Apple was right, widgets just ain’t cool

By , Apr 6, 2013

Dashboard X 2.0 Screenshot

Without a doubt, one of the biggest differences between iOS and Android is its fundamental handling of information. Google decided to allow widgets onto a phone’s Home screen so that, theoretically, users would have the information they need right at their fingertips. Apple, on the other hand, has doggedly stuck to its guns over the years, with iOS remaining a collection of app icons rather than live widgets.

Over the years there have been plenty of arguments amongst those in the tech community as to which was the best way to go. Android users will repeatedly point to widgets as one of the main reasons they prefer their phones over the iPhone or even one of the Windows Phone handsets. Sitting halfway between iOS and Android, Windows Phone features live tiles that offer up information from the phone’s Home screen a la widgets, but that’s just not enough for some. It’s widgets or nothing, man, and that’s the way it is.

But iOS users can have their cake and eat it. They can have widgets on their home screens just like Android users, whilst still having that iPhone they so love. But the real question is: should they? Even if they should, I’d argue that fewer people actually would than we might think…

I am, of course, talking about jailbreaking. If you’re willing to hack your iOS device, then you’re able to install Dashboard X and in turn, install various widgets. Using this method, any Notification Center widget can be attached to the Home screen. It may not be exactly the same as Android, but it’s a start.

But here’s the rub: why would you bother?

HomeSpringPage Teaser

To answer that question, at least for me, we need to take a look at my recent smartphone past. Over the last twelve months I’ve owned five different high-end smartphones. There was the iPhone 4S, the HTC Note, the Samsung Galaxy Note followed by the Galaxy SIII and finally the iPhone 5 that I use today. That’s a lot of phones, and they’ve all been able to handle Home screen widgets of some description, especially those three Android phones. If you’re going to use widgets, the Note is arguably as good as it gets thanks to that tablet-like screen, in fact.

But I didn’t. Sure, you give them a try. Having easy access to Evernote sounds like an awesome idea, being able to create new notes from the home screen should be a real boon. But I found I never did.

Having your live Twitter feed should mean you don’t need to keep launching the Twitter app to keep up to speed with what’s going on, but it didn’t.

Facebook updates right on the Home screen? Yeah, that should have been cool. But it wasn’t. In fact, soon after each switch to a new phone, I found myself doing the same thing repeatedly; remove all the widgets and create a few folders for my most used apps. Other than that, I’d choose a nice wallpaper and that would be that. Eventually, I realized I was using a large iPhone, but without some of my favorite apps. Bummer.

So, I’m back on the iPhone and what do you know, it’s jailbroken. I’ve been trying out Dashboard X and once again I found myself expecting that having some of my widgets on the home screen would be a good idea. Having Wi-Fi/3G connection speeds and the amount of free storage on the Home screen looked awesome, and I felt like a proper geek. Then I realized I barely used the information and that it was getting through more battery power than I wanted, so it’s gone.

In fact, Dashboard X has gone, too. If I really need to see the info, I pull the LockInfo shade down. The same goes for if I need quick access to Twitter, Facebook or any of the other things I could use a widget for. The Home screen doesn’t have any fancy graphs on it though. Whether that’s a bad thing though, I’m just not sure.

What am I left with? That boring old collection of app icons that Android users like to deride so much and, you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Do you wish the iPhone had proper widgets, or do you use Dashboard X or something similar to get your widgety fix?

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  • aileron220

    Since iOS has widgets now does that mean they’re cool now? Kinda like how bigger screens weren’t cool but they are now?