by Darryl Budge
On an Android device, a “widget” is an optional app feature that displays detailed information or power controls right on a homescreen.
A single widget can use the space of 1 to 16 normal app shortcuts, or be resized (in Android 3 or 4 only) by long-tapping it and dragging the diamond toggles to even fill the whole screen.
Built-in Android widgets include calendar, clock, contact card and direct calling, email, music player, power controls, and news/weather updates.
Thousands more widgets in categories such as sports, finance and social networks are available on the Play Store.
To add a new widget:
1. Press the HOME button (it looks like a house).
2. On Android 2.x and 3.x, touch and hold finger down on any open spot on your screen, then tap on ‘Widgets’.
On Android 4.x, tap on the ‘all apps’ launcher, then tap on ‘Widgets’.
3. Tap any widget to add to the last viewed homescreen. If you tap and hold, then you can drag the widget onto any homescreen.
Great widgets to try
Pocket Weather Australia ($2) offers detailed info from Australian Bureau of Meteorology forecasts for most suburbs in Australia, plus automatic location and push notifications of weather warnings. Two free alternatives are the similarly featured Android Weather & Clock Widget and the BOM-based Weather Australia with a simple current temp and two-day forecast widget.
HD Widgets ($2) is a customizable collection of clock, alarm, and weather widgets. It includes a five-day forecast tracker with complete weather information instantly on ‘tap’.
Song search apps like Shazam (free) and Soundhound (free) let you quickly tap a widget to ask your phone to identify a song you are hearing. It may then provide web videos and lyrics of that song.
Note-taking apps like Evernote (free) and Google Keep (free) offer widgets that let you quickly record a voice note, write a note or task list, or capture a picture. Both have free online storage of 2GB and 5GB respectively.
Power Toggles (free) is an advanced power control widget with over 40 toggles, including torch, and will add a battery percentage to the notification bar.
Wizz Widget (free) provides Facebook, Twitter, messaging, agenda, calendar, and contact widgets and plenty of customization options for both tablets and phones.
Battery Widget (by Geekyouup, free) is a battery percentage widget with two-tap access to parts of Android settings like display, network and battery.
Some Android apps include a lockscreen widget to instantly control functions without unlocking your device. If you have an Android 4.2 device, Google has added several lockscreen widgets, which can be selected with a swipe from the far-left edge of the lockscreen.