Android widgets that are actually worth it

Most widgets eat battery, sip data, and look incongruous. Not these actually useful widgets.

The home screens of new Android phones come loaded with about a half-dozen widgets. Widgets are objects you keep on your phone to keep automatically updated information at a glance, or to quickly interact with something: weather, Facebook, music, and so on. In any Android troubleshooting, and often in the Complete Android Guide, I recommend removing widgets, especially the kind pre-installed by phone makers and cellular companies. They’re not very helpful, and they tend to eat battery life and data limits.

[5 Things to do right away on your new Android device: Part 1 and Android should collect and share information on third-party 'skins']

Then again, a well-made, energy-conscious widget can be a really handy thing. So let’s look at some widgets that are worth their while.

To add a widget to your Android home screen on phone running a version before 4.0 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”), press and hold on an empty section of the home screen, then choose “Widgets” from the menu that pops up (you may have to choose “Android widgets” on some phones, like earlier Motorola models). On Android 4.0 and later, open the app drawer (the bottom-middle button on your home screen tray), and swipe to the right to the “Widgets” section (or tap “Widgets” at the top of the app tray screen).

Sets by Beautiful Widgets and HD Widgets

Beautiful Widgets and HD Widgets are apps that are more like bundles. Buy and install the apps, and you get a dozen or more versions of a very nice-looking clock and weather notifier, ranging from very bold to remarkably minimal. Both widgets offer lots of options for customizing the display, the update interval, the weather service used, and more. HD Widgets also offers some control panel widgets for toggling Wi-Fi, GPS, and the like.


Why a calendar widget isn’t included in the stock Android home screen setup, or on most Android phones in general, I cannot guess. But for people who use a calendar synced to Google, an easily visible, scroll-ready calendar is quite handy. Android’s built-in Calendar widget is pretty good, and offers a lock screen variant (on Android 4.2 and above) that shows up first thing when you power on your phone. My preferred calendar widget is Simple Calendar Widget, because it can launch alternative calendars and be tweaked down to the last font pixel—but that’s not everybody’s idea of a fun Friday, I know.

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