One of the unquestioned advantages of Android over iOS is the constant option of widgets. Sure, jailbreakers might have one or two options, but when it comes down to who has more widgets of better quality, Android wins. There’s just no competing with the huge selection of customizable free and paid widgets available in the Market. These days, it’s considered a little weird if an app doesn’t come with its own widgets.
So once more, Beat The Stock is back with a couple of sets of nifty widgets and extras to add more flair to your launcher. Let’s be honest – stock anything is usually decent, but the third-party stuff on the Android Market is almost always better. So, no matter what part of the phone you’re looking to widget-ify, there’s a widget for that. Here are a couple of widget packs that definitely beat the stock.
This article is part of the Beat The Stock series that explores the best replacements for your stock apps. Other articles in the series include –
- Messaging (SMS) Apps
- Dialers and Contacts
- Web Browsers
- Music Players
- Video Players
- Instant Messengers
- Widgets (Currently viewing)
Unfortunately, we cannot speak with absolute certainty as to the state of your stock widgets. The stock inclusions are not universal by any stretch of the imagination. The widgets that come on a phone vary by carrier, Android firmware version, and especially ROM.
The custom ROM we use on our Evo 4G certainly could use some new widgets. Our alpha build of Ice Cream Sandwich came with a minimalist analog clock and a set of system toggles. The analog clock is actually pretty cool, but there’s not much else.
However, the widget selection is much better if you’re starting back on a stock Sense ROM. We were very impressed with the depth and breadth of widgets available back when we first got the Evo 4G. The most notable Sense triumph is the iconic digital clock widget with the date, weather, and custom icons and animations depending on the current weather.
Because Android comes in so many different flavors and forms, we can’t really speak as to the condition of your widgets. However, we recommend giving them a shot and checking for any hidden gems. You never know, one of the stock widgets might be really helpful.
Best Alternatives to Stock Widgets:
We started with the Editor’s Choice of third-party widgets. Beautiful Widgets costs a couple of dollars but offers a whole collection of decent widgets. They come with an impressive set of options for customization and personalization.
That’s the real advantage of Beautiful Widgets… for your money, you get lots and lots of widgets with lots and lots of features. Every addition comes with its own complex menu of customizable options. Beautiful Widgets supports plenty of different forms, including other languages and metric units for those of you who don’t use bizarre American measurements.
The default clock is oddly ugly, but it’s easily eclipsed by the Sense-like mega clock. Remember that nicely designed clock widget I mentioned earlier? Beautiful Widgets has its own version. It’s a monster of a clock widget that includes the date, time (duh), weather, and even temperature. It just doesn’t look much like Sense.
If gigantic clocks aren’t your thing, Beautiful Widgets also comes with rearrange-able system toggles. Stuff like 4G, rotation, brightness, wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, ringer mode, and airplane mode can all be changed right from the launcher.
All in all, Beautiful Widgets takes a lot of hints from Sense. That’s a good thing. Sense widgets are surprisingly good. So’s Beautiful Widgets.
Digital Clock Widget
This widget pack is sort of the opposite of Beautiful Widgets. Where BW specializes in providing a whole spectrum of widgets, Digital Clock Widget comes with only one thing. It’s a digital clock.
The clock comes in two different sizes, but both are appropriately appealing in a minimalist sort of way. We got a good deal of use out of these widgets, especially since our ROM only came with an analog clock.
If your ROM didn’t come with a digital clock and you want something minimalist, Digital Clock Widget will work quite well.
Fancy Widgets is kind of like Beautiful Widgets in that both owe their design to Sense. The difference is that where BW copies the features, FW is willing to copy the entire look and aesthetic of Sense. Sure enough, the best widget of Fancy Widgets is a large clock complete with weather, temperature, and the date.
What we liked about FW was that that gigantic clock came in six different flavors. They ranged from absurdly simplistic all the way up to Sense-level complexity. That’s a nice touch. Your large clock widget can have exactly the number of features you want now.
Go TaskManager Widget
We went into this app with somewhat high expectations. It’s another product from the stellar Go Dev Team, the guys who make Go everything. Their products tend to be highly polished and totally free. They’re one of TechNorms’s favorite developers.
Go Task Manager, however, doesn’t quite live up to their high standards. It’s a useful and aesthetically pleasing widget, but Go Task Manager comes with a few caveats. Most notably it only runs on Go Launcher EX, which kind of sucks for everyone who doesn’t use that particular launcher.
On the other hand, it does do some solid process-killing. Just be aware that according to some this might not be a good thing for the Android system. Try for yourself and see if killing tasks periodically helps battery.
The real goods are in the app drawer of Go Launcher EX. There’s a tab listing all the hidden processes running and a kill switch to end them all. It would have been nice to be able to shut down one process at a time, but the app killer is still good.
So, if you’re a loyal user of Go Launcher EX or don’t mind switching, Go Task Manager is one of the most aesthetically pleasing ways to kill those pesky background apps.
Gauge Battery Widget
Finally, a widget set that doesn’t tell you the time or the weather. Gauge Battery Widget displays the exact percentage of power left in your phone right there on the launcher. For non-rooted users or those who don’t have a percentage battery, this is super useful. Having some meaningless battery icon and not a percentage is annoying.
There’s also an option for a constant notification with battery voltage, temperature, and whether it is charging or discharging. We personally find permanent notifications to be irritating, but if you need to know the voltage all the time then the option’s there.
In all, GBW is a useful addition to reading your battery. The app ships with almost all its features (no ads for those who donate). It isn’t compatible with task killers or apps2SD, so don’t download this in conjunction with Go TaskManager.
We have used Multicon before and it’s an interesting idea. Multicon Widget creates boxes with four tiny app icons crammed into the space of one normal icon. Tapping the tiny app icon launches that app.
This is unquestionably not an app for users with thick fingers or hatred of cluttered images. It’s a lot harder to tap the correct icon when the image is a fraction of its former size. However, Multicon Widget is still a very cool concept and it works. If a page overflowing with app icons sounds appealing to you, MW is free.
We can’t state that the third-party widgets are better than the stock ones. For all we know, you could have really awesome stock widgets. If you don’t, these options are well worth your time. There are so many great widget apps that no Android user should be stuck widget-less. At least we think so.