The Android platform is as attractive to consumers as it is highly customizable. Using widgets and apps, the Android phone owner can tailor the interface and “look and feel” to a very personal level. I’ve been investigating available widgets for quite some time, with the goal to make my HTC EVO better fit my personal needs. I’ve settled on five widgets that turn my EVO into a smartphone that better reflects the way I work. The lock screen and home screen are pictured at right, with the widgets identified on the photos at the bottom of the post.
Widget Locker. This jewel allows full customization of the Android lock screen. Widgets can be put right on the lock screen for interaction even when the phone is locked. Several different unlock bars can be used, including the Android unlock bar and the curved HTC Sense bar. Multiple unlock bars can be used, with each configured to do different things when swiped. I use the standard Android bar, which I like better than the Sense bar on the EVO. Swiping left to right unlocks the phone, and right to left starts the EVO camera. Widget Locker allows setting any hardware button to unlock the phone, and I have the volume buttons set to do so. This saves me from having to hit the hard to reach power button when the phone is asleep. $1.99.
Agenda Widget Plus. This is a highly configurable widget that displays calendar events in a form tailored to user preferences. It works with multiple calendars from different sources, and can be any size to fit the user’s desires. I have this set on the lock screen using Widget Locker, so I can see what’s on the agenda, even when the phone is locked. Donationware.
Multicon. Even with seven home screens on the EVO, I often go to add something to one of them only to notice that it’s full. The main home screen in particular has no room at the inn given all the widgets and app shortcuts I’ve placed there. Multicon is a simple widget that is incredibly useful: It lets you place four app shortcuts in the space normally used for just one. The four icons are small, but it’s still very easy to use. Multicon allowed me to fit an extra six apps on my main home screen and still have room for quite a few more if desired. Free.
Beautiful Widgets. The EVO comes with the standard Sense home screen, and while it’s attractive, it isn’t very configurable. Beautiful Widgets provides a clock widget and a weather widget for the home screen. Both widgets are skinnable, and there’s a big selection of both clock and weather skins available for free download right within the app. They are also highly configurable, and the end result is a home screen that looks exactly like you want it to. This is my favorite widget so far. €1.49.
Beautiful Widgets Live Wallpaper. Live wallpaper is a backdrop for home screens with animated images to give some life to the screen you spend so much time looking at. I haven’t normally used them in the past, but this wallpaper from the Beautiful Widgets folks takes the concept to a whole, new, useful level. The backdrop is a simple grassy field with a blue sky, and it’s very peaceful; the long grass gently waves in the breeze. Where this wallpaper differs from most is that the sun rises and falls in the image based on the phone’s real time. The moon does the same at night, and the sky gradually darkens with nightfall. The effect is totally cool, as the background fits the time of day. It doesn’t end there, though, as the sky also accurately reflects the current weather forecast. If the forecast is cloudy, clouds pass across the sky. A rainy forecast shows that in the sky on the wallpaper. The net effect is you get the current weather with a simple glance at the home screen, and this is more useful than you might think. It also prevents the home screen from reaching the boring stage, as it’s changing all the time, but in a way that isn’t distracting. To get the animated weather effects, you must have the widget above installed. Free.
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