Image 1 of 31
Jason Hiner's favorite Android widgets
Android widgets can provide an at-a-glance look and quick access to lots of different information and functions. Here are 15 of the best Android widgets (also see our list of 25 great Android apps).
A couple things to keep in mind with widgets: 1.) They can sometimes hog resources, bandwidth, and battery life so you should make sure you’re using a task killer to regularly refresh your open apps; 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.
1. Extended Controls
Android comes with a “Power Control” widget (bottom) that I’ve always liked because it lets you quickly toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Brightness, and more. However, I recently discovered the “Extended Controls” widget, which allows you to create a customized version of Power Control with a lot more toggle options.
Extended Controls (configuration)
Here’s an example of a few of the extra toggle options that you can turn on with Extended Controls.
2. Battery Watcher
This widget provides a battery percentage visual. Since you can’t add the battery percentage to the notification icon in Android, I always anchor this simple widget on my primary home screen on any Android device. I like that it is the size of an app icon, so it doesn’t take up too much screen real estate.
Battery Watcher (configuration)
Here is the Battery Watcher basic configuration options, plus a little extra information about your battery status.
3. Picture Dial
This is a smartphone speed dial app that allows you to set up your most important and most frequently-dialed people or numbers based on photos. You can see the two sizes of the widget, one with two numbers and one with four. You can also stack multiple widgets on the same page. The default configuration is that you select a contact and then assign phone, text, or email to the speed dial button.
Picture Dial, multiple options
You can assign the same contact to multiple speed dial buttons if you want to do a button for email and another one for phone, for example. Or, you can select the contact and then in the Picture Dial settings choose to have it prompt you each time, like you see in this screenshot.
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.
Analytics Widget (configuration)
Here’s the simple configuration of the Analytics Widget.
5. 3G Watchdog
As most people are aware, “Unlimited Bandwidth” data plans are not unlimited. Most of them are capped at 5GB. Plus, companies like AT&T are moving away from unlimited plans altogether. That means people are going to need to be more conscious of the bandwidth usage. The 3G Watchdog is a widget that can track it for you. The widget is available in two sizes, as you can see in the screenshot.
3G Watchdog (full information)
Here’s the additional information that you can get when you click on the 3G Watchdog.
3G Watchdog (configuration)
Here are the configuration options for the 3G Watchdog, including an alert if you’re getting close to your bandwidth cap (which you can set).
6. System Info (vertical)
This widget provides a great little system monitoring function for battery life, over-heating, memory, and storage.
System Info (horizontal)
This widget can also be displayed horizontally.
7. Pure Calendar
There’s a built-in widget that can provide a quick glance at your calendar but Pure Calendar is far more detailed and customizable.
Pure Calendar (configuration)
Here are some of the configuration options that show how customizable Pure Calendar is.
8. Pure Messenger
The cousin of Pure Calendar is Pure Messenger, which can provide a quick glance at your inbox. It can even integrate SMS messages, Twitter DMs, and Facebook mail.
Pure Messenger, various sizes
The Pure Messenger widget is also available in a variety of different sizes.
Pure Messenger (configuration)
Here are some of the configuration options that show the different messaging types that you can include.
Buzzbox offers a no-frills widget for quickly glancing at the news. There are a bunch of pre-configured RSS sources (including some good ones for tech) and you can easily add your own.
Here are the configuration options for Buzzbox, and the full reader.
10. SMS Unread Count
The basic premise here is that this widget replaces your Messaging (SMS) icon with a widget that looks like an icon but includes a little red circle in the upper right corner with the number of unread messages you have (mirroring the iPhone UI). The app can also do this for Gmail and Phone (missed calls).
SMS Unread Count (configuration)
Basic configuration options for SMS Unread Count.
11. Last Call
This widget provides a glance at your last call, which makes it easy to redial or to call back a missed call. You can also click on the widget to go to your full Call Log.
For travelers, the FlightView widget is very handy. Rather than digging through apps or Web pages to get a flight status update, you can enter your airline and flight number into this app and it will track it for you.
Just enter your airline and flight number to start tracking.
The widget also offers a nice map to check on flight and weather delays across the US.
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.
This is a Google 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).
Scoreboard (usage tips)
Here are some tips for using the Scoreboard widget.
Pandora is a custom streaming “radio station” for the Internet age. You simply search by an artist or song and it will create a running playlist based on that one piece of information. This widget makes it easy to control Pandora, including play/pause, thumb up, thumb down, and skip-track buttons.