Widgets have always been an important part of the Android experience, and you can do a lot more than just see the time and weather. When you unlock your phone in the morning, you can see the time, weather forecast, news, schedule, and even what’s coming up on Netflix at a glance. Android widgets make it all possible, allowing easy access to as much information as you want without opening any apps. Here’s how to use and customize widgets on Android!
Read more: The best Android widgets for your home screen
Android widgets are mini app windows that provide vital information from an app at a glance. To add a widget to your home screen, long press a space on the screen and tap Widgets to launch the list of widgets available on your phone. Long press the widget in the menu and drag and drop it to the home screen.
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What are Android Widgets?
Ryan Haines/Android Authority
Android widgets are basically mini app windows that you can add to your home screen to see key information without opening the app. This differs from shortcuts on your home screen that launch an app. Instead, widgets provide at-a-glance access to important app information. You’ll find widgets of different shapes and sizes depending on the amount of data they provide, and some give you the option to customize the size and what you see.
Widgets have been a part of Android since the very beginning and were a big selling point when the first Android phone, the T-Mobile G1, was released. Third-party app makers were allowed to create widgets with Android 1.5 (Cupcake), and Google introduced the ability to customize widgets with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in 2011.
Everything you can do with Android widgets
Finding an Android user who doesn’t rely on widgets in one form or another will be difficult. Even a simple clock or weather forecast information are widgets, but many people use them for so much more. As long as an app comes with a supported widget, the possibilities are endless, but here’s a look at what you can do with Android widgets.
- Time and weather: Clock widgets and weather widgets are useful for getting your day on track. Knowing the weather forecast at a glance ensures you don’t get caught out in bad weather when you’re on the go.
- Social media: You can track social media updates with widgets for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other platforms.
- E-mail: Check your latest emails with widgets available for Gmail and other providers.
- Posts: You’ll find widgets for most messaging apps like WhatsApp that will display your most recent notes and conversations.
- New: Keep up to date with the news of the day with widgets available from most major news organizations and aggregators such as Google News and Flipboard.
- Calendar: Keep track of your workday with calendar widgets, reminders for upcoming meetings, and at-a-glance access to your daily and monthly schedule.
- Productivity: Note taking tools allow you to enter notes directly into the app widget. You can also view and manage to-do lists without opening an app. The apps you use for work have widgets that show your upcoming tasks.
- Music: Most Android phones come with music controls in the notification dropdown, but you can add music widgets for direct control from your home screen. You can also find the currently playing song with one-click widgets for apps like Shazam and SoundCloud.
- VPNs: Quickly enable and disable VPN services on your phone with one-click widgets.
- Diffusion: Find out what’s playing or coming up on your favorite streaming apps.
And more! You’ll find widgets for most apps on your phone, allowing quick and easy access to everything without opening an app.
How to Add and Customize Widgets in Android 12
To add a widget, long-press an empty space on your home screen to bring up phone customization options. You may need to move items around or remove some widgets or app shortcuts if you don’t have available screen space.
Press on Widgets to open the list of widgets available on your phone. Find the widget and drag and drop it to your home screen. If there is not enough space on your home screen, the phone will automatically create a second page for it. You’ll see a grid size under each widget, like 2 x 2 or 4 x 1. This tells you how much space the widget will need on your home screens. Larger widgets will contain much more information, but there are also many 1 x 1 one-click widgets.
You can also resize most widgets after adding them. Long press the widget to open the resizing tool. If you see dots to the left and right of the widget, you can only expand it horizontally. If there are dots on all four sides of the rectangle, you can resize it as you wish.
The information you get and the customization of the widget depends on the application itself. Expanding the calendar widget will increase its size and make it easier to see. But widgets like the Netflix widget add more data as you enlarge them.
Tap the refresh circle in the bottom right corner to browse your Netflix watchlist and recommendations. You will see the name of a recently released show in its smaller size. Expanding it brings up posters for TV shows and movies in your spotlight, keep watching, and popular on Netflix lists.
Ideas for creating useful widgets
There are many widgets available on Android, and the widgets you need depend on what you are looking for. But here are a few that I find useful.
Google in a nutshell
Google’s At a Glance widget is a must-have. It will show you the date and the current weather conditions and temperature. You’ll also see a reminder for an upcoming calendar event in that space. Tap the date to open your calendar app; touching the temperature will launch the weather app. You will find this widget if you have Google Search on your phone, and it will be in the Google widget menu section.
Most news apps have an Android widget with different sizes and options for what you see. I do, however, use devices for aggregators like Flipboard and Google News. Flipboard has two sizes. Both show you the same information, however. You can use the arrows to browse the news and tap an article to read it. Open the Flipboard app and navigate to Settings > Widget Settings to set the widget update frequency. Google News works the same way, but auto-scroll is on by default.
Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority
I have trouble remembering song names and use Shazam and SoundHound to identify them and discover new music. Both apps have one-click widgets that launch the app and start listening, but that’s no different than using an app shortcut. I prefer SoundHound because its larger widget lets you identify the song from the widget itself, and you can also sing or hum a song to find it.
Google Tasks and Keep Notes
I use the Task app for its simple to-do list interface and useful widget. It’s not the most sophisticated option for to-do lists, but it gets the job done. The widget is particularly useful when I’m shopping. If you want a lot more functionality from your to-do app, I recommend Todoist or TickTick. You can also use Microsoft To Do if you have a Microsoft account.
If you want a note-taking widget, Keep Notes is a great option. Keep Notes has two widgets. One shows you your saved notes, while the other has a bar for quick note taking. You can use the bar to create regular notes, lists, voice notes, handwritten notes, or take a photo.
Ankit Banerjee / Android Authority
ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and other services offer Android widgets. If you are using a VPN service, the widget is useful for quickly connecting to a server without launching the app. Press the Quick Connect button or the power button icon to connect to the nearest server.
Long press on the widget and tap Remove or the trash can icon to remove a widget from the home screen. You cannot completely remove a widget from the list unless you uninstall the app.
Yes, Android widgets cause battery drain, but that shouldn’t be significant. Widgets such as weather widgets and news widgets that refresh often can cause your battery to drain more, but this should be negligible. If you find a widget that’s draining your battery faster than expected, your only option is to delete it.
You can add as many widgets as you want to your home screens, as long as you don’t run out of space. Remember that having a lot of widgets can also lead to battery drain and performance issues.