A great deal of the fun that comes with owning a tablet involves taking the time to make it your very own, adorning the desktop with dozens (and maybe even more) of personalized widgets that fit you like a pair of comfy slippers. If you’re looking for tools to help you achieve that lived-in, homey ambience that’s all too often missing from the infrequently used or just-unboxed tablet PC, we’ve got some suggestions. Check out our list of the 8 coolest Android widgets that no tablet owner should go without.
This is a multi-widget package with a variety of functions that starts with a simple 1×1″ widget for a quick view of the local temperature and extends up to a 4×7″ half page widget that contains a five-day weather forecast, a digital clock with alarm, and a sidebar with hotkeys that enable you to view and control your tablet’s brightness, auto sync, tilt lock, Wi-Fi, and battery life. Tapping on the current weather icon launches a snazzy looking, full screen weather report overlay powered by WeatherBug.com. You can also choose from an assortment of clock face types, and separate controls allow you to tweak the background colors to match your preference.
Battery Widget (free)
You might think that a battery widget would be a superfluous addition to your tablet screen, especially if you already have a battery life indicator staring out at you from your system tray. But the neat thing about Battery Widget is that it not only displays the exact remaining percentage of your tablet’s battery, but it also provides a brief readout on the condition of your battery — with voltage, temperature, and health status indicators. It integrates perfectly into your tablet system, launching your internal battery settings with a simple tap of the screen.
TuneIn Radio turns any Wi-Fi connected tablet into an AM/FM/shortwave device that can access thousands of radio stations from all around the world. If there’s an online feed available, you can listen to it with TuneIn Radio. Probably the best part about this particular radio widget/app is that you don’t have to know the call letters of the station you’re looking for — a built-in search engine scours the online listings by keyword, giving you the option of browsing until you find something you’re interested in hearing. Available for an additional 99 cents, TuneInRadio Pro even enables you to record what you’re listening to as long as you have the available memory. The TuneIn Radio widget automatically launches the application, where you can access favorite stations and even share what you’re listening to on Facebook, Twitter, or in e-mail.
Simply put, this is one of the best news aggregators on the app market today, with a constantly updated, fully customizable widget that draws headlines from over 20,000 sources (including Twitter) and ensures you don’t just see what a particular news organization wants you to see. Clicking on the widget’s displayed image and headline launches the News360 application and displays the full story along with any accompanying video. One of News360’s coolest features is the ability to connect your news feed to TripIt so that you can stay abreast of developing news stories in parts of the world you’re headed to. It’s also got the ability to create what’s called an “interest graph” based on activity received from your Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Google Reader accounts to create a news feed tailor-made to your interests.
Wizz Widget (free)
Another widget bundle that’s heavy on social media and productivity, Wizz Widget lets you pick and choose between a bunch of different options that keep you notified without requiring you to launch into the full applications. Widgets include Facebook status updates, Twitter postings, daily and monthly calendar agendas, and a scrollable list of contacts that you can use as a shortcut to fire off quick e-mail messages with the installed email program of your choice.
If you’re not the type of person who finds YouTube a far too distracting recreational pursuit, you may find its tablet widget of great interest. Building off your existing subscriptions and previously viewed videos, the widget has a flip-book look that updates every few seconds and presents you with recently uploaded material that you can easily launch into with a single tap. The only drawback to this widget is that it doesn’t come with a warning label reminding you that once you’ve tapped that screen, you might as well have just given away the next 30 to 45 minutes of your productivity time leapfrogging from one dumb video to the next.
The full CNBC Real Time tablet app is a stock-centric news and video resource that should be required downloading for anyone with even a passing interest in financial happenings around the globe. The application comes with a fully functional stock ticker that’s constantly on the move at the bottom of your tablet screen, but it’s the desktop widget that can really come in handy for all the serious multi-taskers out there. Occupying only a small 2×2″ space, the CNBC RT widget delivers periodic stock updates and headlines for breaking financial news stories, enabling you to keep a real-time eye on important happenings.
If you’ve ever tried to use Facebook on your tablet browser, you know that it can be a maddening experience. And if you’ve done any research into the available applications, you know that the official Facebook Android app is nothing short of a joke. Fortunately, OneLouder Apps has developed Friendcaster, which eliminates much of the frustration of trying to keep up with your friends, family, and foes — and the Friendcaster widget is more functional, delivering real time feed updates, enabling social check-ins, and even giving you the option to easily upload snapshots taken with your tablet camera.