Android widgets are dying, and Google is their Grim Reaper

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
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Google's Slices are a promising substitute for widgets but still very much a rarity

Android aficionados used to have home pages upon pages of functional widgets for just about everything. Scrollable full-screen one for Google News of yesteryear, another for tasks and to-do check-marking, a full weather list for the next week, you name it - everything within a simple glance without having to open the app at all. Or, so was the promise of widgets - to make you taller, richer and smarter, as P.J. O'Rourke once said. 

Now, however, the options seem to be deteriorating with each subsequent update to the master app, replaced by long-press app shortcuts or simply abandoned in development. I've got 181 apps installed, and just a third of them have accompanying widgets, and that includes the different widget size options of the same app. Some of those are functional and still used daily but haven't been updated for a while, while some others simply fell off the tracks.

Where did all the widgets go?

Google News (formerly the News&Weather widget) used to have a pretty functional one that could be resized to fit the whole screen and required you to only scroll through upon waking up to get caught up on what's happening in the world. 

With the app update and merger with Newsstand, however, it is now just a card that displays temperature and a short headline briefing, so you have to go to the app for the full list, or tap to change title slides manually within the widget. 

Keep Notes, a widget of Google's Keep notes and to-do list app scrolls your tasks but doesn't let you dismiss them from within the widget, so, again, you'd have to go to the app, and so on.

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That's just Google, though, whose stock app widgets look fairly modern and consistent. 

In plenty of third-party apps, the once pride-and-glory Android widgets feel like an afterthought, as they haven't been updated together with their respective applications for a good while now and sport outdated or dysfunctional visuals that seem frozen in time. What happened?

Google strangles its own widget brainchild

Prior to Android 9 Pie, Google introduced the battery-saving features of Oreo and made developing widgets that need to be refreshed on a regular basis a nightmare. The background-killing processes were so overzealous that devs had to resort to taking them to the foreground, hence forcing a notification each time the widget updates its content.

Needless to say, this is not an ideal situation for app developers and users alike, and that is one of the reasons for the slow demise of the Android widget concept. That, and user fatigue, it seems, as many are just content with the clock/weather one that came on their phones' home screen, while a lot don't even know what is called a widget.

The concept may be replaced by Google's Slices, or by status bar widgets like Spotify's player controls, yet a few old-timers may always be there for Android users. The clock/weather widget has been an Android home screen staple for a while now and continues to be so. Ditto for tasks, calendars and to-do lists. Still, even after Google's recent Calendar app update, the widget remained untouched, with the same old interface and functionality as before.

Android's Slices are still a developing story, though, and while they were touted as Widgets 2.0 of sorts, the original 1.0 concept feels like it is slowly receding. Remember lock screen customization? Yeah, Android's home screen widgets might be going down that path, too. What do you think, is your widget stable updating on the regular, or have you given up on using them altogether?

Are you using Android widgets?

Just whatever clock/weather widget my phone came with

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