October 21, 2014

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.