There are so many new features of Android 1.5 that it is hard to pick a favorite. Desktop widgets have been around since the T-Mobile G1 shipped, but now developers have the new AppWidget Framework to play with. Before this recent update, developers had to target their widgets for a specific home replacement app like aHome or Open Home and there was issues with security. Now that Google has released the Widget API, we will see a flood of new widgets hit the market over the coming weeks and months.
Included in the next Android build are two new packaged widgets. Users can now add a music player and calendar widget to their desktop. The music player widget allows basic control over the Music application. You are given play, pause, and skip controls. If you tap the widget, it launches the full Music app so you can create and edit play lists.
The other new widget is a calendar window that displays your Google Calendar events. Again, tapping the widget launches the full Calendar application. I have placed this widget on my main home screen and it’s a nice reminder of my upcoming agenda. The full list of official widgets includes:
- Analog Clock
- Music Player
- Picture Frame
- and Search
A quick search of the Market will return many additional free widgets that you can use to customize your desktop. There are widgets for weather, alernate style clocks, comic strips, RSS feeds, notes, and more. Almost any application can be turned into a widget and I’m sure we will see just that happen.
The main benefit of the new widgets is easier access to information. Instead of having to launch an application and wait for it to load, you can view the information you need directly from the home screen. I particularly enjoyed the new weather widget from Jeff Sharkey. When you add the widget to your desktop you can choose from a 1×1 or 2×1 size. As you add the widget, Google services will automatically detect your location and pull up the latest weather info. Like most of the other widgets, a quick tap expands the widget area to reveal a 5-day forecast.
Users wanting to test these new widgets out, will have to wait for the Android 1.5 update. With the recent upgrade, developers now have to define the minimum SDK version that the application is compatible with. If an app or widget is designed for Android 1.5 and up, then it will not display on the Market to Android 1.1 users.
If you are interested in the upcoming widgets for Android 1.5, check out the contest Justin is running over at Android-DLs.com. He currently has 15 developers who have entered the contest and will be releasing widgets soon. If you would like to contribute, you can make a donation to the prize pool or post your idea for any widget you would like to see.