You Ask, I Answer: What Are Widgets?

Recently, my mother-in-law, who’s a new Android user, asked me how I quickly turned on my phone’s flashlight. When I explained that I just used a Smart Tools ($2.50) widget, she asked, “What’s a widget?”

Widgets boost productivity

One of the greatest aspects of Android is the ability to easily and quickly access information via widgets. App widgets work to expand the usability of applications and give home screen customization. Most Android apps have widgets, which fall into a number of different categories: information, collection, control, or hybrid widgets.

“Information” widgets, as their name implies, display information obtained from the application. The information is usually limited, such as weather or sports scores. “Collection” widgets provide more in-depth elements, such as pictures or emails. “Control” widgets give the user the ability to control particular aspects of the Android operating system or app. “Hybrid” widgets are less common, but combine aspects of the other widget types into a single widget.

Where can I find widgets?

One of the easiest parts of using widgets is getting them placed on your device’s home screen. In most versions of Android — I’ll use Android 4.4 in this post — you’ll find by long-pressing on your home screen.

widget home screen

Note that in other versions of Android, you’ll find the widgets under the apps menu.

You’ll see a new menu listing all of the widgets available on your device.

widgets

It’s important to note the dimensions of each widget (e.g. 2 x 2). This represents the size of each widget. A 1 x 1 widget is the size of a normal app icon.

Once again, long-press on your desired widget to place the widget on your home screen.

widgetonhome

The widget is now available to display relevant information from the application.

widgets on home

Widgets speed up the action

If you’re looking to improve your productivity and add more capacity to your device, widgets do the trick. Personally, I prefer to use a few widgets as possible, but especially 1 x 1 widgets.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.