When you flip through the screens of your phone, you probably see each app as a little icon. But some applications let you swap that icon for a widget, a larger image that sometimes lets you access the app without opening it. Widgets add aesthetic appeal to your home screens while also providing some useful features. For example, weather apps can deck out your home screen with the day's up-to-date temperatures, music players might let you skip songs or hit pause, and memo apps can display prominent notes.
While iPhones have added widgets in their Today View (to see it, swipe right on the home screen), Android's widgets remain far more flexible and versatile. In fact, they're one of the few major differences that still exist between the Apple and Google phone operating systems. So Android users, go ahead and make your Apple-loving friends jealous with these 12 essential Android widgets.
Although plenty of weather apps offer Android widgets, 1Weather stands out for its stylish look, detailed readouts, and plethora of customization options. You can specify which information you'll want to see to fulfill your forecasting needs, and choose from multiple layouts for that data.
1Weather, free with ads or $2 without ads
What's more important than your smartphone battery life? Keep a very close eye on it with this widget, which gives you a more detailed view than the icon in the status bar does. Tap on the widget to open the app, which provides even more information about your battery's current condition.
Battery HD, free
Battery Widget Reborn
If Battery HD doesn't offer enough customization for your needs, check out Battery Widget Reborn. It also displays extra information about battery levels, but with more options for specifying the size and color of the display image. And it's not just a pretty picture: This widget also estimates of how long your device can last on its current charge, and offers its own power-saving mode to extend your battery life.
Battery Widget Reborn, free with ads or $5 without ads
Can't wait for an amazing occasion? Let Countdown Days tick away the time for you. The simple and neat app has an accompanying widget that updates itself with every passing day. You also have a variety of colors to choose from for the widget display.
Countdown Days, free with ads or $1 without ads
Whatever device information you want to see on your Android's home screen, Elixir 2 can put it in a widget for you. Customize the display with battery status, available storage, processor and memory load, network connection strength, running apps, integrated sensors, display properties, or any combination of that data.
Elixir 2, free
Evernote is hands down the best note-taking and project-organizing app on Android or any other platform. Its selection of widgets adds to its appeal: These give you quick access to your existing digital notebooks and allow you to create new ones on the fly.
Evernote, free or from $35 a year
When you need to remember birthdays, anniversaries, important meetings, public holidays, and other events, the ability to always view your calendar on your home screen can make a huge difference. Google Calendar's widget lets you do just that: You can choose between viewing the whole month on the screen, displaying an agenda, or both.
Google Calendar, free
Google's simple but effective note-taking app comes with a nicely styled widget. It can show you thumbnails of your most recent notes, or—if you categorize your digital reminders—thumbnails of the notes in a specific category. You also get a shortcut for creating new reminders on the fly.
Google Keep, free
Google Maps Directions
This Google Maps widget is one of the most beautiful widgets out there, and definitely one of the most useful. As soon as you place the widget, it'll prompt you to enter a single address (your best bet is to choose a frequently-visited one, such as your home). Then, every time you tap the icon, it will pull up instant directions to that pre-programmed location.
Google Maps, free
Think of HD Widgets as an umbrella app for dozens of widget options, some free and some paid, which cover the time and date, weather forecasts, and app shortcuts. The umbrella lets you arrange them into a custom display. Even better, it allows you to customize the color and look of your widgets to match your phone's style.
HD Widgets, free
Don't waste time poking around the Netflix app when you can quickly launch it from your home screen. Depending on the widget size you choose, you can jump back into the show you were just watching, check out any new content that Netflix is promoting, or both.
Netflix, free with your $11/month subscription (required)
Control Spotify from your home screen with this widget's simple play, pause, and skip buttons. They helps you instantly adjust your favorite tunes without having to open the app each time. The widget will also display the title and artist of the current track, along with a small thumbnail of the album art.
Spotify, free with your $10/month subscription (required)