Recent achievements in miniaturization have enabled companies to build a “powerful computer small enough to wear comfortably on your body all day long,” David Singleton, Android director of engineering, told the I/O keynote crowd in June, 2014. Android Wear is designed to provide users with concise notifications on tiny screens, saving them from having to look into their phones more than 120 times a day. But what will bring the digital life to your wrist, eventually weaning you from your smartphone, is a good Android Wear app, not a watch alone. Smart and well-designed apps add serious value to your smartwatch. Here is a list of our 5 favourites to install right off the bat and make the most of your Android Wear smartwatch.
1. InstaWeather (Free)
InstaWeather is a kind of all-in-one weather app for Android Wear. It provides a whole host of updating satellite information right on the watch face. InstaWeather shows the weather forecast, radar, and an hour-by-hour forecast so the user can see when showers are expected. One of its exclusive features is the ability to send notifications whenever rain or snow is close so that the user knows it is coming. The InstaWeather app also has about half a dozen watch faces that make it possible to keep up with the weather all the time.
2. Wear Mini Launcher (Free)
Most Android Wear apps get launched by a voice command on the smartwatch. However, that doesn’t always work during a meeting, church service or other situations wherein speaking to the watch distracts the people nearby. Instead, with Wear Mini Launcher only a swipe from the edge of the display is needed to receive quick access to an app drawer and settings menu. The launcher shows all the apps on a two-column grid and makes it significantly easier to jump into apps and quickly adjust settings.
3. Wear App Manager ($.99)
Another problem with Wear apps is that you can’t always easily find installed apps. Mobile apps like Runkeeper or Duolingo may not make it clear that they have Wear functionality. Some apps that offer Wear functionality may not even appear in the phone’s app list. The Wear App Manager organizes all the user’s Wear apps installed on the phone to make the apps easier to find quickly. It also runs on the user’s phone and determines every app that has any Wear functionality at all.
4. PixtoCam ($1.99)
Google’s official Camera app can be controlled via Android Wear, but Pixtocam goes one step further by turning it into a remote viewfinder for the phone’s camera. Though PixtoCam allows users to see with their smartwatches what their camera sees, the features are more aligned for photographers than for purposes of practicality. It can turn the user’s phone on, unlock it, zoom in or out, turn the flash on or off and adjust other photo settings. Pretty handy for taking a selfie, when there’s nobody around to help out. It also makes for a great demo of the watch’s capability.
Undoubtedly, fitness is one of the most common purposes for using a smartwatch. Android Wear allows the user to track steps and heart rate – actually, that’s all it can do (even so, not all smartwatches are capable of doing it). However, the apps like Runtastic and RunKeeper could eventually make the smartwatch become a replacement for many sports watches, as they give many stats at a glance. Rival apps Runtastic and RunKeeper are two of the more full-featured choices, offering support for a range of sports and giving the user access to key stats. Users can see how many calories they’ve burned, their steps, total distance, maps, and overall statistics without needing to pull out their phones.
Let us know, in the comments, any additional Android Wear apps that you believe should be included in the list!January 29, 2015