Data Doctors: What to know about smartphone widgets

FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019 file photo, a staff member holds a Huawei “Mate20 X 5G” smartphone at the IFA 2019 tech fair in Berlin, Germany. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn, file)

Q: What exactly are smartphone “widgets,” and how do I use them?

Our smartphones have become the center of our communication universe and apps have a great deal to do with this seismic shift.

By default, apps require you to open them in order to access the information they control and can be set up to use notifications to alert you when time-sensitive information or events have occurred.

Widgets take apps to another level by creating a larger space than a typical app icon to give you quick access to information without having to open the associated app.

A common widget example would be for your calendar app that will show you a view of your upcoming events and reminders without the need to open the app itself.

Adding Android widgets

The vast majority of developers include a widget option for their apps, which can be accessed by pressing and holding on a blank portion of any home screen. The pop-up menu will bring up an option to select widgets, which will appear in alphabetical order.

If your primary home screen is full of icons, you’ll want to clear some space first as a widget can only be added to an empty space. The more space that is available, the larger the widget can be stretched.

Widgets can be added and resized on any of the available home screens, so they don’t have to be on your primary home screen, but that’s where they’re typically the most useful.

Adding iPhone widgets

With Apple’s release of iOS 14, they expanded the use of widgets beyond the “Today View,” which required you to swipe from the left edge to see them and made them available on your home screen.

If you want all of the new widget options, you’ll need to make sure you’ve upgraded to iOS 14.

If you want any of the items in the Today View to be on your Home Screen, press and hold it until it begins to jiggle, then drag it to the right to add it to one of your Home Screens.

Again, having free space first makes it much easier to get things where you want them.

Similar to the Android process, if you press and hold an empty part of the Home Screen, the apps will start to jiggle and a plus sign should appear at the top left portion of the screen.

Tapping the plus sign will give you the option to scroll or search for widgets and the various size options that are available. The larger the widget, the more information it can display.

This information is “read-only,” so if you want to interact with the displayed information, you’ll need to go into the app.

One of the more intriguing widgets for iOS is called “Smart Stack,” which will take the time of day, your location and other indicators to display what is felt to be the most relevant widgets that it contains.

Another popular widget, especially for those that are constantly struggling with battery life is the battery widget. Not only can it give you info about your iPhone battery, it can also show you battery info on Apple Bluetooth accessories such as the Airpods.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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