Not everyone has a smartphone, and strange as it may sound for those who can't live without their mini call-placing computers, avoiding an $80 to $100 monthly data plan is often driving that conscious choice. But it is possible to get a data add-on to a cell phone plan for as little as $10 a month. For that set of in-betweeners, a program like Snac could bridge the gap between a modest data plan and accessing Web content like social network feeds and news stories.
Snac, in open beta, provides a dashboard of thumbnail-size widgets that periodically grab content from Facebook, Twitter, Gmail (POP3), the weather, Google Calendar, news sources, and so on. Snac precaches a few layers of content, so that when you click a widget, you'll be able to immediately see headlines, status updates, and so on, on a small pop-up window.
Snac isn't just read-only either. For instance, you're able to update your social networking status and add comments in Facebook. Ditto with Twitter, but Snac isn't equipped for direct replies. Opening a news story pushes you to your phone's default browser, but Snac CEO Mark Caron tells us they'll soon add an in-app browser for reading purposes. At this point, you're unable to configure how often Snac pulls in fresh content, but Caron says they're looking into that, too.
Caron demoed Snac beta on a Sony Ericsson TM 506 phone, and a private beta version for BlackBerry. It works on almost 300 Java feature phones, but also on Symbian and Windows phones. There's no limit to how many widgets you can install from the Snac gallery, and managing the dashboard is straightforward from the phone settings and from the Web.
The free, ad-supported app isn't much of a looker, with a boring background, blocky typeface, and sketchbook widget design. But it worked quickly and well in our demo. We'll be keeping an eye out for future developments.