Toggle party: 6 superb sets of switches to simplify your smartphone

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Fact: Android users love widgets. We adore them. We spend hours tweaking their colors, sizes, and functions. We’re…just a little bit crazy.

But no matter what we tell iOS users, not all widgets are as useful as we like to think. Some are just there to look pretty (clocks), some give us at-a-glance info (weather, stocks), and others actually do stuff. Toggle and switch widgets are in that last category. These ultra-useful widgets let us instantly access core system functions (such as screen brightness, volume, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth) by tapping a tiny icon on our home screen.

In a word, toggle widgets are amazing, and if you’re not using them, you’re definitely missing out. You don’t want to miss out, right? 

SwitchPro Widget

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Back in the day, SwitchPro Widget ($1) was the only app that let you add toggles to your home screen. Now it’s one of many, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a look (even if it does cost a buck). It’s still got some great features, such as the ability to add tons of toggles into one small space. Most other toggle apps give you one toggle per icon space, which means you four or five toggles per line. But SwitchPro lets you throw nine or ten toggles into a 4-icon space. It’s also customizable and full of different toggle actions, including task manager, storage usage, NFC, and Bluetooth tether, so that $1 is well-spent.

Toggle Widgets Pack

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Looking for just one or two toggles, rather than a whole cluster of system functions? You can always download individual widgets, or you can grab a pack like Toggle Widgets Pack (free). Toggle Widgets Pack includes several one-off switches (GPS, Airplane Mode, Bluetooth, silence, vibrate, and WiFi are all in there) that you can put anywhere on your home screen. These switches are simple and non-customizable, but they’re easy to use and the pack supports themes.

Brightness Level Disc

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There’s nothing worse than turning on your phone at night, only to discover that you last used it while you were lounging by the pool and holy crap your eyes are burning! If only there was an easy way to kick that brightness down a notch or three. Oh wait, there is: Brightness Level Disc (free), a free toggle widget that adds a minimalist circle to your home screen. Tap one of the four quadrants to adjust your brightness level immediately (starting with the upper-left quadrant and moving counter-clockwise), or tap the center to enter the widget’s settings.

Extended Controls

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Extended Controls ($1) is one of the few paid apps on this list, but it's worth it for the ridiculous amount of customization you get with these toggles. Not only can you customize everything from transparency and color to icon types, you can also add widgets to your app drawer and notification bar (a feature in stock Android 4.0). There are a lot of excellent free toggle apps out there, but if you really care about aesthetics, Extended Controls is the way to go.

Slider Widget – Volumes

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Like Brightness Level Disc, but for everything, Slider Widget – Volumes (free) adds two-step sliders to your home screen. Slider Widget toggle icons include brightness level, overall volume, phone volume, music volume, alarm volume, and silent mode. It’s not quite as simple as Brightness Level Disc, because you have to tap the icon and then adjust the volume or level on the subsequent pop-up slider. But it’s close!

HD Widgets

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I’m basically in love with HD Widgets ($2), a paid all-in-one widget pack that includes toggles, weather, and clocks. Why do I love them? Because they’re gorgeous and functional, and just customizable enough that you can change them to suit your home screen without spending hours building the widget from scratch. HD Widgets gives you toggles (and other widgets) in multiple sizes, so you can have individual 1x1 toggles or the more popular 1x5 icon string. The app offers a variety of pre-made switch strings (e.g. “Tablet Lockscreen” includes night brightness, Wi-Fi, screen timeout, and tilt lock), or you can create your own custom string.

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