Mobile widgets are a cool idea for getting (mostly) useful information onto your mobile quickly and easily. In common with their desktop counterparts, most utilise simple formats such as RSS. I’ve seen a few mobile widget platforms spring up, and since getting a new phone and contract, I’ve been able to try out a couple of them.
There seem to be standard widgets that are, like desktop ones, often useless. Others, though, are instantly useful, and there are potential widgets that would be great on mobiles. As well as the obligatory feed-readers, mobile widgets could be
- currency calculators with today’s rates in effect
- language translators
- train timetables
- friends’ photos
- ebay bids - with a handy warning when the end time nears!
- traffic updates
- anything else…even [political delivery platforms](http://webcameron.org.uk/
I think mobile widgets are a great way to deliver the mobile Internet. On whatever platform, they can help to refine the relevance information we receive. Furthermore, web pages just don’t seem to be any good on phones, but these quick and relevant nuggets of information - delivered rather than sought - are not only more suited to the small-screen, but also potentially cheaper. I still believe the extremely high cost of GPRS access (in the UK) is one of, if not the single, greatest barrier to more widespread use of the mobile Web.
However, I think widgets should be more than an interface for consumption. They are a bi-directional interface for the mobile Web; a very real P2P platform. In the same way that RSS can be downloaded to the phone, data may be published from it by means of similar XML technology, to the wider Web. Sony Ericsson’s inclusion of a built-in Blogger capability is a beginning, but the mobile device is today an extremely capable publishing and distribution platform, with built-in recording, mixing, and coding technology; local, and global connectivity.
The myriad of APIs in Web 2.0 apps - the ability to publish information without resort to a single interface - gives plenty of scope to explore mobile publishing. A J2ME project I’ve been thinking about for some time - and this week decided to commence - is based upon this model.
I hope that mobile widgets - both those designed for consuming and especially those built for publishing - become mainstream. They could be what is needed to increase adoption of the mobile device as a serious platform for Web interaction. That such adoption might also help drive down the cost of mobile Internet access would be of great benefit not only to consumers, but also those developers investing in emerging mobile technologies.