Android 4.0 has been out for some time now yet, according to usage studies, a large number of devices still run version 2.x. Changing the install base is slow going as most users upgrade every two years at most and inexpensive smartphones linger on with older versions of the operating system.
This can make buying Android widgets frustrating. The latest and greatest may be attractive and filled with features, yet they also may not run on your phone. Let’s take a moment, then, to instead focus on the tried and true – Android widget apps that have been around for years and will work with version 2.1 or newer.
Most Android handsets will come with the default calendar and a widget, often customized by the manufacturer, but this default options often aren’t the best. Those looking for an alternative should consider aCalendar, which proudly touts itself as the highest-rated calendar app available for Android.
Besides a robust set of options and excellent layout the app also offers some very handy, function widgets that can take up an entire homescreen (if that’s what you want.) And since this app has been around for some time you can rest assured it’s stable and complete. This app is free and you’ll need Android 2.1 or newer to use it.
One of many competitors in the bustling market for Android widget apps, Android Pro Widgets is far from the most popular option. But don’t let that reflect on its quality. This app offers a robust widget selection and a simple, functional look. There’s a variety of different widgets provided and the app supports both scrollable and fullscreen widgets (where appropriate).
You can download ADW for free, but you’ll need to pay $2.50 for the premium version, which unlocks some helpful features. The app works with Android 2.1 or newer.
Animated Weather Widget [No Longer Available]
Another self-explanatory app, this weather Android widgets offers a graphical twist on the basic concept. Animations change according to what the weather is and will be, offering both predictions and some flair to help set your Android apart from the crowd.
To be honest, this isn’t the best weather widget. It does the job well enough, however, and it works with any version of Android 1.6 or newer. The app is also free.
This is my all-time favorite Android app. Most smartphones (including my old Android device) don’t ship with a way to easily manage podcasts, forcing users to sync them clumsily as audio files. BeyondPod makes the process easier by automatically detecting podcast updates and downloading them to your phone.
A widget is included in the app and provides quick access to podcast play/pause functionality. You can download the app for free, but most pay $6.99 to unlock it after the 7-day trial. The app works with Android 2.1 or newer.
Multicon [No Longer Available]
Want to fit more icons on an older device? You can, but you may need to mess with custom launchers or even root your device. Multicon uses widget to overcome this restriction. You create the widget, then add the apps you’d want to include. That’s it. Suddenly, your homescreen has twice as many icons as before.
Multicon is and always has been free. Better yet, it works on almost any device including those still stuck on version 1.6. If your phone runs Android, it can run Multicon.
There are many music players available. Most aren’t good or aren’t compatible with older versions of the operating system. PlayerPro avoid both problems. It’s the highest rated player on the Google Play store, offers an excellent interface complete with attractive widget, and works with any version of Android 2.0 or newer.
What’s the catch? Cost. Most Android players are free. This one offers a 10-day trial, but after that it’s $4.95. If you want to go free, stick with the popular (though in my opinion, inferior).
SwitchPro Widgets [No Longer Available]
Another old-guard Android widget, SwitchPro Widgets is one of the first apps I purchased when I bought a HTC Thunderbolt about two years ago. Since then the app has remained fundamentally the same. It offers quick access to numerous system features through simple, attractive toggles. This app can pack a lot of toggles into one row, so it’s a good pick for users who want maximum functionality in minimum space.
You’ll have to pay $.99 to grab this app and there is no trial. SwitchPro works on any version of Android 2.1 or newer.
WiFi Manager [Broken Link Removed]
This app has long been my go-to for managing WiFi networks on an Android smartphone. The interface isn’t the most attractive, but the app offers a lot of options including several surprisingly nice widgets (surprising, because the widgets look a lot better than the interface itself). This app can detect networks, show signal strength and network channel, connect/disconnect to networks and more.
A premium edition is offered for $1.75, but most users will be happy with the functionality of the free version. Any device using Android 1.6 or newer can run this app.
You’ve no doubt noticed several of these apps are paid. Android is known for its wide selection of free options, but when it comes to reliable apps that work with older devices, there are fewer options. The apps here are simply the best available on older devices, and I’ve used some of them for over two years.
Still, opinions may vary. What are your favorite apps for older Androids? Let us know in the comments.