What distinguishes a widget from an app or a shortcut? I can understand the concept of an app, as something that runs on Android to provide a particular use or function. I can also understand the concept of a shortcut, to provide a way of accessing an app.

Is a widget a special type of app or a special type of shortcut or is it characterised in a way that is distinct from both an app and a shortcut?

1 Answer 1


There are two different kinds of Widget in Android:

  • AppWidget: a small view of an application (e.g. Weather widget) that can be embedded inside another application (e.g. Home Screen)
  • GUI Widget: buttons, textbox, etc; any visual interface element.

I believe you're talking about the former (AppWidget). An AppWidget always belongs to an App. An App that acts as a AppWidgetHost (e.g. HomeScreen apps) can lend a part of its UI to be managed by the App that provides an AppWidget.

In short, it is a way of embedding an application inside another application.

An AppWidget is usually used as a "smart shortcut"; a shortcut that provides additional logic other than just being clickable and launching an Activity. Typical examples of AppWidget is Recent Email/SMS/Facebook/Twitter/whatever-your-favorite-messaging-app Widgets, Astrid's Task List, Calendar Widget, etc.

An AppWidget is conceptually a GUI Widget, except that AppWidget is a GUI Widget that is not provided by Android's framework, instead it is provided by some other application installed in the system.

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    Yes, I’m talking about AppWidgets. That is, the type of component that ranks equally alongside apps and shortcuts, when it comes to considering components that the user can choose to add to the home screen.
    – Mike Green
    Commented Feb 15, 2011 at 7:36

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