There have been several jailbreak tweaks over the years that have attempted to revolutionize the concept of multitasking in iOS. Few, if any, have come as close as ProWidgets, a new widget framework that’s available in Cydia now.
I say close because I don’t think ProWidgets solves a better way to multitask on the iPhone and iPad. However, it is a valiant effort that allows other developers to create third-party widgets that live outside of the traditional app experience.
ProWidgets is the iOS 7 evolution of Tap to Widgets, both of which have been developed by Alan Yip. Once installed from Cydia, a helpful walkthrough explains how the tweak works. Seven preinstalled widgets are available, including Calendar, Notes, Reminders, Messages, Mail, Browser, Dictionary, Alarm and Timer. Each widget acts as an extension of the associated app and can be triggered in a number of ways.
The beautiful design and attention to detail in ProWidgets is apparent right from the tutorial. I was impressed with how smooth it was to trigger and manipulate widgets from just about anywhere in iOS.
In Settings you can assign each widget to an Activator action, Control Center toggles, and corners of Notification Center or the lock screen. Once a widget is active, there are a number of options. Double tapping a widget minimizes it to the side of the screen, and single tapping on a minimized widget brings it to the forefront again. Double tapping on a minimized widget closes it completely.
Widgets are designed to run on top of apps as you navigate around iOS. You can have multiple widgets suspended to the side or running at full size; it all comes down to a matter of preference.
While other reviewers, like my friend Jeff Benjamin at iDB, found ProWidgets to be useful on the iPhone, I found the concept of widgets more suited to the iPad’s larger screen. While it’s certainly impressive that Alan Yip has single-handedly built such a polished framework for other developers to build widgets on, I couldn’t find many scenarios where ProWidgets proved useful enough to warrant substantial enthusiasm.
Multitasking in iOS definitely needs to improve, I’m just not sure that widgets are the answer
I tried running the Notes and Dictionary widgets while typing in Pages. It sounds like an awesome way to get around Apple’s limitation of only working in one app at a time, but I found the experience to not be as revolutionary as I expected. There is no way to adjust a widget’s size while using it, and that severely limits usability. Multitasking in iOS definitely needs to improve, I’m just not sure that widgets are the answer.
That’s not to say that ProWidgets isn’t useful all. The ability to quickly compose a message or add an event from Notification Center’s Today view is compelling. Yip tells me that the ability to respond to an incoming message through the widget is coming in a future update, which would effectively replace the need for biteSMS for me.
The best thing about ProWidgets is that it works as advertised, and it will probably become a much more valuable tweak as developers make their own widgets for apps like Tweetbot and Spotify. Right now, it’s a promising tweak that I’m not quite sold on. That being said, if you jailbreak, you should still check it out in Cydia for $3.