With the availability of high speed data connections, the desire for for massive amounts of information has increased. We want to be able to stay connected with the world around us. We use RSS news aggregators, popular newspapers and magazines have mobile versions of their websites and we sign up for emails updates. Zumobi attempts to provide us all of this information in a unique and different way. At any given time, you can have up to 16 favorite widgets or "Tiles" as Zumobi calls them to access information. These widgets range from news from the Associated Press, AccuWeather updates, Traffic.com updates, and popular games, to a Family Guy widget that has various characters say something from the show. You can even create your own widgets to share with friends. Is this the interface of the future? Read on to find out!
To install Zumobi, all you have to do is either visit Zumobi’s website. When visiting from your mobile device, you can just save the .cab file onto your device and install it from there. If you visit the site from your desktop/laptop, you are asked to complete the following information:
From here, you enter your phone number and create your user account on Zumobi’s website. Once completed, you will receive an SMS text with a link to download the .cab file onto your device.
According to the application, it takes about 4.1 MB to install onto your device. Going through installation was simple, but it took a WHOPPING SEVEN MINUTES to install! I have never seen an application take so long to install on a Windows Mobile device.
I did my own comparison of the memory usage of this application and as you can see, the amount of space taken on both the RAM and ROM is significant. Hopefully Zumobi will work on reducing this on future versions. (click for a larger version)
When starting Zumobi for the first time, you get a screen recommending that you have an unlimited data plan and exit it when traveling internationally to avoid high bills.
After accepting the data connection warning, you will be brought to the sign-in screen. If you haven’t already setup your user account on the website, you can create one here. It will open up Pocket Internet Explorer and ask you the same information as the full website does. After creating your account you enter your email address and your password. One thing of major concern to me is that when you enter your password, it doesn’t blind it for you. Your password is shown for anyone to see.
Once you login, you are brought to the main screen. The application is really more of a widget launcher. Here, the screen is broken up into 16 squares or "Tiles" as Zumobi calls them. Every four squares has an additional Tile at the center of each grouping. You can navigate to any of the four sub-Tiles by tapping on the screen or using your D-Pad on Windows Mobile 6 Professional devices. On Windows Mobile Standard devices you can also use your keypad to navigate by taping 1, 3, 7, or 9 to get to one of the sub groupings. Notice that the numbers chosen are for the four corners of a phone’s keypad, making it easy to navigate using a keypad. The one thing I didn’t like is that you have to enter one of the four sub groups to access any one of the 16 Tiles. It would have been nice if you could just tap on an individual Tile.
Once you pick a sub group to go to, you will be brought to a zoomed in view of that sub group. Again, you can either use your finger, D-Pad or keypad to navigate. Pressing on the "Z", brings you back to the full view of all 16 Tiles. In any of the other views, the "Z" button continues to act as a back button.
At the bottom of the screen is a Menu button. As shown above it brings you to several sub menus.
The first is the Inbox. Shown here are Tiles that friends have sent, someone has sent you from the Zumobi website or yourself. The website has 12 categories and several different Tiles to pick from. Note that that each category may have duplicate Tiles from other categories. Picking on one of the Tiles brings you to this screen. You can choose to either Add or Delete this Tile.
If you choose to add the Tile, it brings you to this screen. You have to choose which of the 16 Tiles you want to replace with the new Tile.
The Deleted screen are those Tiles you have removed or replaced with newer Tiles.
The Featured menu are a listing of Tiles that the Zumobi staff has chosen.
The Options menu lets you manually update you Tile content or exit Zumobi
The Help menu is pretty self explanatory. It tells you what each menu item does and how to navigate Zumobi itself.
Once you pick a Tile you want to view, you are brought to this full screen view. Here I have a full screen of the Associated Press’ Tile. Here, you can access top news articles by the AP. Again navigation is handled by tapping, D-Pad or numeric keypad. The scroll wheel will work here as well. At the top are a search button, the "Z" button, and a send button. At the bottom are the Sponsor Button, a mysterious "8" key and a rate Tile.
The Search screen brings you to a Google search bar. If you see something of interest you read in an article or had on your chosen Tile, you can search for more information on that topic here. After entering your key word search and tapping "Go," Pocket Internet Explorer is opened and brings you to the Google search results. Notice that the on-screen keyboard is displayed on my AT&T 8525. One fault I found here is that if you accidentally close your Soft Input Panel, you can not bring it back up. The only way to do this is to close the search screen by tapping the large "X" just above the search bar and enter the Search screen again. That’s a poor design flaw in my opinion. It may not be to big of a deal if you have a slide out keyboard or keypad that has some form of predictive text input.
The next button is the Send button. If the Tile is something you would like to share with a friend, you can either enter their email address or phone number to text the Tile to that person. Another design flaw I see here is that the send button is actually hidden behind the SIP. It is evident that this application was really designed for cellular phones and non-touchscreen smartphones.
The next three buttons I am going to go through are at the bottom. The Sponsor button just sends the advertiser’s Tile to your inbox. The mysterious "8" button does the same as does actually tapping on the Sponsor’s banner ad. The last button, the Rate Tile button is self explanatory. You can choose to rate the Tile based on a 5 star rating system.
In addition to the preset Tiles on Zumobi’s website, you can also create your own widgets by downloading the Software Developer Kit. You can also download the SDK Tutorial, sample files, and a reference.
Zumobi can be run on Windows Mobile 5 or Windows Mobile 6. Zumobi has also recommended and certified the Motorola Q, the original Samsung Blackjack, HTC Dash and HTC Touch.
BUGS AND WISHES
There are several wishes I have for this application. First of all, Zumobi has to work on the memory footprint. It is simply just too large, even on devices that have large amounts of RAM and ROM like the AT&T Tilt/HTC TyTN II. Also, the application is slow to install, startup and run at times. For example, under the Menu screens, it takes 2 to 3 seconds to move from the Inbox to the Deleted Tiles box.
Though some major websites like The Associate Press, MTV, Flickr, Amazon and AccuWeather have Tiles, there just isn’t enough content yet. Only time will tell if other major publications will create content. Additionally, navigation for non-touchscreen devices seems to be straightforward due to the use of the number keypad, usage on Touchscreen devices leaves much to be desired. As I mentioned earlier, you can not directly access Tiles from the 16 Tile screen. You are forced to go straight into the sub menus While it is nice that you get a zoomed in view, I would have liked the option to directly access each individual Tile. Also, Zumobi did not take advantage of the Windows soft keys, so they do not serve any function. Tapping on the OK button also serve no function. Fortunately you can access the Start menu by pressing the hardware key.
Lastly, I would have liked a Today screen plugin that scrolls through information that are available on the Tiles I choose. Instead, you are forced to open the Zumobi application to view the content.
Zumobi is available for free and can be accessed directly from their website from your device or on your desktop/laptop.
Unique Tile view
Navigation possible using keypad on the device
The ability to create customes Tiles
Large memory footprint on both the ROM and RAM
Limited amount of content available
Inability to access Tiles directly from the 16 Tile view
No Today screen plugin
Zumobi is a interesting take on providing content to everyone. To see a video of that we made, head over to YouTube. Its use of a keypad makes it easy to use on non-touchscreen devices and the ability to create new tiles is interesting. But, will Zumobi replace my RSS aggregator as my information resource? Unfortunately, it will not. The unique Tile layout, ability to create Tiles and usage of the keypad for navigation are not enough to overcome large memory footprint, limited content, and slow interface this application has. It also remains to be seen if major publications will create more interesting Tilesfor Zumobi. For now, I will stick RSS feeds.