all processes upon touch) and the Power Control widget (which allows me to toggle WIFI, GPS, etc with 1 touch as opposed to 3-4 touches.) I just think they're rather useless and I agree with the entire sentiment of this article: please use the Notification Bar more, to all Android developers.

  • i definitely agree that i prefer notifications to widgets because widgets just slow everything down too much, but notifications have a major fault in that they run in the background, for constant real time updates. some apps work well with this, like the native gmail app, but apps like twidroid and babbler take up too much memory, and cause toooo much lag.

    i have a magic and i hit the taskiller button about twice an hour to clear everything out. power cycling, too. i can't really have apps open in the background, it just clogs up the system too much. the only widgets i have on my desktop are the power control, ringtoggle, taskiller, and the fml widget. those don't take up enough ram to bother me too much.