01
Sep
aw

So you've just picked up an Android Wear device, but what the heck can you do with this tiny wrist computer? Sure, it pulls in notification from your phone and shows you Google Now cards, but you need some apps too. It can be a challenge to navigate the Play Store in search of the best watch apps, but we've been keeping a close eye on things. Here are the five apps every Android Wear device needs to have installed. 

Wear Mini Launcher

I simply cannot imagine using Android Wear without Wear Mini Launcher. For whatever reason, Google decided to make launching apps by touch incredibly infuriating. Yeah, I get it—Google wants everyone to launch apps by voice, but some apps have stupid names and I can't always talk to my wrist. Wear Mini Launcher gives you a slide-out app drawer with configurable columns and icon sizes. It even has an additional panel with the battery level for your connected phone and the watch, as well as a brightness slider. There are a few toggles for the phone down at the bottom too. This app is free, but I would happily pay cash money for it. There's a donate link in the app, which you should use.

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BeeLink

Another major shortcoming of Android Wear is that pairing with more than one device often requires a full reset of the watch. Even if you've already gotten the watch paired with multiple devices, it just doesn't work sometimes. BeeLink lets you manually scan for Android phones and tablets from the watch so you can quickly and easily switch connections. You'll have to re-sync the app list to get everything flowing between the phone and watch correctly, but it's a million times better than waiting for the Wear app to (maybe) figure out you are trying to pair a new device.

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Wear Apps Tracker

Yet another missing feature from Wear is the lack of any sort of feedback for app installation, updates, and removals. You'd never know if the sync tubes get clogged because there's not even an error message for failed app syncs. That's where Wear Apps Tracker comes in. This app pops up a card on the watch that tells you each time an app is installed or updated with the full name included. For uninstalling, you only get a generic notification, but it's better than nothing.

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Find My Phone

Having a smart device tethered to your phone lets you do a few basic phone finding tricks with an app like Find My Phone. This is probably the best overall option in the category with support for ringing a misplaced phone, alerting you when the connection is broken (you left the phone behind), and a few more miscellaneous features. I'm especially fond of the fade-in location alarm setting. The basic stuff is free, but you can also set custom alarm tones from the watch and do a few other things after upgrading in-app for $0.99.

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Showear Or Lockable

There's no lock screen on Android Wear—not even a temporary one that you can use to keep the screen from flipping out when it gets wet. We decided to include two apps for this one use case (yes, that means there are technically 6 apps on the list), but you only need one. Both of them are very good options that let you set up an unlock code that can keep your watch from being accessed by someone else, or going haywire in the shower. You're not really supposed to shower with these watches, but no one's stopping you.

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Showear

For what it's worth, I think Lockable is the more attractive of the two, but you have to upgrade to the pro version for $1.99 to get the PIN or pattern locks. Otherwise it's just swipe. Showear offers pattern and swipe code for free.

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Lockable

This isn't intended to be a list of all the best apps—it's what you should install before you do anything else. A lot of it is patching holes left by Google, but that doesn't mean it isn't important stuff. Keep this in mind if you plan to get one of those fancy watches without the corners soon.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Thomas’

    These are not providing useful features, but rather fixing problems with Wear...

    • RyanWhitwam

      Read the last paragraph? How is fixing problems with Wear not adding something useful? Perhaps you and I have different definitions of useful.

      • AbbyZFresh

        It's showing that Google has neglected many things and clearly rushed this out. So now developers have to do the work for them.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Alternatively, Google doesn't think those are important. Like when the launcher app came out, a lot of Googlers were very much against it, saying it goes completely against the ideas behind Wear.

          • AbbyZFresh

            No one is going to be speaking to their watch in public. It just sounds weird.

          • http://www.lgmobilescience.wordpress.com/ Patrik Carlsson

            And also, it is highly sensitive to background noise and such. Plus small languages like swedish will most likely permanently be neglected, and I can see why. That's why I hope alternatives like the minuum keyboard can bridge the gaps.

          • Roger Siegenthaler

            not really... I've never had problems with background noise, only background chatter from other people that google caught on to :/

          • http://www.lgmobilescience.wordpress.com/ Patrik Carlsson

            I'm sorry if I spoke to generally, but that was what I meant with background noise.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            I definitely agree about that. Though if people are 10+ft away, I will sneak in a quick response or two (like when shopping for groceries in a big store).

          • Ian Aitken

            I too have a distance of comfort where i will talk to my watch but its getting smaller. The more people have them the more they will do it.

          • Shai Pal

            Confession: I talk to my watch when i'm on a busy street.

          • LewisSD

            Who cares what other people think?! I talk to my 360 loud and proud all day everyday! We all forget that everyone else is constantly thinking about what other people think about them so really no one gives a shit what you look like and if they do who cares.

          • http://www.lgmobilescience.wordpress.com/ Patrik Carlsson

            Hopefully they log the number of installations. ;)

          • kekkojoker90

            For who complain about feature i remember google stated that the final version of wear only come with android L

  • vyktorsouza

    bookmarked for when I get my MOTO360

    • czedlitz

      Same :) well actually put it in Pocket

      • http://skorch.co.uk/ Antony Derham

        Also added to Pocket

  • IrishSid

    Nice one. Bookmarked for when I eventually get one.

  • Sebastian Lundgren

    added to pocket for when I'll get my Moto 360

  • Oliver Baker

    Google Starred for when I get my Moto 360 ;-)

  • MordyT

    Pro version of lockable is 1.99...

    • RyanWhitwam

      Right you are. Changed.

  • http://www.lgmobilescience.wordpress.com/ Patrik Carlsson

    I actually hope for more minuum support generally. Being a swedish dude and all makes "all voice control" pretty limited, since swedish is not a language option. Would be great to be able to reply manually in apps like hangouts (without the xposed module), whatsapp (the card suggestions are too limited). It works flawlessly in wear browser and opens up more practical user cases. Minuum keyboard demo on Android wear (LG G Watch): http://youtu.be/0ro0zJcWSuo

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Unfortunately, without better core Android Wear support, we're going to be pretty stuck, and it'll remain limited.

      • http://www.lgmobilescience.wordpress.com/ Patrik Carlsson

        Yeah, I know what you mean. I can't help thinking that these devices potentially could make people leave their smartphones at home. Not everyone wants big units, but then again AW is designed to be a slave, not a master. However I wonder what could affect the future development of the wear devices. Will it be user demand with help of third parties (devs), or will Google not bend. There has to be more. Anxiously awaiting what API:s that may come with the L release. I believe wear could be so much more, and will be.

  • Matthew Toomey

    Thanks. Just what I needed on the eve of getting my Moto360.

    • AbbyZFresh

      Not all of those apps will work well on a round screen. Such as the Showear Wear app.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        I'm sure as soon as the round watches are actually released, apps will start supporting them better.

        • http://www.lgmobilescience.wordpress.com/ Patrik Carlsson

          Definitely.

      • Matthew Toomey

        Thanks for the tip. Thankfully, I can live without that one :)

  • mldi

    The best fix for the shower situation (or in any situation with running water, like washing your hands) is for Google Wear to auto-lock when it senses running water, and only unlock when it no longer senses running water or when you do something very deliberate. It's a legitimate complaint, so I really hope they're looking into this for a future release. I imagine it'd require plenty of testing though, so I don't expect it very soon.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I think the ideal situation, from the technological point of view, is figuring out how to make the screen ignore water touches and still respond to finger touches. I think only Sony has figured out how to do that so you can use Active devices underwater. Cause I want to not only avoid accidental touches underwater, but also press things on the screen (next song, decline call, etc).

      • mldi

        I wasn't aware of Sony's magical touch filters. That's a little bit amazing.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          I might be wrong on that one, I've never tested it in person, but from what I remember, it was at least more capable than any other phone to date.

          • mldi

            Either way it's good news as it shows some promise to at least making the problem less severe.

          • Harris Mirza

            But being submerged is different from being under running water, sony phones do filter some touches, but not all when in the shower. Also, who wears a watch in the shower anyway?

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            This subject comes up all the time, and if they worked properly in the shower, there are many reasons for wearing one that I don't want to regurgitate. Look here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/107797272029781254158/posts/g22Hpt8iXQN.

  • Stuart Anderson

    Is there a remote control app for play music on wear? And also bookmarked for when my 360 arrives.

    • Hoot

      Play Music already supports Wear

  • Chris

    I don't even want to use my watch anymore. I won it, and even for free it's just not that great. I don't care what shape or size. It's just that it doesn't really do anything. It just buzzes me, but oh wait, my phone does that already. And most apps I can't even reply with the watch yet.

    I'm going to keep wearing it to see if I grow attached (it's already been a month) but I just don't see it happening.