Android Wear is the new smartwatch platform based on the Android OS. Available on devices like the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch, as well as the forthcoming Moto 360, Android Wear apps now have their own category on the Google Play Store. (Check out our guide to the best Android Wear devices.)
A good Android Wear app shouldn’t be a stripped version of its smartphone counterpart, replicating the exact same functionality you’ll get if you take your phone out of your pocket. Instead, it should provide glanceable—and, ideally, actionable—information for those times when it is not convenient to use your bigger screened device. The kind of thing you currently get in an Android widget, that functions without needing to send you to the full app.
Some Android Wear apps do this perfectly; others don’t. In both cases, there’s plenty of room for refinement as developers get to grips with how people use their smartwatches, and find more new and exciting tasks they can perform.
In the meantime we’ve taken a look at the first wave of smartwatch apps . Here’s ten you should definitely be trying out.
Runtastic Runnng & Fitness
Fitness is the ideal category for a smartwatch, and the app for Runtastic puts the most basic features of its smartphone tool onto your wrist. You can start runs or fitness sessions through voice, then track your progress and view your stats. It’s great if you use a sportsband for your phone, as you’ll no longer have to struggle to get it in and out to set the app in motion.
Lyft has a decidedly futuristic feel, and is surely a perfect illustration of what a smartwatch app should be. Using the unofficial taxi app you can book a car simply by talking into your watch—it’ll book it, grab your location automatically and then tell you how long you’ll to wait until the car arrives. It’s as simple as it gets.
Notification tools are not necessarily the best use of a smartwatch as there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll end up being even more overloaded with notifications that with just your phone—it’s easier to ignore the beeping phone in your pocket than the buzzing phone on your wrist. But CloudMagic is a great email app, and the watch app enables you to read your messages as well as compose quick replies through speaking into watch.
ViewRanger is a navigation app intended for exploring the great outdoors—exactly the kind of situation where a smartwatch will come into its own. The ViewRanger app for Android Wear has all the vital information you need. It’ll show you directions, information on where you are (including coordinates, altitude and so on), and distance to your next waypoint. It works with the compass sensor inside your watch to keep you on track.
musiXmatch Music Player Lyrics
musiXmatch displays the lyrics of the song you’re currently listening to on your smartphone or tablet screen. On Android Wear it does the same on your watch screen. It may not be the most essential use of cutting edge tech, but is undeniably and fun and discreet way of helping you sing along to your favourite tunes.
Another great use for a smartwatch—you don’t want to get food all over your phone or tablet while cooking, so instead you can view each step of the recipe you’re following on your watch instead. You can move through each step of the recipe easily, and as you move around the kitchen the instructions are always with you. It doubles up as a handy shipping list tool when you’re buying ingredients, too.
1Weather:Widget Forecast Radar
No platform is complete without an outstanding weather app or ten, and 1Weather is making an early pitch for the title of best Android Wear weather app. It doesn’t do a whole lot—shows you the current conditions and the forecast for the days ahead—but it does it very prettily and is the epitome of glanceable information.
Duolingo is the best app for learning a language, but the one thing it cannot do is make sure you practice every day. Maybe by putting it on your wrist you’ll be more inclined to stick with the lessons, albeit in the slightly stripped down form they take on the Wear app.
We like the idea of having boarding passes on our smartphones. Having them on our smartwatches is even better. The Fly Delta app leads the way. It gives you updates on your flight, including information such as the gate you’re boarding at, then gives you access to your boarding pass when you need it. No more juggling pieces of paper, or trying to remove your phone from your pocket while struggling with bags. Expect every airline to have a Wear app soon.
Glympse is an app you can use to share your location with friends, and to view theirs. On a smartwatch it becomes even easier to seamlessly share your position to a person or post it on a social network, as well as to tracks others—something that is especially if you’re meeting them somewhere. Glympse is available on numerous smartwatch platforms, and will also be coming to certain car models in future. It could become the standard for location sharing.