I have always praised Android for its home screen. Despite earlier versions of the home screen being rather hideous, it has always been extremely functional.
The fact that users can rearrange the icons any way they like – whereas iOS icons are aligned left to right then top to bottom – is nice. Not to mention, users can completely change the icons and essentially every other aspect of the home screen if it's not their style. In fact, users can totally replace the home screen or lock screen with a third-party version if they like.
But there is one feature of the home screen that truly sets it apart from its counterparts: widgets.
Sometimes they simply display static information. Other widgets are interactive and periodically update, like the Gmail or Google Calendar widgets. They come in all shapes and sizes and perform various tasks. A widget may be as simple as a clock or as elaborate as an entire Twitter client.
Of late, I have noticed several developers getting very creative with widgets. With Falcon Widget, nearly every function you would want in a full Twitter client can be utilized from the home screen. There's even a widget included in the IP Cam Viewer Pro application, which lets you monitor your security cameras directly from the home screen.
And thanks to Google's efforts to make Android apps look better, several of the older widgets that were still reminiscent of older versions of Android have been updated to reflect the interface design improvements from the last three Android updates.
Point being, I love widgets and they're improving all the time. Developers are constantly finding new ways to bring more functionality to your home screen and, along with applications, widgets are looking better with each passing month and each Android update.
To be frank, I love widgets. Better yet, I love the premise of widgets. I usually fill any blank home screen space with widgets of some sort. Yet, as much as I use my devices, I rarely – if ever – use widgets.
Currently, I have four widgets on the three home screens of my Galaxy Note II: a 4x1 Beautiful Widgets clock with MattedBlues-Dark theme and Google Now weather theme, a SoundHound ∞ widget, Google Play recommendations and a Lux Auto Brightness widget.
I don't ever really use the Beautiful Widgets clock to check the time. Instead, I use either the time on the lock screen or the small clock in the status bar. And even though the current conditions are readily available directly from the home screen, I usually refer to Google Now for weather since it's almost always displayed in the notification shade. I normally access Lux through the notification shade, and I can't remember the last time I actually paid any attention to the Google Play recommendations.
The only widget that I actually ever use is SoundHound ∞. When I need to identify a song, it always happens to be in the last 30 seconds or so and I need to start "listening" as soon as possible or I might miss my window. Having to unlock the phone, open the app and then tap the big, orange button doesn't take forever. But having the orange button on my home screen saves a step and, likewise, some time.
I guess I don't use widgets because I don't spend a lot of time on the home screen. If I'm using my phone, I'm usually checking notifications or several tabs deep in a Web browser. If I think to use an application or look up some information, I generally just consult the full-fledged application.
Have you noticed the same, readers? Do you actually use widgets? Or do you load your home screens up with them to never actually pay them any attention? Or, unlike myself, do you always consult the widgets on your device's home screens?