Android widgets that are actually worth it

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

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Direct contact/dial/message

We message and call certain people far more often than everybody else, be it a spouse, a roommate, a project partner, or whomever. A direct contact widget takes a few steps out of the process. Look for the “Contact,” “Direct dial,” and “Direct message” widgets among your phone’s offerings. Once you select the version you’d like and place it on your screen, you’ll be asked to choose which contact will be instantly dialed, messaged, or drawn up for action upon pressing.

Directions & Navigation shortcuts

As with calling, you often drive home and to work every day, but often from different locations. On most later Android phones, “Directions & Navigation” is a widget offering. Pick it, then fill out some details about the shortcut: where it’s going, what to name it, whether you just want directions or immediate turn-by-turn, and which icon to represent the trip. Tap on this mini-widget from anywhere, and you’ll be shown the way to your front door or desk.

Power control

Some phones don’t come with a “Power control” bar placed by default, which is ridiculous. Install it if you don’t see it, and you’ll now have quick controls for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, data synchronization, and brightness.

Some kind of “flashlight” toggle

When the lights go out, when you’re in a crawlspace, when you dropped your keys on the grass in the evening—a bright phone is a handy thing to have. Most people try to get by using the face of their phone turned up all the way, but the LED “flash” for your phone’s camera is far more powerful. Get to it quickly with a toggle widget from a flashlight app. There are many, many LED flashlight apps in the market, and most work on certain phones and not others. Mine is TeslaLED Flashlight, and it includes a simple, small widget that turns the flashlight function on and off, without having to find the app in my list, load it up, and turn it on.

What did I miss in my short, must-have list? What widgets need to be here?

Read more of Kevin Purdy's Mobilize! blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevinpurdy. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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