Android Tablet Widgets: The Best of the Best
Widgets are among Android's most powerful features, and with the large screen space of a tablet, they shine more brightly than ever. Widgets are live, functioning programs that run on your home screen--letting you scroll through the latest news and weather, for example, or thumb through your inbox--without your having to open the full-blown app. By default, Google includes a handful of useful widgets with Android (and some manufacturers tack on additional preloaded widgets of their own), but plenty of other treasures are available. Here are 11 exceptional Android widgets worth snagging for your tablet.
Available for $2, HD Widgets provides a huge set of classy and elegant widget options for your Android tablet's home screen. You can choose anything from a full-screen five-day forecast tracker to a header-like time and temperature banner. Each widget is highly customizable, too. You can change the layout, clock style, and background--and even include an interactive power control panel on the widget if you want to. Tapping the weather section of any widget brings up an attractive overlay with detailed forecast information for your area.
AccuWeather for Honeycomb
Though far less robust than HD Widgets, AccuWeather's AccuWeather for Honeycomb app has some admirable weather widget features of its own. AccuWeather supplies a single widget for your tablet's home screen--a 4-by-1-inch box that shows the temperature along with an icon depicting the conditions for any area you choose. The nicest touch is the widget's ability to report on conditions in multiple cities: You can specify any number of locations for the widget to include, and then flip through to see the forecast for each one, right from your home screen. AccuWeather for Honeycomb is free.
Want to keep up with tweets without leaving your tablet's home screen? Grab Plume for Twitter. Plume offers four different home-screen widgets, ranging from 4 by 1 inches to 4 by 4 inches. But initial size isn't a major issue here, since Plume supports Android's widget-resizing feature: With a couple of quick taps you can expand or shrink any Plume widget to whatever size you like. The Plume widgets provide a scrollable view of your Twitter timeline, along with options to view your @-mentions or direct messages. You can compose new tweets from the widget, too. Plume is available in a free but ad-supported version, and in an ad-free premium version for $3.
FriendCaster Tab for Facebook
Facebook's official Android app isn't designed with tablets in mind, and neither is its widget. Not to worry, though: FriendCaster Tab for Facebook offers a fully tablet-optimized Facebook interface and a tablet-ready widget, too. The FriendCaster widget is simple, clean, and resizable--and it lets you scroll through your Facebook News feed directly from your home screen. FriendCaster Tab is a free download.
Rounding out our social network widget collection is Google's free Google+ app. It comes with two different tablet-friendly widgets for your home screen. The first, Google+ photos, provides an interactive, flipbook-style view of the latest photos posted by your G+ friends; you flick your finger up or down to move through the photos, and you tap an image to view it at full-screen size. The second widget shows you the latest posts from people in your Google+ circles; you can set it to show updates from all of your circles together, or you can have it focus on a single circle of your choice. The Google+ circles widget is both scrollable and resizable.
If you use Google's free Google Voice service, you'll want the widget from the official Google Voice app. This widget works great on Android tablets: It provides a scrollable view of your Google Voice inbox, so you can browse and read all of the latest text messages and voicemails from your Voice account. The widget has one-touch commands for composing new text messages and for opening the full Voice interface as well. Like most Google apps, it's resizable--an advantage for people who have too many messages to fit them all into a tiny space.
The G-team scores another win with its widget for Google Reader, the popular RSS-reading service. Google's Google Reader app provides a scrollable view of your Google Reader feeds; you can configure the widget to show all items, to focus on a specific feed, or to track a group of feeds. You can even set up multiple Reader widgets--one that displays your tech-related feeds, for instance, and another that shows feeds from a different category. The Google Reader widget is resizable, and it has a refresh button in case you want to update the list manually. Like all Google Android apps, Google Reader is free to download and use.
CNN App for Android Tablet
One of the first tablet-optimized apps for Android, CNN's CNN App for Android Tablet continues to set the standard for what a tablet widget should be. CNN's home-screen widget shows you a flipbook-style view of the latest news stories from any category you specify. Each of the widget's tiles includes a large image related to the story, along with a headline and a category designation (in case you want the widget to offer stories from multiple categories). The tiles automatically rotate over time, but you can also flick your finger up or down to flip through them manually. Tapping any tile causes the full story associated with it to open in the main CNN app.
News360 for Tablets
Want to keep up with the news without limiting yourself to a particular set of sources? Check out the awesome widget in News360, a free app that focuses on Google News-like story aggregation. News360's widget follows CNN's lead, showing you flipbook-like tiles of the latest news stories on any topic or topics you choose. In addition to News360's default categories, you can create your own categories to get news in specific areas of interest to you--say, news related to Google, to Android, or to both.
If I could have only one widget app for my tablet, Wizz Widget would be my choice. Wizz Widget offers a gigantic set of cool and customizable home-screen widgets for all sorts of functions. My favorite is Wizz Widget's Agenda widget, which puts a scrollable view of upcoming calendar events on your home screen (Google has a calendar widget of its own, but it pales in comparison to this one). Wizz includes a few other calendar widget options, along with list- and tile-style widgets for Facebook, Twitter, and Google Reader. The app is free, but certain types of widget customization require a $4.59 "pro" upgrade, which you can purchase via PayPal by following a link within the app.
Frequent fliers will love the flight-monitoring prowess of FlightTrack and its excellent Android home screen widget. FlightTrack keeps tabs on all of your upcoming flights and makes it easy for you to see current departure, arrival, and status information for any upcoming trip. FlightTrack's resizable widget puts the latest available data on your home screen in a scrollable window. The main FlightTrack app costs $5; an additional $5 "pro" upgrade gives you access to data automatically pulled from TripIt into the service.
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