Satiating the seemingly limitless demand for greater handheld device functionality, mobile developers are being given increasingly powerful options for fine-tuning the user experience with mobile widget toolkits.
So what you say? Well, I sort of do - as I am old fashioned and I only want my phone to be a phone and allow me to play Galaxians.
Bah humbug ranting out of the way - mobile widgets are of course of huge interest right now as these ‘mini-applications’ sit on handsets to provide personalised information retrieval from the web. Their ‘always on’ nature is argued to provide “valuable” services to users who want to specify the manner in which they will use the mobile Internet.
This assumes of course that you feel the mobile web is a worthy consideration in the first place; something that may depend on what type of device and what kind of service you can afford.
Just last month I got invited to an event (which I couldn’t make) to celebrate the second anniversary of a developer group devoted to this segment of the software engineering spectrum. Betavine is actually a Vodafone Group R&D lab and it appears to be taking a fairly realistic (not overly branded by its parent sponsor) core-level approach to this project.
Last week, the Betavine lab team announced that it is offering mobile developers a chance to win £20,000 in a new mobile widget competition. They point out that, “Widgets are based on web code rather than on specialist programming language, which makes it possible for both professional and amateur developers to tap into their potential.”
I don’t know – I thought this was pretty interesting and the sort of thing that the developers I speak to would normally be interested in. Judging is based upon the following criteria:
Usability – how easy to use is the widget? Innovation – how creative is the widget? Value to users – what does it enable users to do?
Betavine told me that all developers submitting widgets will also have an opportunity to make their entries available through the Vodafone Widget Manager Beta application, which is currently being rolled out across a range of ten S60 handsets in Germany, Italy, South Africa, Spain and the UK.
Who knows? If I get to play with some of these widgets perhaps I’ll see some of the so-called inherent value that I’m missing out on and be prepared to shell out for a better handheld device.
I do a regular monthly analysis of web design and development trends for a publisher friend of mine and I have to say that I rarely focus on the widgets, mobile or otherwise. Perhaps that is about to change?