Whenever someone asks me what the differences between are between Android, iOS, and Windows Phone, something that I usually tell them (amongst others) is that Android has widgets while the other two do not. Most of the time, right after I say that, the next question I get is: What the heck is a widget? Well, let me tell you:
A widget is like any other Android application, except for the fact that it runs on the home screen itself. To put it another way, a widget is an app that remains open on your home screen. Usually, this explanation doesn’t do it for most people. So, what I’ve found over time is the best way to explain a widget is to give people a few examples:
In the picture above, there are actually four different widgets on the home screen. The top one is the power control widget that comes with all android phones. This widget allows you to toggle your Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, sync, and screen brightness with just a single tap. Being able to turn all these controls on and off right there on the home screen is great, especially considering the fact that toggling them individually through the settings would take a lot longer.
The second widget is the ESPN ScoreCenter widget. I use this one to keep track of NBA and NFL scores. I love this widget because it lets me see the score just by looking at the home screen. No need to actually open up the app, which again takes much longer. The third and fourth widgets are for CNN and Engadget. These two help me keep up with whats going on in the real world (CNN) and the world of technology (Engadget).
In the screen shot above, there are two widgets. The top one is from an app called ColorNote, which allows you to put a Post-It style note right on your home screen which I use for my to-do lists. The best part of having the widget right there on my home screen constantly reminding me of what I need to do is that I actually end up doing it (well, most of it anyways).
The second widget is for YouTube, which shows me thumbnails of YouTube channels that I’ve subscribed to. I can actually interact with the widget, scrolling up and down to look through the videos from my feeds. When I see one that interests me, I can just tap on it and the YouTube app will open up.
Hopefully the examples above give you a better idea as to what a widget on Android is. Remember that a widget can be a standalone app (like the power controls) and be interactive (like the YouTube widget), as well as being attached to an app (like the ColorNote widget) and doesn’t always have to be interactive (like the CNN widget).