When you flip through the screens of your phone, you most likely 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 (the screen that appears when you 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 can go ahead and make your Apple-loving friends jealous.
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 is free with ads or $2 without ads.
Very few things on your phone are more important than its battery life. Keep a 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 is 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 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 is free with ads or $5 without ads.
If you’re the kind of person that 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 available in a variety of colors that updates itself with every passing day.
Countdown Days is free with ads or $1 without ads.
Whatever information about your device you want to see on your 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 is 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: They give you quick access to your existing digital notebooks and allow you to create new ones on the fly.
Evernote is 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, and you can choose between viewing the whole month on the screen, displaying an agenda, or both.
Google Calendar is 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’ll also get a shortcut for creating new reminders on the fly.
Google Keep is 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 is free.
Control Spotify from your home screen with this widget’s simple play, pause, and skip buttons. They help 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 is free. An ad-free version is available with a $10 monthly subscription
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 is free with your Netflix subscription.