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Android 4.2 lets you put widgets on your lock screen -- so which apps make the most of the feature?
The wonderful world of Android widgets
Widgets have long been a powerful part of Google's Android mobile platform -- and with the recent Android 4.2 Jelly Bean release, they gain even more oomph.
Android 4.2 introduces the ability to put widgets right on your lock screen. That means you can do things like see the weather, scroll through news headlines or check your battery level without having to unlock your device.
So which lock screen widgets are worth grabbing? Here are 20 excellent options to consider.
You don't have to pick just one, either: Android 4.2 lets you have up to five lock screen panels, each with its own widget.
HD Widgets is one of the most polished and impressive widget utilities on Android, so it's no surprise the program's lock screen offerings are among the finest you'll find.
HD Widgets provides a range of attractive lock screen widget options, including a variety of full- and partial-screen weather displays, clocks and power switches. They're all completely customizable, too, so there's practically no limit to the visual styles you can create.
(On this and all subsequent slides, click "See larger image" below the image for a close-up view.)
HD Widgets is available for $1.99 in the Google Play Store.
Simple Calendar Widget
Android may have its own native calendar widget, but that doesn't mean you have to use it. Simple Calendar Widget provides a serious upgrade from the stock setup, with an info-packed display that can be customized to your heart's content. You control everything from the layout to the color scheme, font color and manner in which events are displayed.
However you configure it, Simple Calendar Widget looks great on a lock screen -- and it's fully scrollable and expandable, too.
The best part? It's a free download in the Google Play Store -- no strings (or ads) attached.
Simple RSS Widget
Want a simple way to scan through your favorite news feeds at a glance? Look no further than Simple RSS Widget. The app lets you create a custom widget with the latest info from any number of RSS sources. You can add sources directly from your Google Reader account or by manually typing in URLs.
Simple RSS Widget has numerous options for customization: You can set the color, size and style of text; opt to hide certain feed elements from the widgets; and adjust how frequently the widget updates.
Simple RSS Widget is a free download.
Big News Pro
For a less minimalist approach to news browsing, grab Big News Pro. The app connects to your Google Reader account and gives you a large scrolling look at the latest headlines from your feeds. Expanding the widget lets you see story synopses and images, too -- a nice touch that really pops on the lock screen.
Big News Pro has several customization options, including a choice of a light or dark color scheme or a completely transparent background.
The app costs $1.29. There's also a free version available, but its widget is more limited and doesn't include image support.
When it comes to straightforward weather apps, 1Weather is a class act. It provides two simple and interesting lock screen widget options: The "classic" weather widget shows current weather conditions for your area in an eye-catching circular design, while the curiously named "compact" weather widget displays detailed weather info in a rectangle -- and to our eyes looks more traditional and less compact than the "classic" design.
Both widgets are customizable, with settings to configure things like the accent color, background color and what city is used for the data.
1Weather is available for free in the Google Play Store.
If sports are your thing, CBS SportCaster is just the widget for you. SportCaster streams up-to-the-minute scores for a wide range of events, including football, baseball, basketball, golf, hockey, soccer and auto racing.
SportCaster lets you pick and choose specific sports or leagues for your widget; you can also opt to show scores only from particular teams or from live ongoing games. The app gives you a choice of a light or dark theme.
CBS SportCaster is available for free.
TV Show Favs
Juggling too many TV shows? An app called TV Show Favs can track your favorite shows and maintain a dynamic schedule for your perusing pleasure. It provides you with detailed info about each upcoming show, including the original air date so you can spot any unannounced reruns.
TV Show Favs offers three well-designed widgets for the lock screen that let you scroll or flip through graphical displays of your scheduled programs. Being lazy has never been so easy.
TV Show Favs is a free download; several optional premium features are available for purchase once the app is installed.
Echofon for Twitter
The popular Echofon for Twitter app has an excellent lock screen widget that fits right in with the Android 4.x design aesthetic. The Echofon widget features tabs for your timeline, @-messages and direct messages.
Unlike Falcon, Echofon does display direct messages right on the lock screen -- which could be a plus or a minus, depending on your perspective. The app requires you to unlock the device before composing a new tweet.
Echofon for Twitter is available for free; an ad-free "pro" version is available for $4.99 (though even in the free version, ads don't actually appear in the widget).
Google's social network has become a bit of a hotspot for Android-related discussions, and the G+ lock screen widget is a great way to keep up with the activity.
The Google+ widget shows a single-panel, image-centric display of the latest posts in your G+ stream. You can configure it to show all of your incoming posts, posts from the Google+ "What's Hot" stream, or posts from any individual circle you've created on your account. Moving through items is as simple as tapping an arrow on the widget.
The Google+ app is available for free in the Google Play Store.
Battery Widget Reborn Pro
If there's one common thread among smartphone users, it's the need to occasionally check up on a device's battery level. Battery Widget Reborn Pro makes it easy: The widget shows a large circle with your current battery status, complete with a colored outer ring to serve as a visual gauge.
Battery Widget Reborn Pro has tons of options for customization. With a single tap, it'll even pull up detailed stats about your daily usage.
The app is available for $1.99; a free time-limited beta is also available if you'd like to try before you buy.
Like the default Android system clock but wish it could do a little more? Snag an app called DashClock Widget.
Created as a side project by an actual member of Google's Android team, DashClock Widget maintains the basic look of the stock clock but adds in a lot of extra punch. The app utilizes "extensions" to enable functionality like a clock-side display of the current weather, your missed calls, and the number of unread messages in your Gmail inbox. An easy-to-use control panel lets you to activate or remove elements as well as configure a variety of different options.
DashClock Widget is a free download.
Simple Dialer Widget
Get fast access to your device's phone functionality with Simple Dialer Widget, an app that literally puts your dialer on your lock screen. The widget lets you dial numbers, browse through missed calls and scroll through contacts without having to take any extra steps.
There are some important security considerations to think through, of course -- if you use a PIN or pattern to protect your device, having a dialer on the lock screen may be counterintuitive -- but it's an interesting option for anyone who uses a plain slide lock.
Simple Dialer Widget is a free download.
Sometimes you need to change your phone's settings in a hurry. Enter Extended Controls. The app gives you a lock-screen-friendly widget that can hold whatever one-touch toggles you want. You could set it to have a whole lineup of toggles for things like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, airplane mode and volume -- or just create a single-function button for one frequently used command.
Extended Controls even has the ability to turn your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot -- with or without an official carrier-authorized plan, in some cases -- which can prove to be quite convenient as a lock screen option.
Extended Controls costs 99 cents.
If getting a good to-do list is on your personal to-do list, give the aptly named Tasks a try. Tasks syncs with your Google Tasks account (a little-known service that's integrated into Gmail) and gives you an intuitive interface for managing multiple lists with multiple layers.
The Tasks lock screen widget is clean, simple and easy to use -- and if you have more than one list configured, it can display whichever list you'd like. You can also control how it sorts items and what color scheme it uses.
Tasks is available in both a free ad-supported version and a 99-cent "pro" version.
Any.do is another excellent list-making option. The app features a gesture-centric interface that organizes your to-do tasks by day.
Any.do's lock screen widget follows that same day-by-day approach. It lets you scroll through your list and mark any item as complete by tapping it. It also has commands for adding new to-do items by either typing or speaking; when you tap either of those commands, the system will prompt you to enter your PIN/password/pattern code before you can add a new item.
Any.do is available as a free download in the Google Play Store.
For a more robust note-taking experience, check out NoNonsense Notes. The app serves as a full virtual notepad -- and unlike most mobile note-taking tools, it lets you browse through your notes right from your lock screen.
NoNonsense Notes' lock screen widget shows scrollable snippets from all of your saved notes. You can customize it to control its look and feel as well as the types of information it displays.
NoNonsense Notes syncs with your Google account (it actually uses the Google Tasks framework even though it organizes the information into more of a notebook style).
NoNonsense Notes is a free download.
Tiny Flashlight + LED
A smartphone can save the day when you suddenly find yourself in the dark. The Tiny Flashlight + LED app is perfect for such occasions: It provides a variety of lock screen widgets to turn your phone's flash onto its brightest setting with a single tap.
Once you're past the lock screen, the Tiny Flashlight app supports a variety of different light patterns and styles. In my tests, however, its lock screen widgets all performed just the same basic on-and-off function; the only noticeable difference was in the style of the on-screen buttons.
Tiny Flashlight + LED is available for free in the Google Play Store.
We've all been there: A song starts playing in your car, and you can't for the life of you figure out who sings it. SoundHound makes that problem a thing of the past: Just tap the app's lock screen widget and -- within seconds -- it'll identify the tune and tell you the details.
While Google has its own basic Sound Search widget built into Android 4.2, SoundHound packs some additional features. The program can recognize your own singing or humming as well as actual recorded music, for example; it also offers a live streaming lyric display to go along with any playing song.
SoundHound costs $5.99.
Ultimate Custom Widget (UCCW)
Ultimate Custom Widget (UCCW) is an Android power user favorite -- in fact, it's a common thread in many of the most impressive Android home screen setups.
UCCW allows you to create practically any widget imaginable by using its WYSIWYG editor. Widgets can include elements like clocks and weather panels as well as dynamic info about missed calls, unread emails and new text messages.
You can also download ready-to-use UCCW widgets that other people have created; just search the Play Store for "UCCW skin" to find plenty of interesting possibilities.
UCCW is a free download.