With the launch of Android 12, Google is massively improving widgets on phones after several years of many interactive homescreen objects remaining unchanged. Here are the best widgets worth trying on your new Android phone.
These new and updated widgets are primarily found on devices that run Android 12 — long-press an empty spot on your homescreen and select “Widgets.” Make sure your phone and the aforementioned apps are all up-to-date to get the best experience. That said, some are available on Android 11 (and older) and you can find a handful of our favorite widgets for all phones and tablets at the bottom of this article.
Android 12+ only
Everybody needs to take notes, and Google’s first-party app is quite great thanks to its two new widgets. For starters, there’s the flower petal/x-shaped Quick Capture. The key to Google’s updated widgets, which conform to the new Material You design language, is that they are highly resizable (long-press and drag the circular indicators on each side). You can have a simple 3×1 shortcut to start a new text note, while 4×1 gives you the ability to immediately create a list, audio memo, drawing, or photo note.
Meanwhile, there’s the Note List widget. The largest configuration shows you a feed of notes with shortcuts at the right. Making it narrower gives you just the list. This is useful for pinning any sort of list or reminder without having to jump into Keep every time. You can have “All notes” appear here, but there’s also the ability to just show “Pinned” notes, Reminders, or specific labels. (These widgets will lack the vertical row of shortcuts.)
Like with Keep, having information always staring at you on the homescreen can be very handy. The Gmail widget lets you do just that with your inbox or specific folders, with emails serving as little reminders if you don’t use a dedicated client. The new homescreen object for Google’s email app lets you quickly “Archive,” and has shortcuts to jump into the Google Chat, Spaces, and Meet tabs, as well as compose. Most people will just use the latter one to start a new email, but the three other shortcuts might be useful depending on your workplace. If you shorten the widget, the shortcuts appear on the right edge instead of the bottom. However, you’ll only see two emails in this view.
You might not use Google for streaming tunes, but YouTube Music’s trio of widgets are worth trying. As always, there’s Now Playing with play/pause, next/last, and un/like. It’s now joined by a Turntable that shows album artwork in the center and quick play/pause and thumb-up controls. Having your most recently played track makes for a nice widget.
The real star of the show is Recently Played. The top half is controls and cover art, but the bottom is up to 10 of your most recently played tracks. It’s a very nice way to quickly start an album when the mood strikes you.
These five widgets are absolutely delightful. The Analog widget is available in four styles (Scallop, Numeral, Day, and Clover), while Digital and Stacked are quite straightforward. The Stopwatch is surprisingly useful for starting a count with lap controls and the ability to reset without ever having to open the Clock app. Some will also get a lot of utility from World — again, be sure to resize.
Available from the Google app, these two weather widgets work just fine. Their saving grace is that they look quite nice with themed Dynamic Color backgrounds and are highly resizable. The slanted, pill-shaped widget just shows the temperature and condition by default, but can be expanded horizontally to get the day’s high and low.
Meanwhile, the bigger widget when fully expanded displays current temperature, condition (icon + description), high/low, four-hour forecast, and the next two days (though there’s a mislabeling here).
Android 11 and older
Again, the five apps listed above only show their new widgets on Android 12. What follows are updated Material You widgets for older phones and tablets.
Google wisely made People & Pets and Your memories available for most Android devices. The former is basically the equivalent of putting a live album on your homescreen. You choose your favorite people and animals, as well as a delightful frame style. The latter widget brings the nostalgia Memories carousel at the top of Google Photos to your homescreen.
Similar to Gmail and Keep, the Google Drive Suggested files widget lets users access key pieces of information directly from their homescreen. It’s basically the app’s Home feed with a search bar and quick upload button. There’s then Drive quick actions, like Keep’s, with shortcuts to open the app, search, upload, and create an image.
Other honorable widget mentions include:
- Google Fit: These widgets have yet to get Material You redesigns, but seeing activity goals and stats on your homescreen is a good motivator if you don’t use a fitness tracker/smartwatch.
- Todoist: If you need a dedicated, productivity-focused to-do app, use Todoist and its customizable widget. It’s also one of the few apps outside Google’s first-party ones to feature Dynamic Color theming.
- Transit: While clearly iOS-inspired, the Instant ETA is quite handy to have at a glance.
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