Smartphones

15 Android widgets that will make iPhone users jealous

One of the biggest advantages of Android over iPhone is widgets. Here are 15 of the best widgets available for Android, updated for 2012.

One of the biggest advantages of Android over iPhone is widgets. Android has them, iPhone does not.

Widgets are valuable because they give you an at-a-glance look at lots of different kinds of information and quick access to valuable apps and configuration settings.

I carry both an Android phone (for work) and an iPhone (my private phone), but there are some things where I always reach to whip out the Android phone because I can access the information more quickly via a widget. If I was a normal person that only used one phone and I was limited to an iPhone, widgets are the biggest thing I'd miss about Android.

To help you find some of the most useful widgets, I've put together my list of the top 15. I first published this list of my favorite widgets in August 2010. In this latest update, I've replaced 12 out of the 15 widgets on the list and I've updated the screenshots for Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich."

The best way to view this list is in the screenshot gallery so that you can see each of the widgets. But, you can also view it in list form below, with links to the Android Market for each of the widgets. I've tried to find widgets that will generally work on almost all versions of Android and aren't limited to specific flavors, but obviously that's a tall order.

A couple things to keep in mind with widgets:

  1. They can hog resources, bandwidth, and battery life so you should make sure you're using a task monitor to keep an eye on them; I wouldn't necessarily recommend running all 15 at once, just pick the ones that are most important and that you'll use the most often
  2. Widgets can take up a lot of screen real estate and so you may need to use an alternate home screen launcher, such as Launcher Pro, to give yourself some extra space

Screenshot gallery

The 15 most useful Android smartphone widgets

1. Beautiful Widgets

Arguably, the most well-known widget on Android is the Clock & Weather widget from HTC, but that's obviously limited to HTC devices. The best universal Android widget that does the same thing is the one from Beautiful Widgets, which also offers the same functionality in a variety of differences sizes and configurations and tosses in a few bonus widgets such as a battery monitor and some configuration toggles.

2. Extended Controls

Android comes with a "Power Control" widget that I've always liked because it lets you quickly toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Brightness, and more. However, the "Extended Controls" widget allows you to create a customized version of Power Control with a lot more toggle options.

3. Business Calendar

If you need to quickly scan your calendar to check on your next meeting or see what your day looks like tomorrow, you can't beat the Business Calendar widget. It offers virtually every size and configuration option imaginable. I prefer the 4x4 (full screen) widget in agenda mode with the simple list of all upcoming calendar appointments.

4. Analytics Widget

If you use Google Analytics to track web site traffic, this little widget makes it easy to get a get quick glance at your traffic metrics. It takes up the same amount of space as an app icon and you can set up multiple widgets to track multiple metrics.

5. Google Reader ticker

To keep an eye on the latest news, it's hard to beat Google Reader, since it's completely customizable based on RSS feeds. You can follow national politics or world news or you can follow the smallest trade publication that covers your industry. As long as it has an RSS feed, you can put it in Google Reader and then you can follow it at a glance with the ticker widget that is automatically added when you install the Google Reader app.

6. Pulse

Pulse is another news reader that has a great widget. Pulse is a visual newsreader that represents stories with images that it finds within those stories. It has a nice default news feeds to choose from, but you can also search for lots of others from across the web. The widget only allows you to select on feed to use on its ticker.

7. Tripit

I've recommended Tripit on my favorite iPhone and Android apps lists because it's a great little service for tracking all of your travel itineraries. It also happens to have a useful Android widget that comes in two sizes.

8. Google Finance

The simple mission of Google Finance is to track stocks. The app also comes with a widget that allows you to quickly glance at the performance of a single stock or index in a little 2x1 widget. You can have use multiple instances of the widget to track multiple stocks.

9. Direct Dial & Direct Message

In addition to quick-glance information, Android widgets can also provide quick functions (kind of like macros or keyboard shortcuts on a PC). The Direct Dial and Direct Message widgets allow you to pick someone's phone number in your contacts and create an icon that allows you to immediately call or text that person. If you have a photo for the person then it shows their photo in a 1x1 icon. These two widgets come with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (that's why there's no download link), but if you don't have a phone with ICS then you can use a widget like Picture Dial.

10. The Weather Channel

The weather update in Beautiful Widgets (above) is usually enough for me, but if I'm going on a trip or worried about the extended forecast and I want to track the weather a little more closely than The Weather Channel's has a great set of widgets. My favorite is the 4x1 widget.

11. Google Docs bar

The Google Docs app comes with a widget bar that provides one-tap access to your list of docs and your favorites and also let's you start a new document or add a photo to your docs with a single tap.

12. Evernote bar

Evernote is a great note-taking service that has multiple mobile apps as well as desktop apps and web access. The great thing is that you can make notes in any of these places and it gets synced to all of the other instances. The Evernote app for Android comes with a widget bar (similar to Google Docs) that gives you one-tap access to your notes, lets you search your notes, and lets you quickly create a new note.

13. Twitter

As I've said before, Twitter is a terrific real-time intelligence engine. Now that there's an official Twitter Android app, there are also a couple Twitter widgets (large and small) for scanning your Twitter stream. You can even configure the Twitter widget to display "Mentions" so that you can quickly see who's talking to you (or about you) and respond.

14. ESPN ScoreCenter

This ESPN widget that lets you keep track of the scores from your favorite sports teams. It shows the last game and the next game (or current game). You can quickly tap it to get more details in the ESPN app.

15. Dictionary.com

For my fellow wordsmiths out there, Dictionary.com has a terrific widget that allows you to type or speak a word and quickly get the definition. As a bonus, the widget also displays a word of the day.

Also read

    About

    Jason Hiner is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He writes about the people, products, and ideas changing how we live and work in the 21st century. He's co-author of the upcoming book, Follow the Geeks (bit.ly/ftgeeks).

    66 comments
    XanXa
    XanXa

    I have found another widget, and it's wonderfull, there is a Widget version of the 2048 Game, people are crazy. I leave the url here:


    http://goo.gl/wZ91Ik 


    Enjoy!! ;)

    Zoya Bennet
    Zoya Bennet

    I greatly agree to the first ever point that Android widgets makes it special compared to iphone.  Rather than having apps in the home screen it is good to use widgets that gives a good look to my andorid smartphone.  For android users I am adding here a source where you can more information on android widgets. 

    http://androidwidgets.info/

    programki
    programki

    You have decided to meet the sunrise or sunset with a loved one, this widget will help you to always be aware of when the rising or setting sun.

    Day and night - colorful widget that shows the appearance of the sun in the sky, and the text field shows the time of sunset (when the sun is shining) or sunrise (when the moon is shining).

    The application contains advertising.

    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=name.zuy.android.widget.dnn.ads

    XanXa
    XanXa

    I love all these widgets but in my opinion beautifull Widgets will be always in my first place, but the second is not in this list, I love the widgets which let you save some space in your main desktop like http://goo.gl/0HFKR or something like that

    shahalam1
    shahalam1

    I use both, But like my iphone although it has less advantages than Android.how to find apps

    seeparag
    seeparag

    I have checked many reject text and auto text applications. But QText stands out all. It allows you to send automatic text to some one whose call you could not pick in say 5 secs (configurable). It also lets you avoid sending text to unknown numbers.

    sangzz
    sangzz

    SpeedDial widget also works like direct dial /direct message widget but it allows to configure multiple contacts( max 9) at the same time. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.pradeep.speeddial clicking the widget opens up the direct dial or sms dial pad where users can click to perform an action - phone or sms. long click to configure each dial buttons- useful for fav phone and sms ---- Sangzz

    rygood
    rygood

    Those are pretty nice. But too much clutter.

    davidhbrown
    davidhbrown

    Integrated with Google's Maps application is an excellent little one-square Traffic widget. The interface to add this widget is a bit simplistic -- just enter a name to display on the home screen and the destination address of interest. Tap the widget and it will wake up, displaying a red red/yellow/green traffic light depending on driving conditions to the destination from wherever you happen to be. If available, time will also be displayed. Tap it again, and Maps opens, zoomed to show the area between you and the destination with any trouble spots on the road highlighted. Maybe you never have to drive yourself anyway, but if you do, this can't be beat.

    anjali189
    anjali189

    This is really great list. i had iphone 3g and i have. Don't wanna looking back for iPhone. :)

    ritter78
    ritter78

    I love my Android, it works like a dream and lets me stay on the job even when I'm on a business trip at the airport and then I dont have to pay for their overpriced internet too.

    Grika
    Grika

    The calendar app icon displays the day of the week and day of the month. This can only mean that widgetness is possible ...

    rhonin
    rhonin

    Saw it a comment earlier.... Watch what permissions it asks for. Quite often you can find a similar widget with minimal permissions for some of these.

    tblancher
    tblancher

    At least on my AT&T Galaxy S II (non-LTE), Gingerbread 2.3.4 allows me to create direct dial and direct message icons. No need for ICS.

    jharvie673
    jharvie673

    I want an app where you can enter a cusip or ticker symbol to get current prices, etc. on a specific security. It also would be great for it to give you the ticker if you entered the name.

    kf.gutta
    kf.gutta

    heard of a Metal detector ? a bar code scanner n pdf creator? call recorder ? translate me ? finger print scanner ?

    multifactorguru
    multifactorguru

    The dictionary app is a lifesaver for me... actually more of a time saver.

    Allbertcode
    Allbertcode

    Thank you, I'd be really welcoming for the strong work you all have capable here to make this page more helpful. show thanks you once again.

    jnovice
    jnovice

    I posted this on another forum. The "Breedlove Calendar Quotes" is very funny.

    s.nicolas
    s.nicolas

    I woud recommend cinemadroid widget. When used with Cinemadroid, it allows you to display local movies showtimes in all theaters nearby. It will update in real time. It's nice and easy to use. market.android.com/details?id=ca.qc.webalterpraxis.cinedroid.widget.free

    elnator
    elnator

    Battery Watcher wants FULL INTERNET access. There's no reason on earth for it to need it. I find that BatteryLife (now on version 1.3.3) is far superior. It doesn't just tell you the percentage it tells you temp, voltage and what kind of battery it is as well as whether you are currently charging it or not all on the widget. Best of all? It's FREE and is a 'no permissions required' application. ------------ For calendar widget I use smooth calendar. Gives a nice 'quick glance' at your upcoming calendar events and ties directly into the google calendar. The only right it needs? "Read your calendar data". The one you list is very invasive, needlessly so. ------------------------- Other than that I don't have much to say other than it's a decent list but a lot of the apps you list ask for a lot of permissions they have no need to have access to on your phone. While I'm sure they're harmless folks should consider that before installing any application. Tons of apps ask for that info just so they can sell it to 3rd parties. (it's how they can afford to be free, but it's very invasive of your personal information). Pandora, for example, is a REALLY cool app but you may want to take a long hard look at the laundry list of rights it asks you to give it which it shouldn't need just to stream media to your phone. As for the twitter app? It's ok but I find PLUME far superior over twitter. It requests a lot less permissions and I find it's interface far more pleasant and easy to use.

    jessedegenerate
    jessedegenerate

    i find this article entirely hilarious, because i port my own widgets to iOS springboard thanks to amazing work from wyndwarrior. i came across this article looking for android widgets to port to ios. you guys are lulz. anyways, get owned. http://www.flickr.com/photos/54754025@N07/

    yobtaf
    yobtaf

    Envy goes both ways.

    Peduncle
    Peduncle

    An example of choosing the wrong word which actually delivers the opposite meaning from what was intended. Or would if we hadn't already lost "envious" to "jealous".

    The 'G-Man.'
    The 'G-Man.'

    It is MY Phone so I decide when I want to kill an App on my timeframe!

    The 'G-Man.'
    The 'G-Man.'

    A reception on the device! ...and like you really call Job's or e-mail Gates...

    l.m.auty
    l.m.auty

    There is a Battery Watcher on the iPhone, acessible through Settings. Plus, being on an umlimited plan, I am not bothered about the 3G Watchdog. Nor the rest of your Android widgets!

    jonrosen
    jonrosen

    Until it actually gets songs by artists I WANT to listen to, it's still useless. Considering how most android phones come with a decent chunk of memory, and often a 'freebie' micro-SD chip for another 2-4gb. WHY bother with a streaming online radio when you can load up 1gb+ of the stuff you KNOW you like, to just listen to? There's at least one great stereo-sound bluetooth headset out there (Motorokr SD-9), and I'm sure more which can give great sound. I wouldn't call pandora (or itunes for the iphone) anything to rave about, never have, doubt I ever will.

    roykirk
    roykirk

    I have an Incredible, new to Android, and I don't see many of these as available widgets. How do we get them? Like "Extended Controls." You say you recently discovered them, but where?

    bllarkin
    bllarkin

    Smartphone unlimited data plans ARE unlimited, it is the tethering options that are limited.

    Lightning546
    Lightning546

    Is there an widget or app that will allow me to sync my iTunes library to an Android phone?

    chadness
    chadness

    Yes, this has been available on Android for quite some time. I could do this on my original Motorola Droid even. I think it became available starting in Android 2.0.

    jeb.hoge
    jeb.hoge

    I know you can enter a ticker into Google and it'll display that security's current info as the first result, but that's a process that could be streamlined into an app or even a widget.

    elnator
    elnator

    It asks for access to your contacts, phone identity, etc, all of which it does need. But it also asks for full internet access, which it doesn't need. Which, if the app developer ever wanted to be sneaky, could simply upload all your personal data to a server and then he can sell it to marketers advetizers or, worse, identity thieves. I'm not saying he'd do that but it's always something to consider when you're giving an app access to a LOT of private information.

    Freetime000
    Freetime000

    google talk has video on front facing camera devices and works great.

    The 'G-Man.'
    The 'G-Man.'

    that only works between two iPhone 4 handsets? Not that useful is it.

    shevake
    shevake

    not just jealous.Angry too ;-(

    bdskp
    bdskp

    I actually use it to find new music. I think that is what most people use it for. If you use it for that it's pretty awesome. By seeding an artist that you know you like it tries to find similar styles of music that you might like. That's why it's awesome.

    jasonhiner
    jasonhiner

    I use it all the time to find great stuff. I still listen to stuff from my own library a lot, but Pandora is a great way to mix it up, AND to discover new stuff (or stuff you like that you may have forgotten about). In the past week, I've bookmarked about 10 songs from Pandora that I intend to purchase, just by listening to Pandora-created playlists based on two of my favorite artists.

    jasonhiner
    jasonhiner

    Just go to the green and white Market icon and search for them.

    adamina
    adamina

    That's really great to see the these widget allow to sync to iTunes library to an Android phone. Lorenz High School | Lorenz University

    RipVan
    RipVan

    ...one that would help you wean yourself off of iAnything. If not, there should be.

    Mark T
    Mark T

    iSyncr works well too.

    vw-golf
    vw-golf

    contacts are used to display call info, phone log is used to display phone call info - so it must be seems. Internet access - they say they get anonymous Google Analytics statistics only - I checked that with monitoring app. So, for me that works ok.

    The 'G-Man.'
    The 'G-Man.'

    We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

    TucsonGuy
    TucsonGuy

    I have an HTC Hero with 1.5 and the market doesn't have the Extended Control app. Does it only work with newer ones? If so, it would be nice to know which versions it works with so we don't waste time looking for something that doesn't exist!

    adamina
    adamina

    Salling of media eycn works for all. we all appreciate to this work. Belford High School | Belford University

    The 'G-Man.'
    The 'G-Man.'

    the free update has been out for a while....get with the program!

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