Saturday, August 4, 2007

Software Review: Yahoo! Go 2.0 & Widsets

I recently downloaded Yahoo! Go 2.0 and Widsets. Both are widgets based J2ME applications. While Yahoo! Go 2.0 client is a collection of exclusive Yahoo! based web widget for mobile phones, Widsets allows you to add and even create your own widgets.

I am not normally a fan of Java applications, preferring instead my smartphones to run natively as J2ME is terribly slow. While it is true that both are very slow in starting up (it takes up to 5 seconds to load), once it is loaded it runs pretty quick (for Java!) and any slowness is down to the device you are using (first generation Nokia S60 v3 phones are very slow!) rather than the software itself, although when compared with native apps, mobile phone widgets are still painfully behind in terms of performance.

With the limited RAM that Nokia affords for some of their smartphones, you may have to deal with the occasional crash and restarts. Painful I know. Windows Mobile users (with the exception of 32MB Treo 700w) need not worry about resource though.

Yahoo! Go 2.0

Yahoo! News headline goes here. They seem to think Madeleine none news is still headline worthy... Oh well (shrugs). With the none scalable font size, there is wasted screen estate: only two headlines per screen? Jeez...

You can access your usual Yahoo! online PIM database and check the weather.

Here is possibly the coolest widget available for Yahoo! Go, Flickr. You can view recommended random photos or even upload and manage your photos. People with a good mobile phone camera (e.g. Nokia N95, Sony Ericsson K850i) and flat data plan will find this service useful for image blogging.

If you have an Yahoo! e-mail account you can access and compose e-mails here. Yahoo! Go can be left to run in the background so it can automatically check e-mails periodically. Personally I wouldn't do so due to the very the limited RAM on some S60 mobile phones. You may as well invest in a push e-mail device like a Blackberry or Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync capable phones like Treos or Nokia's own E-series.

Yahoo! Maps is available with GPS support. You can search for nearest POI and the usual mapping stuff. Not sure why all map products I've used (TomTom, Smart2Go etc.) seems to think McDonald is considered a restaurant. Who still eat there? Honestly!

With Nokia providing free map downloads for Series 60 v3 and Windows Mobile devices and unless you have access to a flat data plan, I can't see any usefulness in online maps like Yahoo! or Google maps. Personally I also rather use a native e-mail application for e-mail stuff and news can be obtained via a RSS reader. Flickr is the only redeeming feature here.

It isn't a total disaster, but the slowness and frequency of crash can be off-putting. But this may have more to do with my device limitation than the software. If Yahoo! could optimise the software for older resource limited phones then this software would be great for people who has no wish on struggling with news aggregation softwares or setting up POP3 e-mail accounts and gaining a nice UI. For 'power users', you will find other more dedicated paid software probably more suitable to your need.


Widsets is an interesting widget application. It is far more powerful than Yahoo! Go 2.0, and yet the application is rather limited currently. When you first go online the application will automatically fetch majority of the content to be viewed offline apart from pictures and some excluded applications (like Dilbert comic a day strips or Ceefax).

While mainly populated by RSS feeds (such as news or e-mail feeds) you can write more specific widgets that mimics the functionality that of a PC widget...

... like this rather cool London Underground widget that allows you to check at a glance the current status of each Tube line such as any delays or disruptions. There is also a Gmail widget that can be used to fetch e-mails as well.

I love this Ceefax widget. Just use the keypad on your phone as you would normally do on your telly remote and you are set. Very retro.

Widsets is a little different from Yahoo! Go 2.0. While the client resides on your phone, the majority of the configurations and maintenance takes place on the Widsets website. You are required to create an account and pair them together. On the website you can choose pre-created widgets or create your own. You can then arrange them on the site on how your widgets look on the mobile client. Every time you connect to the internet via GPRS/3G or WiFi, the client will be updated with widgets that you have selected.

Like Yahoo! Go 2.0, Widsets is a J2ME program so it is kinda slow to start up. Once in though the application is fairly speedy (again, for Java), but nothing like what it would be if it was native. It is far less sluggish than Yahoo! Go 2.0 though, possibly due to the far simpler UI. Crashes are rare but WiFi can occasionally hang while looking up for access point. While the application still works, it does mean I have to reboot the phone to get WiFi working again. I suspect this is more to do with Series 60 than the application as the platform is still very 'dumb' in terms of WiFi connectivity.


beattz said...

Cheers for the comparison and info :) I just bought a new smartphone and was wondering if Yahoo! Go v2.0 was sucking any less than v1.x. My not having a Yahoo! account meant I ended up skipping it in favour of WidSets, which after having used it for a few hours is great. Really slick experience, both with their website and the mobile app. Interesting to note that WidSets is a Nokia project, so I suppose it makes sense that it be of reasonable quality.

P.S. I LOL'd at your 2D barcode (im an Aussie ^_^ )

jon said...

Thanks. :)

Widsets is improving loads and there are plenty of new widgets now. It is now indispensable on both my S60 and WinMob phone. Too bad it is a Java app (memory hog). Hope Nokia releases a native S60 and WM version.

I guess John Howard deserves that kind of farewell.