Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Why widgets make a difference

There is one feature that I find sorely lacking in the iPad, which is the widgets feature. Unless Apple fan boys have used it, they wouldn't know what they are missing. Many Android users are not even aware they are using widgets, which they think are mere shortcuts.

Widgets are more than just shortcut icons. Some people describe the widget as an offshoot of an app. Some people see it as a shortcut (icon) that is placed on the "desktop" of a mobile device. A widget actually does more than just launch an app. Some apps come with widgets, ready to be moved to the main display screen. Others apps do not have accompanying widgets.

A useful widget, as opposed to a mere shortcut icon, displays information that is active and is working whenever the device is powered on, regardless of whether the app is launched or not. For example, a clock widget displays time. A weather widget displays the weather A news widgets gives you the news feed. All these things happen as soon as the device is powered up. There is no need to launch any of the apps.

To further illustrate, I have a Sticky Notes widget. The note appears as a post-in note on my desktop. Simply click on it to edit, or to add another note. On an iPad, one will have to launch the Sticky Notes app in order to see the notes.

I have an alarm clock widget which is active all the time, whenever my smartphone is switched on. There is no need to launch the alarm clock. It can never be accidentally closed. In contrast, the alarm clock on an iPad has to be launched and running in the background all the time in order for the alarm to ring at the appointed time.

I am convinced that widgets sets the Android platform far apart from the iPad/iPhone platform. Apple cannot afford to ignore this feature for long. The lack of widgets puts Apple in the same era as PC's, where every application must be launched before it does something.

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