Widgets Swidgets

I have spent some time recently playing with WID:GET, an app that is currently in beta and which, in my opinion takes the idea of iOS widgets to a whole new level.

It is highly customisable and if you have the time you can create some complex and very useful widgets for your iPhone or iPad, and that is what I attempted.

Below is a widget with 9 weblinks and 8 app links, and they are all tappable.

I was quite chuffed with the extra functionality I had access to for about 3 hours, but something was bugging me.

All of a sudden my iPhone felt like a computer and, crucially, one that I had to think about before I tapped anything. Just a moment of pause before each action, but it was enough to make me realise that, to me, there is probably nothing more efficient and useful than a simple grid of icons.

A few minutes later and I removed all of my widgets and went back to mere icons. IT JUST WORKS! It really does and is perhaps one of the features of iOS that makes the iPhone what it is. We just don’t think about that very often.



Categories: iPhone, Thoughts

7 replies

  1. I haven’t been interested in this yet – mostly because I haven’t felt the need to use any of the new widgets from anyone yet on my homescreen. They seem to get in the way and fill up the screen more than they help.

  2. It looks like that’s the basic question Apple is straying from. Do you want a computer, with all its implied complexity, or do you want something easy to use that does the basics you need without much thought, in other words, a convenience device?

    Is there really a big push from consumers for more and more functionality? Even at the expense of simplicity? I wonder how many of the new features in each release get used more than once. And my cynical mind is thinking “If you can find them.”

    This hearkens back to my original decision about Palm versus a Pocket PC when the sales person, whom I will be forever grateful to, asked me whether I wanted a digital assistant or a small computer.

    Apple, and most technology companies, have the problem of what do I do next to get them to buy the newest, shiny toy. Simply adding more performance doesn’t cut it. It’s got to look fancier and have more features, whether or not they’ll be used. I wish there was an off switch to some of my iPhone’s features that would shove what I don’t use into the background.

  3. I really don’t see the value in the widget you created Shaun, surely it’s just a bunch of icons which could already have been on the home screen?

    Where I do see massive value is widgets that display information, such as tasks to do next, or countdowns to upcoming events that I need to be aware of. That glanceable information is really useful.

    I know it’s not a popular opinion, but I really liked the live tiles on my old Windows Phone, being able to see the relevant information and then decide if I needed to go into an app was super useful to me.

    I can see a future where I don’t have to think about which icon grants me access to which data, and I’m just shown the relevant data when I need it, in a format that suits me. If I need to work on that data I just tap it and the relevant bit of functionality allows me to do what I need to.

    I really think in future people will look back at our home screens filled with hundreds of little boxes and wonder how we ever got anything done!

    • I agree about the web links, it was more experimenting with the app I was using, but I have ended up with no widgets at all.

      As iOS widgets stand there is little value in presenting information that can be glanced at because a) they have to take up a minimum of 4 icons and b) the delays updating (particularly for third party apps) often means you have to open the app anyway.

      In theory it makes perfect sense to have live tiles and all of the bells and whistles that Android offers, but for so many people, myself included, a screen of icons is only marginally less efficient (losing a tap here or there) while offering a less computer style experience.

      Personally, I don’t believe widgets and themes offer much more than something to tinker with, which can ultimately use more time than any saved by using them.

  4. One new feature I’m trying to figure the usefulness of is the “App Library”
    (And remember, most new features add to the complexity, either the stuff you have to learn at first or the stuff you have to keep in your head)

    I’ve never been a fan of “recommendations” for apps, where the computer guesses what you might want to do next, and then you have to look at the icon and think about if the computer got it right. For movies or songs the idea makes sense, but there’s much less homogeneity among tasks one might do with apps. And because the computer is choosing and changing the order icons presented, not the person, they never sink into muscle memory. Similar for this arrangement by category.

    And then the App Library is always more swipes away than anything else, after all those other pages and pages if icons you might have. You can swipe down and start typing an app name, that’s a pretty solid and available way of leaping to a lesser used app when you don’t remember where you stashed it

    There is that alphabetical view of all apps you get when you use the search on that page…. maybe that’s an easier way of reviewing and deleting lots of apps in semi-bulk?

    Maybe I’m thinking of it wrong, maybe it’s not meant to be the launcher of choice, more a reminder and sorting of all the crap you’ve installed over the years…

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