Get the most from your smartwatch
If having a wrist-worn status symbol with a great gleaming screen isn’t enough incentive to make you buy a smartwatch, you need apps. Just like a smartphone, a watch is a shell without them.
However, where there are more than 1.5 million apps available for Android phones, Android Wear only has a few thousand. And about 40% of them are watch faces and other bits of customisation fluff.
So where’s the good stuff? We’ve been using Android Wear watches since they first appeared, and whether you’re wearing the classic Moto 360 or the new LG Urbane, these are the smartwatch apps we think you should check out.
One of the few apps that can really justify an Android Wear watch is Citymapper.
For those not in the know, this is an amazing travel app that tells you how long it’ll take to get somewhere and exactly how you can get there using public transport. As long as you live in London, Birmingham or Manchester, that is (in the UK at least).
The Wear version gives quick commands on how to get home or to work from wherever you are, and supplies directions on more complicated routes using your mobile phone.
Free | Download Citymapper
This was one of the earliest Android Wear apps, but Google Keep has really come into its own since then.
As before, you can check out and tick-off lists made on your phone. You can now also dictate notes and have them transcribed as long as you’re connected to your phone, or within range of a stored Wi-Fi network (if you’re using a Wi-Fi-enabled watch).
It’s undoubtedly one of the best wrist-bound organisers around at present. Not every great Google feature comes preinstalled on Wear, you know.
Free | Download Google Keep
Love Periscope? Can’t get enough of Snapchat? Cord is the next strain of communications app. Unlike a lot of sharing platforms, this one is all about audio. You just hold down a screen-wide button to start recording, making this perfectly suited to any Android Wear watch.
The only issue: how many people do you know on Cord? You only need a couple of willing friends to get on-board to make it worthwhile, but this one may require a bit of effort.
Free | Download Cord
The fact that Todoist is still one of the best to-do list apps is a sign Android Wear apps have a way to go. Don’t get us wrong: the mobile phone Todoist app is a corker, but the Android Wear one is pretty limited.
It’s dead basic. Load the app and you can add new tasks to a current list by simply talking to the watch. More useful, though, is being able to send lists of tasks from the mobile phone to the watch, which appear like notifications.
It’s perfect for shopping lists, packing for holidays, and much more.
Free | Download Todoist
Smartwatches are best at tasks that take all of about, oh, five seconds. If we want to read something long, we’ll get out the phone. Or, in cases of dire need, crack open a book. But an Android Wear watch is pretty good for catching up on headlines.
WeaRSS lets you add your favourite RSS feeds to its app interface, so that you can read headlines and brief summaries of articles. Then you can mark the ones you want to read later with a quick flick ’n’ tap gesture.
It’s a good way to make a 90-second wait for a lift or lunchtime sandwich that bit more enjoyable.
Free | Download WeaRSS
Web Browser for Android Wear
Fancy making your watch sweat? You can turn it into a full web browser with the help of this app. And it really does feel like a mobile phone web browser crammed onto your wrist.
Yes, at times it can feel like trying to fit an entire group of foreign exchange students into a London phone box: awkward and kind of wrong, but in a slightly comic way. If you learn to embrace calling out search terms rather than using the slide-y virtual keyboard, it’s workable.
Suddenly browsing on your wrist isn’t as insane as it sounds.
Humans don’t need smartwatches, but they do need to eat. Why not bring the two together?
TripAdvisor works just like the mobile app or website, letting you check out restaurants, attractions and hotels. Being all about on-the-fly use, it lists results by how far they are from your current position. Pick a place and then you can check out quick summaries of user reviews.
It doesn’t go too far, though, leaving you to take mobile out of pocket if you want to read the full text of rants about your local Papa Johns.
Free | Download TripAdvisor
Most smartwatch games are beyond dreadful. They see developers clutching at reasons to make you play games, and usually end up giving you a display that changes a bit when you tap the screen.
Solitaire Wear is different, though. This is the classic card game we know and love, in all its glory. It’s not cut down, you don’t have to wait three hours between turns and it actually works, as long as you have a smartwatch with a large-enough screen.
A smartwatch game that’s actually fun? Who’d have thought?
Free | Download Solitaire Wear
Google’s fitness platform isn’t quite all there yet, but it’s an ever improving app that looks great and tracks basic things like steps and calories. All the data is then synced to your phone or PC for further perusal.
Free | Download Google Fit
Google seemed like it first intended Wear watches to be extensions of your phone for simply viewing emails, messages and so on, but clever developers are now taking it further. Mini Dialler is a great example of this, it puts a phone dial pad right on your watch, so you can quickly ring out and take calls without picking out your phone.
£1.27 | Download Mini Dialler
Microsoft’s note taking app is a worthy Evernote rival and being able to easily access notes from your wrist is a real time saver. Voice actions are included too, so just say ‘Take a note’ and you can start reminding yourself to pick up that milk later. Or something a little less obvious.
Free | Download One Note
While this app will only be of interest to fans of Manchester City, it still shows how other teams could possibly build in Android Wear support in the future. Team sheets, match facts, goals and results are pinged to your watch, while you can also read match text commentary without unlocking your phone.
Free | Download CityMatchday Wear
The Google Play Store may be the most obvious place to find all the stuff to stick on your new Android Wear watch, but it’s not your only option. Wear Store is a collection of all the best apps, games and watch faces, all categorised and made easy to find. It features a similar look to Google Play, but the sorting and filtering options have been improved.
Free | Download Wear Store
WearFaces - Watchface Creator
The good thing about a watch with a digital display is that you can customise the watchface. Okay, so the API for this is yet to reach developers, but apps like WearFaces - Watchface Creator let you pick a style made by a fellow user of the app or create your own from scratch.
Free | Download WearFaces
Runtastic is a fantastic option for turning your Android Wear smartwatch into a fitness powerhouse. Using the wonders of GPS, Runtastic can track (in real-time) your exercise regime, from the route you took to a personal diary of your workout diary.
Free | Download Runtastic
WearCalc says it all in the name. It's a calculator app you can use on your wrist, so no more reaching into your pocket for a quick calculation. Reminds us of the old Casio watch with all the buttons we always secretly wanted as a kid.
Free | Download WearCalc
Wear Internet Browser
Nothing says 21st century like a web browser on a watch. Okay, so it might be a bit fiddly but you have to admit, it wasn't that long ago computers were hulking-great behemoths. Wear Internet Browser even has the ability to pinch and zoom, access bookmarks and a mini keyboard for typing.
Free | Download Wear Browser
Still looking for Mr or Mrs Right? The Android Wear version of Tinder may just help. Essentially it lets you judge people on their looks and a bio (if they have one) from the comfort of your wrist. It also gives you notifications if a potential suitor has got in touch.
Free | Download Tinder
Glympse is a handy Android and Android Wear app that lets you broadcast your location and where you have been in real-time for as long as you want, making it easy for a friend or family to meet up with you. A Glympse broadcast can be sent over text, email, Facebook or Twitter using any device with the web.
Free | Download Glympse
Find My Phone
Losing your phone is a nightmare. Luckily the Find My Phone Android Wear app lets you turn on an alarm sound or vibration so you can be quickly reunited. Unless, of course, your phone was stolen and the thief is long gone. In which case, you'll need the desktop Google software.
Free | Download Find My Phone