[Android] Best free custom widgets/Power Control bar replacement appJune 7, 2011 4 Email article | Print article
Despite what iPhone users may want you to think (they don’t get to use widgets, yet), widgets are a very useful feature of Android. However, sometimes the default widgets (such as the Power Control bar) that come with Android and the widgets phone manufacturers add in are not enough to satisfy our widget cravings. That is where custom widgets/Power Control bar replacement apps come in.
Custom widgets/Power Control bar replacement apps are basically apps that allow you to create custom widgets of any size and toggles. To create a custom widget, you select widget size and select what toggles you want in your widget (you are given a list of available toggles). Then you place it on your home screen and use it as you please. (You can create as many widgets as you want, you are not limited to just one.) If you decide you want to create a custom widget to replace your Power Control bar, you can do that very easily.
Now that we know a little bit about what custom widgets/Power Control bar replacement apps are, let’s take a look at the best free ones.
(Note: For widgets to work, the custom widgets apps must be installed on your phone’s internal memory; they cannot be installed on the SD card. Also, if you are using a task killer be sure to add the custom widgets/Power Control bar replacement app you use to the ignore list.)
Table of Contents
- Best Free Custom Widgets/Power Control Bar Replacement App
- Runner Up
- Honorable Mention
- Other Alternatives
App Name: Widgetsoid2.x
Download Size: 1.9 MB
Version Reviewed: v3.2.4
Requires: Android 2.1 and up
- Allows users to pick from multiple different widget sizes.
- Has more than 30 toggles that users can pick from.
- Gives users the ability to customize the look of widgets (i.e. rounded vs straight corners, widget color, separation markers, etc.).
- Allows users to customize how toggles behave (e.g. how the screen brightness toggle changes brightness settings).
- Can put widgets in the notification bar/pull down menu.
- Confusing interface.
- Widgets in notification bar/pull down menu aren’t directly toggle-able.
- GPS toggle does not directly enable satellite GPS for users with Android 2.3+.
- Once you delete a widget from the home screen, it is deleted from Widgetsoid.
Widgetsoid2.x is a powerful custom widgets app that allows users to create custom widgets of many sizes. Specifically, with Widgetsoid2.x, users can create 1×1, 1×2, 1×3, 1×4, 1×5, 2×1, 3×1, 4×1, and 5×1 widgets. Users have the ability to pick from more than 30 toggles to put in these widgets:
(Click on the image above to view list in full size.)
The best part is, you can squish multiple toggles into one icon spot. For example, in a 1×1 widget you can have up to 2 toggles; the 4×1 widget can hold up to 10 toggles. (Note I said up to – you are not required to have the maximum amount; you can have less toggles in a widget than the max, if you wish.)
Each widget you create (you can create as many widgets as you want) is customizable in looks: You can change widget color, round the corners, insert/remove separation markers between toggles, hide the icons of toggles, chose widget color (or even use an image as widget background), etc.
In addition to the above mentioned toggle-widgets, Widgetsoid2.x has the ability to create three types of “indicator” widgets: A 2×1 clock, a 1×1 network connection indicator, and a 4×1 widget that has the network connection indicator, the clock, and a battery indicator on it.
The one really interesting feature about Widgetsoid2.x is the ability to put widgets in the notification bar/drop down menu. If you have ever used a Samsung Galaxy S phone, you may have noticed how there are toggles in the notification menu. Widgetsoid2.x can do the same thing for your phone – kind of.
You see Widgetsoid2.x can put widgets in the notification pull down menu, yes, but the widgets are not directly usable there. Rather, when you click on widgets in the notification pull down menu, a window pops up from which you can toggle the widgets as you please. This is kind of annoying, but it is better than nothing.
The reason why Widgetsoid2.x cannot directly toggle widgets in the notification pull down menu is because of security restrictions by Google. Based off the research I did, it appears that Google does not allow apps to put widgets in the notification menu. As far as I can tell, the only way to put toggle-able widgets in the notification menu is to modify Android code; I know some custom ROMs (such as CyanogenMod) and some phones (like the previously mentioned Galaxy S phones) have widgets in the notification menu. I have yet to find an app that puts usable widgets in the notification menu; so don’t fault Widgetsoid for something that is out of its control.
While I am at it, I should mention another thing. Since Android 2.3, Google is no longer allowing apps to directly toggle GPS on/off (such as what you can do from the Power Control widget). Therefore, for users with Android 2.3 and higher, the GPS toggle on Widgetsoid2.x does not directly toggle GPS on/off. Rather, it takes you to the Android settings menu (“Location & security settings”) from where you can turn GPS on/off. Again, as with the previous point, it is hard to fault Widgetsoid2.x for something that is out of its control.
Lastly, there are two things I find to be annoying in Widgetsoid2.x:
- When you delete a widget from the home screen, the widget is deleted from Widgetsoid2.x. I find this to be very annoying because you may not necessarily want to delete widgets permanently when you are removing them from the home screen; you may want to use them later. However, since Widgetsoid2.x deletes widgets that are removed from the home screen, you have to go back and create the widgets again if you want to use them. Argggghhhh!
- Widgetsoid2.x has a terrible interface. It is confusing to use, and sometimes can be slow when moving from menu to menu. (The widgets are not slow or laggy – Widgetsoid2.x’s app menu where you setup widgets from is sometimes slow/laggy.) Indeed I am sure first-time users will be confused by it; I know I was. Once you learn how to use Widgetsoid2.x, however, it may still be annoying but it should no longer be confusing. For first-timers, there is a fairly extensive 20 minute demonstration video for Widgetsoid2.x that you can watch if you are confused on how to use Widgetsoid2.x:
Before I conclude, there is one thing I would like to point out. Widgetsoid2.x requests Directly Call Phone Numbers permission. This is one of the permissions you should be reluctant to give to apps because malicious apps could call “premium” numbers and drive your phone bill sky-high. According to Widgetsoid2.x’s developer, this permission is requested to call/text a contact put on a widget. To me this explanation makes sense; and Widgetsoid2.x is a very popular app, so if it was malicious we would know by now. Therefore, yes Widgetsoid2.x asks Directly Call Phone Numbers permissions, but chances are it is for legitimate purposes. If, however, you still are not satisfied, skip Widgetsoid2.x and look at Elixir.
To conclude, Widgetsoid2.x has a bad interface and has some other annoyances. However, it allows users to create many different sized widgets, offers a brilliant selection in toggles, and provides users with the ability to customize the look and feel of their widgets. Without a doubt Widgetsoid2.x is the best free custom widgets/Power Control bar replacement app.
App Name: Elixir
Note: Elixir has an add-on for users that are comfortable giving Elixir read SMS, read Gmail, read contact data, and make phone call permissions. The add-on is completely optional and need not be downloaded for users that do not want to give Elixir these permissions. However, users that don’t download the add-on will not be able to make use of some of Elixir’s features because those features require the four permissions that the add-on asks for.
Developer: Tamás Barta
Download Size: 1.3 MB
Version Reviewed: v1.12.3
Requires: Android 1.6 and higher
Widgetsoid2.x is solely a custom widgets app. Elixir, on the other hand, is actually a system information app that has extensive custom widgets support. Like Widgetsoid2.x, Elixir allows users to create many different sized widgets and allows users to select from a large number of toggles to put in these widgets. However, in addition to that, Elixir shows extensive information about your phone, such as battery level, internal/external storage space info, RAM status, what sensors you have on, etc.
In regards to Elixir’s widget features, Elixir allows users to create 1×1, 1×2, 1×3, 1×4, 1×5, 2×1, 2×2, 2×3, 2×4, 3×1, 3×2, 3×3, 3×4, 4×1, 4×2, 4×3, 4×4, 5×1, and 5×2 sized widgets. Like Widgetsoid2.x, widgets can contain more toggles than they have icon spots (e.g. the 4×1 widget can contain 7 toggles).
however, whereas Widgetsoid2.x caps users at a maximum but does not force users to use the max amount of toggles, Elixir forces uses to use the max number of toggles available. If you don’t use all toggle spots, the widget just shows empty space in the unused toggle spots, essentially just wasting valuable real estate on your home screen. Update: You can hide unused toggle spots by clicking on the toggle spots and tapping “hide”.
Elixir offers a large list of toggles which users can use; but not as many toggles as Widgetsoid2.x. The most noticeable toggle Elixir is missing is the ability to turn camera flash on/off; Elixir has all other major toggles such as GPS, WiFi, screen brightness, bluetooth, auto-rotate, etc. On the bright side, Elixir has some toggles (they are more indicators than toggles, actually) that Widgetsoid2.x does not: The ability to show number of Gmail e-mails, missed calls count, unread SMS count, running application count, CPU frequency, and a few others.
Generally speaking, I found Elixir’s interface to be more user-friendly than that of Widgetsoid2.x. It does, however, have ads whereas Widgetsoid2.x does not. Do take note, however, you won’t be seeing ads on your widgets… you will see ads on Elixir’s main app.
One thing I really like about Elixir is the main app does not request “personal information” app permissions. Remember how I mentioned Widgetsoid2.x asks for the permission to make calls? Elixir does the same thing; but with Elixir it is optional. Like Widgetsoid2.x, there are features in Elixir that require “personal information” app permissions. The developer of Elixir recognized that some people may not be comfortable with giving Elixir these permissions. So, the developer removed these permissions from Elixir (and the features that are associated with these permissions are not accessible) and created an Elixir add-on. Users that feel comfortable giving Elixir the four “personal information” permissions (read SMS, read gmail, read contact data, and make phone calls) can install the add-on. The users that don’t feel comfortable do not have to install the add-on and can just use Elixir itself. (If you don’t install the add-on, some Elixir features won’t work since they requires those permissions.) The wisdom of parting-out Elixir in two pieces is deep. In fact the sole reason I personally use Elixir over Widgetsoid2.x is because Elixir does not ask for the ability to make phone calls (I did not install the Elixir add-on) whereas Widgetsoid2.x does. If you are like me and you don’t want to give Widgetsoid2.x the ability to make phone calls, Elixir is an excellent alternative.
App Name: Status Bar Settings
Download Size: 483 KB
Version Reviewed: v1.2
Requires: Android 2.0 and up
Recall earlier how in the discussion on Widgetsoid2.x I mentioned putting widgets in the notification pull down menu? Status Bar Settings is an app that aims to do just that: It puts WiFi, bluetooth, mobile data, GPS, ringer mode, and screen brightness toggles in your phone’s notification pull down menu. The issue, however, is this doesn’t work for many, many phones (probably because of the Google security issues I mentioned earlier).
It doesn’t work on my Nexus S so I cannot confirm or deny how viable this app is; but the developer has tested it on a Motorola Droid 2, so it should work on that phone. The only reason I mention this here is some people may be able to get this working on their phones, even if I cannot; and it is worth giving a shot at. Trust me when I say that having toggles in your notification menu is very, very, very convenient.