One of Android’s most distinctive features, one that sets Google’s platform apart from the likes of iOS and Windows Phone, is its widgets. They’re unusual things that can be hard to define, little blocks of colours and graphics that sit across a smartphone’s homescreens and offer information drawn from their associated apps. They provide quick links to things, that you would otherwise have to open an app to get to, making an Android UI a lively, data-filled place.
Not everyone loves them and they have come under criticism for the way they look and the lack of consistency in their design. However, some of them are brilliant, both in their appearance and what they do. Here we take a look at the best that are available.
Shazam itself is a fantastic app which can recognise almost any track that it hears, identifying what it’s called and who it is by. The service is very useful for those moments when you hear a tune that you half remember or just something new that you like.
The Shazam widget offers a quick link to the ‘listening’ part of the app, allowing you to activate it with just one tap. The app will then open and automatically begin listening to a track before identifying what it is. The widget itself displays the last identified song in a nicely designed graphic that doesn’t take up too much space.
Many widgets offer quick links to a handset’s controls but Slider Widget groups several of them into one place, making them very easy to use. The volume settings for various aspects of a handset’s features are shown in a slim bar across the homescreen with the current level of each displayed in a circular pattern.
You can then tap each of them to bring up a horizontal slider that allows you to make adjustments. Along with volume controls for music, alarms, ringtones and so on there’s an extra control for the screen brightness that is very handy indeed.
We’re not great fans of the default Android calendar widget, it looks messy and is awkwardly-sized, meaning that fewer widgets can be grouped around it. Simple Calendar Widget is an altogether different offering that is much more attractive.
With a brilliant, minimalist design, the widget shows your calendar entries in a simple and easy-to-read format. A variety of sizes can be chosen from, with each showing various degrees of information and allowing you to decide just how much space you want to take up on the homescreen
Minimalist Text is a strangely-named but beautifully designed widget that shows the date and time in a variety of sizes on a device’s homescreen. Information can be explained in several ways, with the time being shown in a worded, two colour format that looks fantastic.
The Minimalist Text widget sits discreetly on your homescreen without drawing your attention away from anything else around it. It’s an excellent addition to any Android UI and stands as one of the best examples of widget design we have ever seen.
Lastly, Battery Widget Reborn is another great piece of design that we found to work well alongside Minimalist Text, or simply on its own if you wish. The widget offers a simple battery level indicator, with a few options to make changes to the way the information is shown.
While its function is simple, the design is outstanding and looks great on your homescreen. Battery Widget Reborn does nothing to distract your attention but has the information about your battery level there for you when you need it.