12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

By David Nield on at

One of the most obvious ways in which Android differs from iOS is the way you can customise your home screens with panels and widgets. We've picked out some of our favourite ones for adding features and functionality to your device—use them as quick shortcuts for key tools without having to open up the full apps themselves.

To get to your widgets, press and hold on a blank part of any home screen, then tap Widgets. All of the widgets listed below are available and have been tested on a phone running stock Android 5.0.1 Lollipop.

Numbers in brackets represent the homescreen widget sizes for each app.

1.) Power Control

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

You may well spend a lot of your day swapping Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and sync on and off (particularly if you're trying to conserve battery power), and this native widget helps you toggle these settings with a single tap. (4x1)

2.) SoundHound

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

Trying to identify a song that's playing is one of those times when speed really does matter — and SoundHound can save you the trouble of digging into your app drawer. Google Now does the same trick, if you need more help. (1x1)

3.) Slider Widget

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

It hasn't been updated for nearly two years, but it's very useful: Slider Widget lets you adjust the different volumes on your system — ringtones, notifications, media playback, and so on — without dipping into the Settings app. (4x1)

4.) Battery HD

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

Battery info is hugely important for smartphone owners, and Battery HD brings a tonne of it. The app's widgets can show battery level, time remaining, current temperatures, charging status and more besides. (2x1)

5.) Amber Weather

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

Weather apps are another type that easily lend themselves to the widget format, and Amber Weather offers a stack of free and paid-for skins to choose from—the widget shown here is the Material Design one. (4x2)

6.) Month

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

Calendar widgets keep important schedule information in view, which might be why there's so many of them (including Google's). Month focuses entirely on widgets, and there are some excellent ones to pick from. (3x3)

7.) Contacts+

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

Keep the people you need to reach quickly close at hand with Contacts+, which improves on Android's built-in contacts widget in several areas. There are a choice of themes and customisable grouping options. (3x3)

8.) Feedly

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

With time to catch up on online reading at a premium, it's a clever idea to bring the best of the web to you with the Feedly widget—you can flick through the latest headlines from your home screen before diving in. (4x2)

9.) Map Directions

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

This is another widget that comes with Android in the form of Google Maps—choose Directions from the widget list and you can set up a shortcut button to get you anywhere (e.g. home) from your current location. (1x1)

10.) Countdown Days

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

That long-awaited vacation. Your next birthday. An upcoming deadline at work. There are all kinds of reasons why you might want to have a countdown clock on your home screen, and Countdown Days does this for you, with a choice of skins. (3x1)

11.) Pure Flashlight

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

Android 5.0 Lollipop comes with an integrated torch (or flashlight, as they say in the US) feature, but Pure Flashlight – depending on how your phone's configured – gets you there in one tap rather than several. It's basic but it does the job nicely. (1x1)

12.) Google Keep

12 Essential Android Widgets for a More Functional Home Screen

There are more comprehensive note-taking apps out there, but Google Keep is simple and useful, and has both lock screen and home screen widgets. You can flick through your notes or create a new one from the home screen. (3x2)


This article originally appeared on Field Guide, Gizmodo's blog on how to get the best out of your tech