12 Ways to Use Android Widgets

Use widgets to get at-a-glance information easily

Widgets are probably one of the most popular Android OS features. You can use them every day to get up to the minute weather, fitness, headlines, and more, without having to launch an app--or do anything but swipe your screen. Installing a widget is easy; choosing a widget may be a bit more difficult.

On most Android smartphones, you simply long-press your home screen and then select widgets from the menu that appears. (This is also where you can change your wallpaper and themes.) You'll see icons of all of your available widgets in alphabetical order, which you can install with a simple tap. This includes widgets offered by apps you've downloaded and built-in widgets from Google and your phone's manufacturer.

Here are a dozen ways to use Android widgets:

01
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Weather Watching

1weather

Aside from checking the time, looking up the weather forecast is probably everyone's top smartphone activity. Most weather apps, such as 1Weather (pictured) and Accuweather offer widgets, so you can see the current temperature, precipitation alerts, humidity levels, and other information without launching an app.

02
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Alarms and Clocks

clock

Of course, the most basic function of a smartphone is to tell the time, unless, of course, you also have a smartwatch. A clock widget displays the time in a nice, large font, so your eyes don't have to search for it when you're in a hurry. If you use your watch as an alarm clock, a widget shows whether your alarm is on and for what time. All you have to worry about is knocking your poor smartphone off the side table when it's time to hit snooze.

03
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Fitness Tracking

Fitbit

Obsessed with tracking your steps? Avid walkers don't have to keep refreshing their Fitbit or other fitness app. Just add the Fitbit widget to your home screen, and you'll be able to see how many steps you've taken so far, and when your Fitbit last synced. This feature is also available with other fitness apps such as Endomondo.

04
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Music Controls

headphones

Playing music on your smartphone is great until you're struggling to press pause while on-the-go. Just add your favorite music service's widget to your home screen so you don't have to fumble to launch the app every time you need to skip a track, pause a song, or mute the volume.

05
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Calendar Keeping

calendar

Smartphones also make great mobile calendars. Using a widget helps keep you on top of upcoming appointments as well as any reminders you've overlooked.

06
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Keep on Top of Tasks

To Do List

In addition to a good calendar, a good to do list app will help you manage your tasks. It's a constant struggle for many of us to set up reminders of important tasks without overwhelming yourself with notifications and scribbled notes. Apps like Gtasks, Todoist, and Wunderlist offer widgets for just this purpose.

07
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Accessing Notes

Evernote

A good companion to task management programs are note-taking app. Both Evernote and Google Keep offer widgets, so you can create new notes, capture quick observations, and view top-level information right from your home screen. 

08
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Data Monitoring

Data Usage

Got a limited data plan? Find a data usage monitor with a widget so you can quickly see when you're reaching your limit. You can then avoid surcharges by upgrading your plan or cutting down on data usage until the end of the billing cycle.

09
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Monitor Battery Life and Other Stats

battery low monitor

See how much time you have left on your battery and other important stats with Battery Widget Reborn, System Monitor, or Zooper.

10
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Follow the News

Newspapers

Get the headlines you're interested with a news widget like Taptu or Flipboard.

11
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Easy Flashlight Access

flashlight

If you have Android Marshmallow or later on your smartphone, you have a flashlight you can access quickly from the Quick Settings pulldown menu. For the rest of us, download a flashlight app that comes with a widget so you can turn it on and off just as easily.

12
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Custom Widgets

DIY sign

Finally, you can create your own widget with an app like UCCW, which offers a battery meter, weather information, clocks, and much more.