Plusmo: A backstage pass to the mobile Web

Plusmo enters the race to get more mobile users Internet access faster by introducing a fully customizable, veritable widgetfest. Your widgets welcome.

Plusmo
Add as many widgets as you want with Plusmo's mobile app. CNET Networks

Plusmo's mobile widgets application is a cool way to read RSS feeds on your cell phone or PDA, but that's not the only reason it was named a finalist on the Webware 100 list.

In true Webware fashion, Plusmo's site offers hands-on excitement--the chance to publish and share widget mash-ups and create an iPhone widget from templates. Users can also make personal blogs available as a Plusmo widget, and can install a browser bookmarklet or Yahoo plug-in to snag feeds while they surf.


Getting started with Plusmo

Multiple carriers and platforms, small screen sizes, and a glut of information out there make quickly and easily accessing mobile content a downright challenge. That's why interestingly (and wisely), Plusmo steers clear of browser turf wars raging among third-party mobile browsers like Opera Mini (new review) and Minimo (hands-on review); a good move.

Instead, the J2ME mobile app leans on widget technology to become a watering hole for RSS feeds formatted to the mobile screen. (FROG, reviewed yesterday, also dodges browser loyalty, but with less overall success.)

Setting up Plusmo begins online. Users jump into hand-picking the RSS feeds they will transform into widgets, first by general category and then from among a couple hundred subscriptions encompassing sports, news, traffic, and so on. The curious can preview selections in the emulator floating at the screen's right side by double-clicking the widget icon in the Plusmo gallery. Users who don't want to ditch their existing RSS subscriptions don't have to start over; RSS lists can be imported three ways.

Plusmo
My personal mash-up widget ('Yummy grubby') pulls from multiple RSS feeds, including Chow.com. CNET Networks

Sometimes there are hang-ups getting an app installed on the phone, but this was seamless. Users choose an e-mail or text installation that then synchs to your account when you sign in. Pointing the browser to http://plusmo.com or http://plusmo.com/wap/ (for WAP-enabled phones) are completely mobile methods of joining up.


Maintenance and mash-ups

As it should be, your personal widgets gallery is easy to manage online or through "Preferences" in the app's menu.

Oh, but the fun doesn't end there. Remember those widget mash-ups mentioned above? Plusmo gets users interactive by with a system for creating personalized widgets from existing RSS feeds, my favorite feature by far. You choose a title, description, image, and the sites from which you want Plusmo to aggregate content. My "Yummy grubby" experiment parades a smörgåsbord of photos, articles, and gadget from food-related and image sites.


Cons

Despite the pluses in interaction, customization, and good, solid design, Plusmo suffered from sluggishness both on the Web site and from the mobile app. Where other Web apps take a few seconds to store and refresh data, in my tests, Plusmo took up to ten or fifteen. Price is another consideration. Plusmo itself is free to use, but because it keeps your widget current through constant refreshing, it's only cost-effective for unlimited data plan subscribers. News hounds and hobbyists who fall into this category should try Plusmo out.

 

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