Android Widgets To The Rescue!

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.

wiktionary-widgetIn 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*

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  • Jake

    I am very excited for 1.5, almost enough to go and Root my phone… almost.

  • scott

    What exactly do you mean with the wink wink?

  • Rob Jackson

    @scott – I mean I hope someone from T-Mobile is reading this so they know how badly we all want 1.5 on our G1s!

  • Thats-BS

    Phandroid, you guys are bumming me out, quit using words like spaming, dilluting and crowding when discribing skins, themes and other customization apps. Why moan and whine about things that make android different and in fact, better, for having them. Sure an option tab for them would be welcome too, but man you guys sound like you want iphones. Stop complaining.

  • Sean

    Sounds awesome! I listen to your podcasts every time they’re released. You talked about tethering the G1 in the last one and said it had to be rooted. Here’s a link to an app/process to tether without root. I haven’t tried it myself, but maybe you guys can give it a try and give the results in the next podcast. hxxp://techti.me/2009/03/tether-g1-without-root/

  • Rob Jackson

    @Thats-BS – I’m interested to know which themes you developed for Android. You’re taking the article rather personally… it is a categorization problem. One that is big and simple to fix yet the irritation remains. Just because we’re Android fans doesn’t mean we should blindly cheer and applaud every little thing.

    How can you make something better if imperfections are never pointed out?

  • Alex

    Definitely needing better categorisation (and maybe a way to browse online (i.e. in a browser) and tag for download or something) but to say you don’t want standalone apps to just be a widget is crazy.

    I’d love a weather widget, word of the day widget and probably some more, but I don’t want to download a whole “weather channel” or whatever else there is app when it’s just a widget. I don’t know about you but I’m permanently below 15 MB free (most of the time at about 7 MB where it keeps warning you) on my G1, and it sucks. So yeah, hopefully apps on SD card is coming, too!

  • Thats-BS

    Pointing out flaws is one thing, bashing a certain thing over and over, ’cause it annoys you is another. I understand trying to make the market place better, but there’s a reason the home alternatives are ALL in the top 5 or 6 paid apps. So, your constant complaining just seems like an underhanded insult to all who like and buy these apps.
    .

  • Carmex

    I don’t mind the complaining about the themes so much, but I’m also not convinced that the proposed solution will help. Are you advocating another catagory on the same level as applications and games? Because I don’t see that happening. I’m betting that if they make a catagory for themes or widgets, they will be catagories UNDER applicatios. When I browse, I do so by date and look at ALL apps or ALL games. So in my case all the themes would still be mixed in. In any case, it’s slightly annoying but I don’t think it’s as big of a deal as you guys make it out to be. They are pretty easy to skim over if you aren’t interested in them (which I’m not).

  • E.T.

    Honestly it sounded a bit bad to me being a theme dev myself, the whole diluting the market place/themes comments. Infact I hardly see any spamming of the marketplace with theme after theme after theme. You see an average of one or two, maybe three a day which isn’t that much considering there’s 3 home alternative apps. I see more ‘test’ apps and as of late, bobble-head apps and a billion ebooks from IndiaNIC and friends all at once posted. A Theme section would be nice but like the above I search by date and ALL apps/games so it’s not a massive deal for me. If something should be compared to saturating the market it should be the things I mentioned if anything.

  • jeremy

    Well as far as the whole category for widgets and themes, why not take all themes and widgets out of the market and place them in special directories available through third party access like the ahome app does for widgets and themes. You go to the the ahome console and select install theme and you can download any theme tagged for ahome and the same for widgets. Google can make a menu option to add widgets from the web or sd card. If you want to sell your theme or widget things might be different but with enough time google will straighten it out, they are probably going to update the market app with cupcake 1.5.
    Don’t get angry, get android!

  • Josh

    They just released the new cupcake officialy and it will be going out to phones soon but no they didn’t add a category and there is no widgets exept for a music player a callender and a weather widget so far

  • john bigdick

    phuck you guys .talk about boring.u guys are boring

  • john bigdick

    look at me! my g1 is bettter. no mine is better. no mine! . mine! mine!

  • john bigdick

    i want 1.5. me too! mine is stil better that yours
    .

  • Christopher

    What I think would be usefull for the market with the Themes, Widgets, Pets and so on. Is if the Market had a setup were the person developing the base application ie: Open Home, could register a catagory base that keys these “Add-ons” with a refference to the base application.

    Then have the market were you see the base application, as an addition of choosing to “Install” or “Open/Unistall” be able to go to the base applications “Add-On” market. Would sure make it a heck of a lot easier and more organized. I could also feel more confident the Theme I add will work with the base application as well.

    If not then it’s a fault of the creator of the application if they add it to the wrong base applications ‘market’ in the Android Market.