When we Androids think of gadgets, we tend to think of our humble home screens.
Makes sense, right? This is where widgets have traditionally existed here in Android land (with one short-lived exception, though, but Google is convinced we’ve forgotten about it).
Hold the phone, though — because it turns out there’s a whole other way to interact with widgets on your favorite Google gadget. Few mortals are aware, but at some point Google quietly started offering the ability to call up Android widgets on demand when you need them with a simple voice command.
This means you can see an Android widget exactly when you want and from anywhere on your device – not just on the home screen. And you don’t have to keep it visible and taking up space all the time.
Intriguing, isn’t it? I certainly thought so. Let me explain a little more.
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Android widgets everywhere
First of all, so far I’ve only been able to get this bit of hidden magic working on a Google Pixel phone. But if you’ve got something other than a Pixel, don’t despair — because I’ve got a nifty solution that can give you a similar gadget-summoning superpower. (Keep reading.)
However, the main magic in question has to do with Google Assistant on Android. As a member of our lovely Android Intelligence Platinum Community recently discovered, you can simply invoke Assistant—using the launch phrase “Hey Google” or one of Assistant’s on-screen icons or shortcuts—and then ask Assistant to show you a specific widget.
Within a second or so, bam: Assistant will deliver, no matter where you are on your phone or what you’re doing.
Mind. Blown away.
For some context here, Google technical added in the ability for apps to integrate their widgets into Android Assistant in 2021. Any app — Google-made or otherwise — I can do it. But I’ve certainly never realized that any app has actually implemented the feature, nor have I noticed it actually working until now.
At the moment, perhaps unsurprisingly, the system seems to work mostly with widgets from Google-built Android apps – including Keep, Calendar, Chrome, Clock, Maps, Google News and YouTube Music. You can even do it with the widget from the Google app of the same name, although it’s just a search box, so it doesn’t make much sense.
Strange, but it doesn’t work with everything Google Apps for Android. If you try the trick with Drive, Gmail, or Photos, for example, you’ll get a message telling you that the Assistant can’t render those widgets, and that you’ll need to add them to your home screen if you want to use them.
But with widgets where it works, it’s a wonderful new way to interact with an app’s information and features from anywhere within Android — and without having to keep its widget front and center and in front of you 24/7.
And for the rest of your apps — or if you’re using a non-Pixel phone where the feature might not work at all — well, you’ve got another interesting option.
Android widget wonders for everyone
Okay — ready to expand your Android gadget horizons? You’ve got some useful widget calling options to chew on.
First, you can use a custom Android launcher that provides native one-touch widget access right in the middle of your home screen. Both Niagara launch rocketmy personal launcher of choice at the moment (and the one shown in the screenshot below), and Action launcher offer such an opportunity.
Then, regardless of what home screen setup you’re using, a clever little app called Popup widget will allow you to create your own custom shortcuts for calling widgets. Just drop them anywhere on your home screen and they’ll download any widget you want when you tap them.
You can even make a shortcut that opens two widgets together — like your inbox and calendar, for example — for a super convenient way to see and interact with complementary sets of information at the same time.
And last but not least, for the real twist for an Android-only power user, a great app called Gestures on the edge will allow you to use the same shortcuts for popup widgets and make them available from everywhere on your device — through any gesture you want.
So, for example, you can set it to show your Gmail widget when you swipe down from the left side of the screen, or to show your calendar agenda widget when you swipe down from the right edge.
Not bad, right?
Between these options for manually expanding Android widgets and our newfound widget-summoning wizardry for Assistant, you have a whole new world of mobile productivity and multitasking potential at your fingertips.
And you better believe you won’t be able to any kind of these things to that something else mobile platform.
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