Personalizing your Android phone: Widgets
One of the most popular things to do with any phone is customization. This is usually accomplished through wallpapers and sounds on “dumb phones” and through themes, skins, widgets, and custom shell applications (home screens) on smart phones.
Widgets are relatively small applications that are designed to run all the time and present near real-time information. On Android devices, Widgets run on one of your home screens.
One of the things that sets the HTC Hero family of Android devices apart is their ample use of widgets across the UI, most noticeable of which is their flip-clock and current weather widget.
HTC built on top of the default Android home screen (or launcher) to enable some very pretty and very functional features into their proprietary widgets. This has turn out to be a double-edged sword, requiring major changes to the Hero overlay of the core operating system which explains why OS updates to Hero devices are lagging behind other devices that don’t have heavy modifications.
That having been said, there are things you can do to customize the look and feel of your Android using widgets available in the Market.
There are widgets that display the phase of the moon, widgets that display the time, and widgets that display the temperature. There are widgets that display current events, news, and RSS feeds. Some widgets connect to Twitter or Facebook. Other widgets display stock and market information.
Of particular note is Beautiful Widgets from Level Up Studio. This widget pack contains two variations of HTC Hero’s clock and weather widget. The Level Up Studio version was so similar to the HTC version that HTC sent a cease and desist notification. (Long story short: Level Up Studio did a major rework and got around having to remove their app permanently.) You can even make your own skin.
Google recently released their own “News and Weather” widget on the Nexus One, but it’s now available in the Market (search for “News and Weather” in the Market).
Additionally, you can place a framed picture, clock, Pandora, Twitter, Facebook, Moon Phase, and all sorts of other widgets to add functionality and personality to your Android.
How about you?
What widgets have earned a spot on one of your home screens? Comment below!
So far we’ve talked about basic ways of changing the look and feel of your Android without making any “warranty voiding” or “brick-potential” hacks. In my next installment we’ll get into much more hardcore changes involving themes and custom roms.