Review: ActiveCard | webOS Nation

Review: ActiveCard 51

by Robert Werlinger Wed, 17 Feb 2010 4:56 pm EST

To some, one thing missing from webOS is any kind of a “home screen” like Android, S60 and Windows Mobile all have, something that allows for a quick view of current weather conditions, upcoming calendar events, twitter updates and the like all from the launcher screen. ActiveCard ($2.99 in the App Catalog) aims to bring that functionality to webOS by putting quick access to all of the above items (and more) all in one place.

Features and Use

Since you can’t really do Android or WinMo style widgets on webOS’s “home screen”, ActiveCard aims to be a home screen replacement for webOS. The results are a mixed bag. 

Getting the program set up is easy – the layout is intuitive, and there’s a comprehensive help section in each section. This is where you set program’s background, add and delete contacts from the QuickContact launcher, set which programs reside in the Launchbar, set which kinds of stories come in through the RSS reader, and where you set your zip code for the weather widget.

The main screen functions as a widget launcher, and everything you’d expect to find on a home screen is found here - Tapping the calendar icon shows upcoming events, a weather icon displays the weather, an RSS reader connected to Yahoo! News displays the latest news in both a ticker at the bottom of the screen and in a small reader widget, there’s a quick contact launcher, and there are two separate launchers.

The first launcher brings up another list of widgets, including a non-configurable Twitter reader (set to search for “Palm”), web search, Online Games, mini-Calendar, Clock and Weather. At the risk of sounding overly harsh, the majority of widgets contained in this launcher are either useless or made completely redundant by what’s already available in the main section of the program – what use is a Twitter reader that can’t be configured or logged into? What’s the point of another clock when one already resides in the status bar? And really, an online games section that links to iPhone web games that are so laggy that they’re borderline unplayable? I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The second launcher allows the user to set 7 quick launch applications, and while infinitely more useful than the previously mentioned launcher, the utility of this feature pales in comparison to that of the built-in wave dock in webOS – not only can quickly get to your 4 most used applications using that feature, you can hit the launcher and utilize universal search for quick access to whatever else might be on the phone, including contacts. 


ActiveCard endeavors to be a replacement for the home screen (or lack thereof) in webOS, but it ultimately fails to make things any more efficient than what webOS already offers. It also fails to emulate what makes the widget approach so useful in Android, namely being able to have multiple, highly configurable widgets displaying information on the screen at once. With ActiveCard, only one widget can be displaying information at once (aside from the news ticker and current temperature in the weather icon), and the News and Twitter widgets really aren’t all that configurable – the Twitter widgets in Android, for example, actually let you log into your account and update your status.

I actually prefer the un-cluttered homes screen found in webOS to that of the more widget-centric mobile OSes, and I find the combination of universal search, leaving my most-used programs open, and use of the quick launch dock to actually be faster and more useful that what ActiveCard allows me to do.

To be fair, though, this application is still in the early phases of development - version 0.3.3 as of this writing - and the developer promises more widgets with greater customization options and an enhanced UI to be implemented in future versions. But the question remains: can these promised enhancements make the ActiveCard launcher fundamentally more efficient at getting to your information than webOS already does? Maybe.