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How to customize and use widgets in Android 12
Widgets have always been an important part of the Android experience, and there’s plenty you can do beyond just seeing the time and weather. When you unlock your phone in the morning, you can see the time, the weather forecast, the news, the schedule, and even what’s coming up next on Netflix with a glance. Android widgets make all of this 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!
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 on a space on the screen and tap Widgets to launch the list of widgets available on your phone. Long-press the widget on the menu and drag and drop it onto the home screen.
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What are Android widgets?
Android widgets are essentially mini app windows you can add to your home screen to see key information without opening the app. This differs from the shortcuts on your home screen that launch an app. Instead, widgets provide access to important info from the app at a glance. You’ll find widgets of different shapes and sizes depending on how much data it provides, 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 make widgets with Android 1.5 (Cupcake), and Google introduced the ability to customize widgets with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in 2011.
All the things you can do with Android widgets
Finding an Android user who doesn’t rely on widgets in some shape or form will be challenging. Even a simple clock or weather forecast information are widgets, but plenty of people use them for much more. As long as an app comes with a supported widget, the possibilities are endless, but here’s a roundup of some of what you can do with Android widgets.
- Time and weather: Clock widgets and weather widgets are useful to get your day on the right track. Knowing the weather forecast at a glance ensures that you aren’t caught in inclement weather when out and about.
- Social media: You can keep track of social media updates with widgets for Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms.
- Email: See your latest emails with widgets available for Gmail and other providers.
- Messages: You’ll find widgets for most messaging apps like WhatsApp that will show your most recent notes and conversations.
- News: Catch up on the day’s news with widgets available from most major news organizations and aggregators like Google News and Flipboard.
- Calendar: Keep track of your work day with calendar widgets, reminders for upcoming meetings, and at-a-glance access to your daily and monthly schedule.
- Productivity: Note-taking tools let you type notes right into the app widget. You can also see and maintain 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 song playing with one-tap widgets for apps like Shazam and SoundCloud.
- VPN: Quickly enable and disable VPN services on your phone with one-tap widgets.
- Streaming: See what’s playing or coming up on your favorite streaming apps.
And so much 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 on an empty space on your home screen for the phone’s customization options to pop up. You might have to move things around or delete some widgets or app shortcuts if you don’t have any available space on the screen.
Tap on Widgets to open the list of available widgets on your phone. Find the widget and drag and drop it onto your home screen. If there isn’t enough room on your home screen, the phone will automatically create a second page for it. You will see a grid size below every widget, like 2 x 2 or 4 x 1. This tells you how much room the widget will require on your home screens. Bigger widgets will have a lot more information, but there are plenty of one-tap 1 x 1 widgets as well.
You can also resize most widgets after you add them. Long-press on the widget to open the resizing tool. If you see dots on 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 the way you want.
The information you get and customizing the widget depends on the app itself. Expanding the calendar widget will increase its size and make it easier to see. But widgets like the Netflix widget add more data the bigger you make it.
Tap the refresh circle at the bottom right corner to cycle through your watch list and Netflix recommendations. You will see the name of a recently released show at its smallest size. Expanding it brings up the posters of the TV shows and movies in your spotlight, continue watching, and popular on Netflix lists.
Ideas for creating useful widgets
There are a lot of widgets available on Android, and the widgets you need depend on what you’re looking for. But here are some that I find helpful.
Google At a Glance
Google’s At a Glance widget is a must-have. It’ll show you the date and the current weather conditions and temperature. You will also see a reminder for an upcoming calendar event in this space. Tap on the date to open your calendar app; tapping the temperature will launch the weather app. You will find this widget if you have Google Search on your phone, and it’ll be in the Google section of the widget menu.
Most news apps have an Android widget with different sizes and options for what you see. I use devices for aggregators like Flipboard and Google News, though. Flipboard has two sizes. Both show you the same information, though. You can use the arrows to flip through the news and tap on an article to read it. Open the Flipboard app and go to Settings > Widget settings to set the update frequency for the widget. Google News works the same way but has auto-scroll enabled by default.
I’m bad at remembering song names, and I use Shazam and SoundHound to identify them and discover new music. Both apps have one-tap widgets that launch the app and start listening, but that’s no different from 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 helpful when I’m out grocery shopping. If you want many more features 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 an excellent option. Keep Notes has two widgets. One shows you your saved notes, while the other has a bar to make a note quickly. You can use the bar to create regular notes, lists, voice notes, handwritten notes, or take a picture.
ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and other services have Android widgets available. If you use a VPN service, the widget is useful to quickly connect to a server without launching the app. Tap the Quick Connect button or power button icon to connect to the closest server.
This is just a short list of the Android widgets that I find most useful. Hundreds of widgets are available, so you can make the experience your own. Don’t forget to check out our roundups of the best Android widgets and the best clock and weather widgets to find out more.
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Long-press the widget and tap on Remove or the bin icon to remove a widget from the home screen. You cannot delete a widget from the list entirely unless you uninstall the app.
Yes, Android widgets cause battery drain, but it shouldn’t be significant. Widgets like weather widgets and news widgets that refresh often might cause a more considerable drain on your battery, but it should be negligible. If you find a widget draining your battery faster than expected, your only option is to remove it.
You can add as many widgets to your home screens as you like, as long as you don’t run out of space. Remember that having a lot of widgets might also cause battery drain and performance issues.