Widsets review: just another RSS reader?

I’ve just played a little bit with the application, but on the emulator only, and here is my first feedback:
Basically, it’s a kind of RSS reader for mobile, where you select on the server side the feed you want to read. In that case, a feed is called a widget but does not provides any interactivity.

  • The first level of UI is really well polished, and gives great hopes about the app.
  • The web site is an high end Web2.0 site. From the Web, you can browse widgets, select one, configure it.
  • When you have selected your widget set, just press update to update it on your mobile..

But:

  • The application does not work on my mobile! (big problem for a mobile app). Still waiting from feedback from the Widset team, but it seems that it’s linked to the usage of TCP which is not open on all operators network, instead of plain old HTTP.
  • The first level just show you the icons, gives very few feedback about “whats new”. The onlylinformation that seems to be displayed – and not on all feeds – is the number of new articles in the feed. Once the first “waooow” effect is gone about the UI, you realize that it’s not so user friendly: the button are big but does not carry so much information.
  • The “preview” widget from the web is just a static one. In fact, it’s a picture provided with the widget set. It would have been interesting to have a “real” preview
  • When digging in, the second level of UI is not very useable too. For instance, on the weather widget, you see a list of days, and you have to select that specific day to see a two line information about the weather…
  • The widget can not be configured on the mobile. Needs to go on the web site! Even if I really l ike the Web site, I think that there is plenty of uses cases where you need to configure such app without any access to the web site, for instance, when you have changed your location and want another RSS feed.
  • No picture is displayed when reading the feed, except for the Flickr one.

There is an “SDK” available, where you can change the look and feel of the feed: color, icon, etc…

Widset haves a good Web2.0 site, but an average RSS reader: no picture display, lack of browsing methods….

So if I have to compare the three on this race up to now, Plusmo, Widsets and Bluepulse, Plusmo is still ahead of the others….

Upadate: Thanks to some information coming from widsets guys (see the comments), I was finally able to configure my handset. I had to change the default Orange access point to another one – which is strange, as all the other app worked well. Anyway, it works, and I must say that UI is great on mobile. Does not change most of my remarks, but this put another level in the  level of polished UI in J2ME….

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18 thoughts on “Widsets review: just another RSS reader?”

  1. Hi

    Thanks for valuable and thourough first analysis of our service. We’ll be adding bunch of features enhancing the capabilities to make our baby more than just another RSS reader and hopefully also better meet your expectations in the future.
    Just few words why we chose th “almost plain RSS” approach (we do have several picture service widgets at the mmoment in our library and more coming ;o) as starting point for our work. We felt it’s so easy for us as engineers to always think mobile apps in terms of higher end mobiles – they usually offer lots of memory, big good displays and their Java API offers rather wide range of accessible resources from the mobile side (eg capability to open the browser, capability to run multiple apps at the same time and toggle between them, file access, etc.). In other words it’s in some sense ~easy to plan and implement very feature rich apps for high end phones. However, most of the current mobile users don’t have these high end devices, but actually rather basic phones with “not the most optimal” mobile browsers if I may say so, and very limited access from Java to the phone resources. We really wanted to start so that ~everybody gets online and can get those services they want accessible from their mobile… in an always on, data optimised way (our service pushes only the relevant changed info to mobile instead of mobile polling the different sources in certain intervals).
    But as I wrote – we do acknowledge that there is a lot of great times and fun ahead to try to meet the needs of such vast number of different mobiles and their users including the high end mobiles with lots of possiblities. And we plan to do it.

    Sorry to hear you problem to get online. Antti has answered to your thread in Forum so please have a look at it if it would help. Hopefully you get online since I believe seeing and feeling WidSets in action in mobile simply rocks ;o)

    Best regards,

    -Tuomo- from http://www.widsets.com

  2. Thanks Tuomo for your feedback,

    I agree with you that it’s hard to target the right set of handset. There is nothing bad as being a good RSS reader, but I think that there is a few improvment that are needed in your approach to be this good RSS reader, but there are also plenty of good ideas, especially on the graphical design of the application and the server side. So keep on the good work…

    One suggestion: add the ability to create a widget set for an existing OPML file – or even the ability to be synchronized with let’s say bloglines – this would save a lot of time (with the other major request of having the ability to see picture within stream), then, I will have something very interesting for me

    So I will keep a closed eye on your progress…

    Regards.

  3. Mika,

    I know Omega, I’ve talked of it several time already. However,it look like more a library, or a toolkit, and not an application, so nothing to do with this even if such technology could be used to create a Widget application.
    I am also puzzeld by you, the only one who seems to have access to this toolkit. What is your relation with Tricastmedia? are you an employee?

  4. Thomas,

    No problem. I just thought what Widset has done is great. What midp developers need out there is a rich toolkit/sdk that helps in the creation of polished UI, much like Flash-LITE, or other similar technologies. Thus far, to write a MIDP app, many developers have to write from scratch. A big part of midp app dev is the UI, that is what attracts the user, experience counts, so if someone or some company out there could take out a “design” variable out of the equation and have the work cut out for them, then this is indeed a very welcome idea. It’s a pity that MIDP 2.0 phones are almost prevalent everywhere, but when it comes to creating real sexy, visually appealing UI, many have to resort to FLASH-LITE, or write their own GUI libraries to do that… Sun’s LCDUI is inept, it’s almost like a laughing stock. Why do we have SWING and SWT for desktop java GUI development, but no one has really looked into creating similar solution for J2ME?

    Just my 2 cents,

    p/s: FYI, I happened to know one of the co-founders of Tricastmedia very well, way back from my DoCoMo days.

  5. Agree that UI is important. But there already many attempt, with diffrent approach:
    - J2ME polish, for instance, is a very good one. The ability to “polish” an existing application without rewriting everything is fine. I am sure that there are plenty of other library.
    - You have the “full framework” approach, and you have plenty of players here: from Streamezzo, Geniem, Everypoint, UIEvolution, etc…. Some are XML bitmap based, some are Vecotr based…
    - Many other things on the way will improve this, like JSR226, or other UI improvment in MIDP3.0

    I think that one of the reason its not used more is the price that you usually have to pay , for instance for J2MEPolsih, 30 or 40kb of code – depending on your target – is quite big

    But the “Java” side is facing hard competition especially with Flash, Flash having other weaknesses but being extremely strong in UI development and prototyping

    So I hope that Omega will help also in that sense, but I am a pragmatic guy and I will wait for the result: no demo up to know, so wait and see…

  6. A little correction… OMEGA is not just a SDK, it comes with an authoring tool like Flash. And its idea is that it allows developers to write GUI simply by sitching together these “widgets” and matching with an effects engine, much like Actionscript with Flash components… OMEGA’s own scripting language is called “Tweek”, so all in all, it’s a much better proposition than J2MEPolish… it is more complete…

    Let’s face it, most j2me midlets today are games, done mostly in a compact

  7. don’t know what happened? my previous posting was “clipped”?

    anyway, i was going to say… survey the j2me land today and you would find mostly j2me applications are games… that’s kinda reminded me a while back, a friend was joking that J2ME can only do blips and blops… :-) You can’t blame my friend for having that kinda opinion, I believe you too experienced that yourself… look at what operators have done to curb creativity and innovation? Handset makers initially made handsets that are only capable of installing JAR file no more than 100KB (some are even smaller).. and operators also limit JAR download size… so what kinda “innovative” applications do you expect from these “imposed” limitations? Which is why when developers wanna develop serious REAL apps on mobile, they usually go native… which is why… FLASH-LITE is gaining good traction as a serious platform for creating mobile applications beyond just games… especially in japan…

    What with the 3G/EDGE/HSDPA broadband connectivity and advancement, when operators are limiting download size of JAR applications…

    If J2ME wanna be a serious mobile application platform, beyond just games, adding another tens of KB of UI SDK is a small price to pay for enhanced user experience… if there exists some kinda tools to make your app more polished, let others do the design part, while we developers concentrate on the logic… then i think J2ME can equally be an attractive platform for creating non-games mobile apps… Don’t just believe my words, look at the e-zines app that was created using OMEGA, the transition and animation effects combined with a sexy UI really makes this standout…. no one can tell whether that is done using FLASH LITE or J2ME…

    just my 2 cents,

  8. Well, don’t want to go too controversial, but I think the main interest of FlashLite is for “non serious application”: from casual games to on device portal, etc… But anyway, it’s where the market on mobile is. If think that Flash is the best technology when UI represent more tha 50% to 60% of the app, and start to be quite inadequate when logic took more (I’ve made an entry on my blog on this: http://blog.landspurg.net/analysis-of-flashlite )
    However, for Omega then, the challenge will be also to compete with mature authoring tool, like Flash. I think that it’s also one of the weakness of Streamezzo, as you have then to fight both on the client, and the authoring tool…
    So again, will be curious to check this….

    Note: limitation of jar size was mostly due to handset constraint, and very few operators constraint….

  9. Hi again

    We’ll have look at your wish to get a widget set created directly from OPML file… Thankls !

    Sorry to still see from our Forum that the http forcing did not help on getting your account online. We’ll dig deeper again on Monday.

    Best regards,

    -Tuomo-

  10. Limitation of jar size not only on earlier handsets… but also operators.. china mobile 150KB, DoCoMo not more than 100 KB…. but things are looking positive as these carriers are planning to lift the limit pretty soon…

    Your opinion about Flash LITE for non-serious apps, i beg to differ, at least the way i see it… Macromedia/ADOBE wants to make FLASH-LITE the defacto or platform of choice for creating interactive and multimedia-rich apps for mobile… scour the apps available for Japanese carriers, and you would see a growing proliferation of apps written via FLASH-LITE, albeit I must say the FLASH-LITE capability is still very limited on devices. That is where i think j2me has the edge.

  11. Well, that’s exactly what I say:multimedia is in the category of entertainment app (as well as games, casual games, etc…). so may be the definition of what is a “serious” app need to be clarified, but for me was more a corporate type application….

  12. Hi again

    I was just wondering if you got your 6630 online ? Anina.net had issues with the same set-up (Orange FR, 6630) and it was the access point settings causign problems in her case. She solved it and posted the correct Orange Fr setting to our Forum into the same thread you’d been active with:
    https://www.widsets.com/forum/posts/list/230.page

    (Address
    orange-mib
    Username
    mportail
    Password
    mib
    Proxy
    Address
    172.16.2.8
    Port
    8000 )

    Way too tough sometimes with the settings I must admit – we’ll try our best to get some feasible solution for making it tolerable/easier to get the right settings selected for WidSets client.

    Cheers,

    -Tuomo-

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