Software without hardware is useless, as the saying goes, and this couldn’t be truer for Android Wear – an Android fork for smartwatches that was released in March this year but till recently had little by way of a dedicated apps ecosystem. Thankfully, now that the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch have changed this equation for good, developers are taking an increased interest. This has produced a small crop of apps, which can be found in the Apps for Android Wear section of Google Play. Sadly, the category isn’t exactly easy to find.
Neither is it easy to choose which apps are great for Android Wear. With miniature displays and a limited set of functionalities, smartwatches aren’t meant for playing HD games. On the other hand, it is quite easy to call a cab, check the weather or find a location without having to pull out the smartphone. Keeping these in mind, we have come up with a small list of apps that transform your Android Wear smartwatch from a good looking LED screen on your wrist to a versatile productivity companion.
Before we begin though, it is important to note that due to a digital rights management (DRM) issue, paid apps, or any apps that come in encrypted packages, cannot be installed on Android Wear. Google has requested developers to use an unencrypted method, but till last reports came in, there was no simple method for the layman to fix this issue.
Offering the same option of creating colour coded notes and using them as stacked cards, Google Keep for Android Wear offers the additional advantage of dictating notes to the watch, which is a lot more convenient than dictating them to a bulky smartphone. The app also makes use of GPS resources to the full, so if you set location based notes, Keep raises them when you get there.
An ultra-compressed calculator that allows numerals to be keyed in with short taps (zero with a swipe up) and functions through long taps, Quick Calculator is the easiest way to stay on top of the numbers from your wrist.
More sophisticated than Google Keep, Evernote’s Android Wear avatar adds the ability to search notes through voice commands to the smartwatch. In fact, Evernote Wear offers considerable search features, including search by date, time and recent access/creation. Another nifty feature is the sending of notes to the smartwatch screen from the phone whenever the app detects the latter to have been locked.
Perhaps the simplest of Android Wear apps, Baby Time locks down the smartwatch when the user says “OK Google run Baby Time”, and can only be unlocked using a complex combination. This ensures that if your baby loves technology like you do, your smartwatch won’t bear the brunt.
A simple app for seeing what the people around you are and what they’d like to share with potential future friends, Highlight displays the names and limited information about the people nearby. Due to limited screen space, the more complex functions will have to be carried out through the smartphone parent app.
Taking a leaf out of old sci-fi films, Glympse allows users to give others the ability to view their location in real time from their watch. This ability is of course for a limited time, and the app automatically shuts down when there is no more tracking to do.
Learning a language is not pleasant on a tiny screen, but Duolingo has managed to offer a flash card based system that allows for practice and basic learning. Sadly, the complex voice and real time practice options (including timed practice) are not available on the Wear version yet.
The extension of the popular finance app LevelUp, the Android Wear version tells you when you near a regular haunt, and even lets you pay bills with a tap on your watch. Though this makes “wallet on the wrist” a reality, more complex options like adding debit cards need the main app on the smartphone.
Operating a “call a cab” service in select cities, Lyft has now entered the Android Wear market with an app that allows users to call a cab to their current location, or any regular location such as “Home” and “Work”. The app uses the inbuilt call a car function of Android Wear, so the positive/negative feature is that regardless of your choice of cab service, you’ll end up with Lyft by default. With service available in 64 US cities already, however, this may be more positive than negative in the long run.
Android Wear is still a work in progress, but already the best of smartwatch facilities are being used to the hilt by a small crop of useful Android Wear apps. Note that you will still need to have a smartphone to make use of Android Wear (in most cases). However, with Google refusing to let manufacturers skin and modify the Wear, one can expect an uniformity that will, regardless of the shapes and sizes in which smartwatches appear, provide for a richer crop of common apps.