How is Android Wear doing?
If I had to choose the most talked-about tech of 2017, I would probably be tied between virtual reality and wearables. Both have been hot topics of discussion, and both have seen varying degrees of success. Android Wear is a version of Android’s operating system that is meant to be used with wearable devices. It is compatible with devices such as the Motorola Moto 360, the Samsung Gear Live, and the LG G Watch. Basically, it takes the standard Android interface, and it shrinks it down to fit the smartwatch form factor.
As far as success goes, I think that Android smartwatches have seen a decent amount of it. They seem to be more popular than Apple’s smartwatch, and reception seems to be generally positive. If you happen to find yourself in the possession of an Android smartwatch, you may be a little overwhelmed by the amount of choices that you have in terms of apps. In this article, I’ll be talking about some of the best and most essential Android Wear apps. Without further ado, let’s get right into it!
1. Find My Phone
One of the biggest perks of owning an Android device and a smartwatch at the same time is that you’re able to interface with either device in a way that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. This dual-screen experience could be cumbersome, but most applications actually makes it incredibly inconvenient. Find My Phone is one such app. With this app, users are able to, with the tap of a button, set some kind of alarm off on their Android device. This makes it to where, if your phone is lost in your house somewhere, you can activate it, making it easier to find again.
Users are also able to configure the alarm itself. Do you want it to play sound? Do you want it to vibrate? Do you just want the screen to turn on? The choice is yours. There are quite a few apps out there that do this, but they typically involve connecting multiple devices to one account. So, if you lose your tablet, you use your phone to find it. If you lose your phone, you use your tablet to find it. In my opinion, having a watch as the “master account” is much more convenient. You’re probably going to be wearing your smartwatch all the time, which means that you can use feature pretty much whenever you need it. It’s not the most flashy app out there, but I think it’s a great utility for any smartwatch owner to have.
One of my favorite things about the smartwatch form factor is that it is able to make important applications even more accessible than they were before. Take an app like Citymapper, for instance. This app is essential for anyone living in the city, plotting out on-the-fly directions for walking and taking public transportation. If you live in a busy city, getting from point A to point B can be kind of stressful, especially when you’re having to pull our your phone every thirty seconds to make sure you’re going the right way. Citymapper erases that problem, as an app that ports flawlessly on the Android Wear platform.
This app makes it difficult to get lost, providing users with constant direction and instruction. If you’re on a subway or something, the app will notify you when it’s time to get off. The app also has live disruption notifications, and tweaks its directions as those disruptions may come up. In my opinion, it’s the premier GPS app for Android Wear. Citymapper fully takes advantage of the convenience of the smartwatch form factor, taking an experience that’s usually stressful, and making it feel a million times for effortless. As I said before, this app is absolutely a must-have if you live in the city. If you live in a more rural area, however, you can probably hold off.
3. 2048 for Android Wear
With such a small screen, it’s kind of difficult to play games on a smartwatch. The form factor isn’t really all that suited for it, so it’s no surprise that it’s hard to find games that are compatible with Android Wear. They’re pretty few and far between. So, 2048 doesn’t have much competition in being the most popular game for the platform. 2048 took the world by storm when it released a couple of years ago, as a puzzle game that was easy to get a hang of, but difficult to get master. It’s a super accessible game, with a premise that can be universally understood and with a very bare-bones interface. Honestly, it’s pretty much the perfect game for smartwatches.
The app translates well to the Android Wear operating system, but I think that it definitely feels more natural on a smartwatch with a square face. (The game itself takes place on a grid, and it feels weird to interact with a grid on a circular screen.) If you’re looking for a simple little game to help you pass the time, 2048 is pretty much the best that you’re going to get on a smartwatch. Although there are other games, it’s just really difficult for developers to create an app that is comprehensive enough to feel like an actual game, while still being simple enough that it can be used on such a small screen. 2048 is executed really well in Android Wear, which sets it apart from its other, slightly more ambitious competitors.
4. Google Keep
Google Keep is by far one of the most popular Android Wear applications, and with good reason. With this app, users are able to create and read notes, shopping lists, and other reminders. This app enables you to “keep” tabs on a variety of different things, and helps make your hectic life a little easier to manage. Google Keep is really well suited for smartwatches, making it even easier to access and read different notes and reminders that you’ve written ahead of time.
Like the majority of Google’s services, Google Keep is entirely cloud-based. This means that, from your Android Wear device, you’re able to read a shopping list that you wrote from your desktop computer at work. This app is simple to use, it’s incredibly functional, and it’s executed very well in Android Wear. If I had to choose a single app to recommend above all else on this list, then Google Keep would be a big contender. Everyone could use a little bit more organization in their lives, and this app helps you get there.
5. Slumber for Android Wear
As an Android smartwatch owner, you may have noticed how annoying it is to have to activate your watch whenever you want to check the time. Isn’t the whole point of this thing supposed to be that it’s just as easy to use as a regular watch? So, like most Android smartwatches, you’re probably going to go into your settings and set it to where your watch face is on all of the time. This is a nifty setting, but it has some drawbacks. The watch is literally on all of the time, which means that it’s on when it’s charging, too. This is a major waste of energy, and it could shorten the life of your smartwatch.
Slumber completely fixes this problem, in a way that is as simple as the actual problem is. You just install the app, open it, and your problem is solved. Your watch face will go black while the device is charging, and it will turn back on when it’s done charging. This allows you to use your device freely, without having its light keep you up at night. It’s honestly one of the first things that a lot of people install on their smartwatches, and it’s kind of ridiculous that this feature wasn’t actually integrated into the operating system. If you plan on having your smart watch always on, this is a must-have.
Another big advantage of smartwatches over regular watches? You can customize the watch face however you would like. Obviously, you’re restricted by the shape of your smartwatch’s screen. Aside from that, though, you’re pretty much only limited by your imagination. Facer is an app that makes it easy to switch out and customize the look of your smartwatch. If you’re anything like me, one or two faces aren’t enough. Facer makes it easy to switch things up whenever you’re inclined to do so.
There are plenty of faces available, too. Facer has a host of professional artists who regularly pump out new designs. They’re also affiliated with some major brands, which means that you can use officially-licensed Star Trek watch faces, among other brands. Whether you want your watch face to pay homage to your favorite 90s cartoon, or you want to emulate some luxury watch brand, this app will make it possible for you. Again, this is one of those apps that people download very shortly after purchasing their smartwatch. It’s one of those essential downloads, and I think most everyone could benefit from having it installed.
7. Wear Mini Launcher
Smartwatches have really small screens. That’s an empirical fact that you’re going to have to deal with as a smartwatch owner. And as good as it is, the Android Wear interface isn’t perfect. If you have larger hands, you’re probably going to struggle with navigating through it. Wear Mini Launcher streamlines the overall interface, making it feel more like a smartphone. It’s a much more familiar method of navigation — swipe through menus of icons, and tap whichever icon that you want to open. It’s as easy as that.
Not only that, but Wear Mini Launcher also lets you access quick little settings menus, making it way easier to do things like tweak brightness or tweak your wi-fi settings. I think that this app is another great one, and the shortcomings of the vanilla Android Wear interface makes it almost a necessity. This app will completely revamp your smartwatch’s overall look, and the sooner you install it, the sooner you’ll get used to it. I promise, it’s much more convenient, and you won’t regret downloading it. It’s one of the most popular Android Wear utilities on the market for a reason.
8. Wear Audio Recorder
As a student, I think that this is one of the most innovative uses of the smartwatch out there. This app basically turns your smartwatch into a recorder, allowing you to sit back and record lectures, meetings, or voice memos. The audio quality is surprisingly good, which makes it perfect for recording important, detailed information. (If you’re hurting for hard drive space, though, you’re able to lower the recording quality to save space.) Smartphones have had the capability to do this for a long time, but I think that the smaller form factors of smartwatches, along with the fact that you take it with you pretty much everywhere, makes it a lot more successful.
Plus, just when you thought that Wear Audio Recorder couldn’t get any more useful, I feel I should mention that it’s connected to Google Drive and Dropbox. Audio files can take up a lot of space, and it’s really great to be able to upload your recordings to the cloud. I can understand why this application may not be for everyone, but if you work in business or if you’re attending school, then Wear Audio Recorder could make your manual note taking redundant. It makes your life so much easier. (Not to mention, there’s something really satisfying about recording things from your watch. It makes you feel like a Bond villain.)
In today’s world, it’s difficult to keep yourself from checking your smartphone every few minutes. Smartwatches only make these compulsions easier to satisfy. Tweechip is an experimental app, allowing users to check their Twitter feed. You’re not limited to just reading, though — you can also like and retweet tweets from your feed as you see fit. It’s a really cool use, and seeing as Twitter is one of the most popular social media websites right now, this app could prove useful for a very wide range of users.
Like I said, though, this app is still in its early stages. It’s not perfect, and you may have some stability issues with certain watches. Tweechip isn’t really popular enough yet to boast a massive development team, so you shouldn’t anticipate Google-tier quality. Also, like most Android Wear apps, you’re not really able to write things. You can’t compose tweets, not even through voice input. This is a bit of an annoyance, but it’s fine if you remember that this app is meant to be used for reading tweets. That’s it. Still, this app is worth keeping your eye on. I expect big things from this app in the future.
10. Strava Running and Cycling
I knew from the beginning that I was going to have to put a fitness app on this list. Having a smartwatch conveniently strapped to your wrist makes those bulky “strap your smartphone to your bicep” things completely redundant. Wearables, in general, have completely revolutionized the way that a lot of us think about fitness and fitness monitoring. There are a lot of great fitness apps out there, but I chose Strava because of how well it executes its purposes. Yeah, it’s not as flashy as some of the other Android Wear fitness apps, but it does what it needs to do efficiently and effectively.
Basically, this app makes it to where, while you’re running or cycling, you can easily glance down and see how long you’ve been running, how far you’ve run, how many calories you’ve burned, and so on. It uploads this information onto a log, and makes it easy to track your progress. If you have a GPS-enabled smartwatch, you just need a watch. Everything is performed from there. If you don’t have a GPS-enabled smartwatch, then your watch is going to need to connect to a GPS-enabled smartphone, and act as like a screen extender. It isn’t perfect, but it’s almost a life-changing feature that perfectly showcases exactly what Android Wear devices are capable of.