Adding widgets and customization options to every corner of an operating system doesn’t make it a better operating system. That’s a really short summation of why I felt Android 4.2 was a mixed bag of upgrades and features. In particular, the lock screen widgets that provide instant information on the first screen you see when you power on an Android phone felt a bit tacked-on. But one app has changed my mind.
DashClock Widget was made by Roman Nurik, an Anroid developer advocate. If his goal was to advocate for how Android widgets should be thought out, designed, and crafted, then mission accomplished. DashClock Widget provides useful information, looks nice, and makes me want to use a part of Android I had ignored until now.
You need an Android 4.2 phone or device to add a lock screen widget. At the moment, that means a Nexus 4, a Nexus 7, a Galaxy Nexus, or a Nexus S—some kind of Google-derived device, or a device you’ve rooted and ROM-ed up to Android 4.2. You install a lock screen widget by swiping over to the left of the screen you see when you first click on your phone after it has been asleep or turned off. It’s similar to how you quickly access the camera by swiping to the right from your lock screen. Which you also might not have known, but, neat, right?
Anyways. Swipe toward the left on your lock screen, and you’ll see a shaded box with a “+” icon. Tap that, and you’ll see the list of widgets you can install here. Some of the apps you’ve installed on your phone may offer widgets for this screen, but the most useful, to me, is DashClock. Better than just adding it to the left of your main lock screen, go ahead and add DashClock, then press and hold on the widget to bring up the arrangement screen, and slide it to the right-most position. Then feel free to slide the standard, boring Android lock screen to the “Remove” toggle to get rid of it.
When you first add DashClock, you’ll be prompted to customize it, by adding extensions and changing its looks. The Extensions are really easy: grab their left-most “edges” to order them on the lock screen, or swipe them off to the right to dismiss them. Only one extension has a preference, and that’s the Celsius/Fahrenheit toggle on the weather extension. You can also change the typeface, highlighting, and display style of the clock. But that’s it. It’s a nice balance of customization and “Just show me a cool clock with the weather, please.”
Another cool thing about DashClock is how it taught me how lock screen widgets should work. Before you touch anything, you see a compact view of the widget, with just the time, temperature number, and something like “5h” to show the time to your next calendar appointment (if you use that feature).
But slide the bottom edge of DashClock down, and you’ll see more verbose versions of all your extensions. Really nifty.
The app does many other things well, including great use of the stylish native typeface for newer Android builds and easy setup. Android developer advocates are more than welcome to keep advocating like this.
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.