When Zumobi announced their mobile tiles application for BlackBerry a few weeks ago, I knew it would be the topic of a Geek Review.So I went to get.zumobi.com from my BlackBerry browser, followed some quick instructions, and downloaded it to my 8830. Perfect. So it was time to test it out, and review it for the masses for last Tuesday.
That didn’t quite go as expected.
That didn’t quite work out. While I was creating my account, Zumobi’s servers were acting up big time. I couldn’t register via the application. I tried registering through the website, and while the main site was running, there was a proxy error when I tried to register — and when I went to create a tile, but that will be discussed further down.
So I searched around a bit, and found that many others had similar problems. That didn’t help me get Zumobi, but it was comforting to know that it wasn’t just me. Then the end of the day came, and I kinda forgot about Zumobi for a bit. I came back the next day, and finally was able to register an account. However, when I tried to login, it froze up. D’oh! Another day without Zumobi.
Finally logged in!
A few days later, I was finally able to connect to Zumobi’s servers. Good. Maybe they put all that initial launch stuff behind them. I opened the app on my phone, agreed to their terms and conditions (again), and entered my login information, eagerly awaiting the chance to play with these tiles/widgets/whathaveyou.
Yet I had to wait a while. They had to load the tiles, which easily took five minutes. Not content just staring at the screen, I clicked over to our friends at BlackBerry Cool, who have been all over Zumobi for a while, and got a sneak peak at WES. One line in their overview stuck out to me:
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT INSTALL ZUMOBI WITH AN SD CARD IN YOUR BLACKBERRY. I did and I encountered a bug that basically puts the application in a ‘feedback loop of doom’, requiring you to uninstall and start over (Zumobi is working to fix the issue). Once the application is loaded however, feel free to pop your card back in.
Holy crap, how did I not read this earlier? So here I am, waiting for the tiles to load, figuring that it’s all a waste. I’ll have to delete the program, restart my BlackBerry, go to Zumobi again, and redownload it…only to have to go through the whole adding tiles phase again
Thankfully, this did not happen. It seems to be running fine now, even with my SD card having been in place while I installed it. So those are two issues that were around last week, which have seemingly been corrected. Good. I’m having more faith in this every second.
Account registered. Tiles loaded. So let’s dig in. First, we can check out this brief video walkthrough:
The main screen contains sixteen tiles, divided into quadrants. You simply click around to the tile you want and click the trackball on the quadrant. That will bring you to the quadrant screen, where you can select any of the four tiles. You can also navigate the menus by pressing the shortcut buttons, listed on each tile. Once into the main tile screen, you have the option of searching, sending the tile, visiting the sponsor link (that is, the ad), and rating the tile.
It seems simple enough. In essence, it’s part customizable mobile portal, like Pocket Express and Yahoo! Go, and part RSS reader, like Viigo.
Zumobi has a ton of tiles to choose from, which you can find at their tile gallery. They have everything from news to entertainment, finance, sports, shopping, and more. There’s even a rating system for the tiles, so you can see what others have to think about it. Plus, you can add your own rating.
If you like to follow a site not covered by Zumobi — say, BBGeeks.com — you can create your own tile with the tile wizard. Just go to my.zumobi.com/wizard/index to get started. All you need is the RSS feed address, and you can get started. It’s just one screen, and you can select the tile name, address, and skin.
There are two problems with this, though. First is that you can’t create a custom skin for your tiles. I wanted to use a BBGeeks logo for the tile, but I couldn’t. You’re limited to just eight stock tiles, which can get confusing if you want to create more than eight tiles. The other problem is that you have to create these on the website, not on your BlackBerry. In fact, you can’t add any new tiles to your Zumobi, even ones they provide, from your device.
Still a number of problems
The more I dug into Zumobi, the more problems I found. I was also happier with the actual content and interface, but with the issues they still have, I can’t see using this long-term.
First off, it totally wiped my call log. No, that’s not uber-important, but it makes it easier to dial who I need to dial (obviously). Second, it totally messed up my SimulSays logs. First it deleted all my messages. Then it started re-adding them as new, one by one. So my LED was flashing constantly, even when I checked off the messages. Then, when it got to a certain point, it wiped all the ones I had marked as read, and added even older ones. This is particularly frustrating, even if I don’t need those old messages.
(Seriously, this thing has a mind of its own. I typed the above paragraph an hour and a half ago, and SimulSays is still whacked. And it continues to erase my call log. I made two calls since the initial wipe, and both are now gone. )
Second, it makes my BlackBerry — and others, from what I’ve heard — run really, really slow. This is because of the graphical interface. According to the demo video, Zumobi downloads the information as it comes, so you can quickly access it while in the program. That certainly slows things down. And, needless to say, it’s a killer on the battery. I wonder how much data they use by downloading information for all tiles in the background. I’ll have to check my data usage in a few days and report back.
(As I type this now, I’ve got the hourglass on the screen, and I’m still in serious lag.)
As I mentioned, you cannot change tiles directly from your BlackBerry. You have to go to their gallery and send the tiles to yourself. This also holds for the creation of tiles. It all must be done at the desktop, which can be a bit bothersome, though it’s not the biggest hassle.
Finally, the menu isn’t very comprehensive at all. Not only is the “Add Tile” function not operational (though it is promised soon), but there is nothing under the “Options” menu. Except, of course, for another promise that it will be coming soon.
I expected the world from Zumobi, and unfortunately it didn’t deliver. That’s not to say it’s a bad application. In theory, it’s great. In theory, communism works. In theory.
With the proper improvements, this could be one of the top mobile applications for the BlackBerry in the future. Ideally, it fuses RSS and mobile portal content into an easy to navigate graphical interface. The ability to create new tiles opens up a world of possibilities. However, the above mentioned bugs and quirks makes this an unsuitable application for the time being.
Once they allow users to add custom skins for tiles, once they give you the ability to add tiles from the BlackBerry, once they add options, once they figure out how this interacts with other programs, and most importantly, when they figure out how to make the program use less memory, Zumobi will be a great option. Until that day, though, we suggest waiting it out.