The iPhone has the widget thing nailed, but owners of Windows Mobile devices aren't completely out of luck. Zumobi recently launched a beta version of its software, which brings games, news, and more to your Windows Mobile 5 or 6 device. The first release of the software is intriguing, but, not surprisingly, it has some flaws. If Zumobi adjusts some of its UI issues and adds more features before its final release, it could become an application worth recommending.
How Zumobi Works
The free Zumobi application features Tiles, small programs that draw content from the Web (make sure you have an unlimited data plan). After we signed up on the company's Web site, an SMS message with the Zumobi download link was sent to our phone. The download took 3 minutes, and installation took another 5, which is too long for our tastes.
Zumobi has certified and recommends using the application on the Motorola Q, Samsung BlackJack, HTC Dash, and HTC Touch, though it should work on most phones running Windows Mobile 5 or 6.
Tiles can be sent to your handset from a gallery on Zumobi's Web site. The site is free, but there is a small sponsor link at the bottom of each tile. The selection includes AP Sports, Flickr, MTV News, and Solitaire. Unfortunately, only 75 tiles were available when we tested the product (versus up to 20,000 from competitors such as Plusmo). Our favorite was a surprisingly challenging game of Hangman. Zumobi is fun to use, as you navigate among the tiles by zooming in and out.
Touchscreen Phones vs. Non-Touchscreen Phones
The HTC Tilt handled Zumobi quite well most of the time, without a ton of stalling. Its touchscreen makes navigating Zumobi a really cool experience: Simply click an area of tiles to zoom in on, and swipe across the screen to view tiles in different directions. It's perfect for those who find themselves visiting Flickr a lot, or reading news headlines, because this interface helps you get there faster. We also tested Zumobi on an HTC Touch, and found the Zumobi experience to be the same as it was on the Tilt. We also liked how articles were already loaded and ready to read when we clicked on a tile.
Zumobi looked a lot cleaner on a BlackJack than it did on the Tilt because the icons are smaller, but the performance was much worse. There was an unusual amount of lag, and each tile icon took about 4 seconds to load. Navigation without a touchscreen isn't nearly as fun, because it doesn't feel as interactive, and you have to rely entirely on your number pad. It also crashed every time we used it.
Zumobi, in its beta stage, leaves a lot to be desired. We wish you could create tiles for Web sites, similar to the Web Clips feature on the iPod touch and iPhone. Zumobi plans to support more phones throughout the year, including possibly the iPhone, but currently it only works with a limited number of handsets.
Although Plusmo isn't as compelling graphically, it's ad-free and doesn't limit the number of tiles you can have on your phone at one time; Zumobi caps it at 16. Nevertheless, if Zumobi can beef up the number of widgets, it will be worth a second look.
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