One of the new features in the Android 1.5 are widgets, supported in the new 1.5 SDK with the AppWidget framework allowing developers to write “widgets” that people can drop onto their home screen for quick access and interaction with information. I have to say this is poised to be one of my favorite additions in version 1.5 and I hope that app developers quickly make use of it.
In our Phandroid Podcast: Episode 5, I worried that “widgets” would become the next “themes” with developers launching widget-after-widget-after-widget and simultaneously crowding and dilluting the Android Market. It doesn’t appear that this concern has been alleviated… the Android Developers Blog provides a tutorial for widget programming by walking us through the creation of a quick widget that shows the Wiktionary “Word of the day” and they provide the full source code.
First of all I want to say that the fact they’ve open sourced a widget for all developers to use as an example is AWESOME. So congrats on that Mr. Jeffrey Sharkey and fellow Google folk. I just hope creating a widget isn’t too easy for our own good! If I see a billion widgets on the market as standalone apps for the most insignificant and random things, I might tear my hair out. So in advance I’m hoping Google has their finger on the “widget trigger” which would create a separate category for widgets in the market. Then again, we’re still waiting for a Theme category so I wouldn’t get your/my hopes up.
Something I hope every app developer takes into close consideration is the implication that widgets will have on battery life as Jeffrey Sharkey points out:
Finally, some words of wisdom. Widgets are designed for longer-term content that doesn’t update very often, and updating more frequently than every hour can quickly eat up battery and bandwidth. Consider updating as infrequently as possible, or letting your users pick a custom update frequency. For example, some people might want a stock ticker to update every 15 minutes, or maybe only four times a day. I’ll be talking about additional strategies for saving battery life as part of a session I’m giving at Google I/O.
Apparently the guys and gals at Google have already written Calendar and Music widgets but the ideas for other widgets/apps are endless. Hopefully devs will extend their current apps to include widget functionality (where appropriate) but I’m guessing this will bring a lot more functionality to everyone with an Android handset. I can’t wait for 1.5 to go live on the T-Mobile G1.
*hint*hint* T-Mobile *knudge*wink*