Android Widgets Explained

Widgets
Screen Capture from a Samsung Galaxy Tab

Android widgets are mini apps that run on your Android Home screens. Widgets are not the same thing as the shortcut icons that allow you to launch an app. Android widgets generally display data and take up more space than a single icon. For example, weather widgets show data about local weather forecasts. Widgets can also be interactive or resizable, such as a sticky note widget

Some Android phones and tablets come with custom widgets created by the phone or tablet manufacturer specifically for that device.

For example, Samsung Galaxy S Tabs (pictured) have widgets created to allow owners to download bonus content, like the Hunger Games movies or paid apps. 

Some widgets are separate downloads, and some come as part of the regular app download. Some widgets also allow for extensions (both paid and free) that add functions or change the appearance of an existing widget. Weather apps and clocks are the most common type of extendable widgets. 

Common Types of Android Widgets 

Here are some fantastic widgets you may want to try right away to enhance your Android experience:

Weather and Clocks

Weather widgets and clocks are a fantastic use of your screen space. Glance at your phone, and you can tell what the weather will be before you even take your glasses off the nightstand. 

There are tons of popular weather and clock widgets and many different brands. We use Beautiful Widgets. Check your device for compatibility, and if you're considering a premium widget, check Google Play and Amazon for sales.

Generally speaking, free widgets tend to either be ad sponsored or offer in-app purchases to buy new themes. 

If you live in an area that has hazardous weather, consider an app that includes weather alert notifications on top of the widget capability. 

Notes, Tasks, and Lists

The Evernote widget set comes as part of the Evernote download and helps you take or browse through notes and memos you take on your phone.

You can choose from three different sizes of widget, depending on your use and display space. If you are considering Evernote, you may also want to look at Google Keep or OneNote, both of which come with widgets and offer similar note-taking functionality. 

There are also more task-based widgets centered around tools like Planner Plus or Informant. 

Email

Email widgets allow you to look at summaries of your messages and sometimes reply to them without having to launch the full app. Android comes with Gmail widgets pre-installed, but there are also a few third-party widgets with elegant displays. You may also want to use a separate email app such as the Outlook app to read your Outlook or business email. Apps like Nine also come with email widgets. 

Other Productivity Tools

In addition to tasks, email, and notes. You may have specific productivity tools you use. Check to see if your favorite app came with a widget. Productivity and business apps like Expensify, TripIt, and Google Drive all have widgets. If your favorite app does not have a widget, chances are good that a third-party has created one. Be sure to read the reviews before downloading and connecting it to your favorite service.