Google’s new Android Wear line is the first big step into wearable technology. We’ve already helped you pick out a device, and though there aren’t as many apps available for Wear as there are for your phone, there are still a few essentials you’ll want to install on your watch right away.
Most Android Wear devices turn on to charge and display a screen showing the current battery level while doing so. If you’re charging your watch overnight, this light will be shining in your face, and on some watches the constant display has even caused screen burn-in. Slumber simply blacks out your screen when your watch is charging so you don’t have to worry about any of that.
All you need to do after installing Slumber is run it a single time, and it will then take over and display a black watch face when charging. It’s not a perfect solution (it would be better to have the screen turned off completely) but it’s better than nothing and should be downloaded by any Wear owner.
Out of the box, launching apps on your watch is annoying. You have to either say “Okay, Google, Launch APP,” (not always an option if you’re in a quiet space) or swipe through three layers of menus (tedious at any time). Thankfully, there’s a much better solution: Wear Mini Launcher, which adds a slide-in menu accessible from anywhere on your watch. Slide over once to launch apps, and slide again to quickly toggle settings that are otherwise buried in menus.
The idea is similar to Swapps! for Android (another useful productivity tool), and should really come standard on Wear. You probably won’t have as many apps on your watch as you do on your phone, but this is still an essential tool for any smartwatch owner.
Smartphone battery life is the subject of much debate; while task killers are a bad thing, there are some ways to ensure you get more out of a charge. Certainly, if you have a rogue app that’s destroying your battery, identifying it is key, and Wear Battery Stats lets you do just that.
The app’s watch counterpart gives you a barebones version of what’s going on with your battery, but for the most details you’ll want to open the app on your phone. Here, you’ll be able to view the screen-on time (useful for knowing if your battery loss is due to usage or if something is running without you using it) and apps that have been active.
Battery life isn’t Android Wear’s strong point to begin with, but you check your gas mileage to be sure it’s satisfactory, so why not observe battery, too?
Facer ($1) / WatchMaker (Free | $1)
The default watch faces are okay, but we’ve showcased some alternative faces to make your watch your own, and you’ll need one of these apps to get started. If you’re creative, you can make your own design for your watch; if not, you’re still able to browse the ones made by others and select one that matches your style.
Facer and WatchMaker offer different styles, so for the most variety it’s best to pick them both up. Using a site like FaceRepo, you can import new styles into one or both of the apps. With so many to choose from, you can have a new watch every week!
This one isn’t terribly exciting, but most people use their phone as a calculator, so having one on your wrist saves you the trouble of digging your main device out of your pocket. It includes a second page with advanced functions should you need them.
Obviously, you won’t want to use this for calculus homework (that’s more the speed of Wolfram Alpha, which can do more than you think), but for calculating a quick sale percentage, tip at a restaurant, or double-checking your math, having an accessible calculator is a good idea.
Apps that let you find your phone are common, but since your watch is paired with your phone, it’s a great idea to be able to ring your phone right from your wrist.
Simply opening the app and tapping “Find!” on your watch will ring your phone as long as it’s connected to your watch via Bluetooth (so this app is designed for when you lose your phone in the couch cushions, not when it’s stolen). The app also allows you to set a notification on both your watch and phone that sounds when they’re disconnected. That way, if you’re about to leave the house with your watch but not your phone, you’ll be alerted before you make a silly mistake.
The app’s basic functionality is free, but to customize the ringtone and other behavior you’ll have to cough up $2 for a premium in-app purchase.
Trick Out Your Watch
This isn’t a comprehensive list, as plenty of awesome apps are available for Android Wear, but these six are the basic ones anyone should install right away. In another post, we’ll take a look at apps for weather, productivity, and tweaking; stay tuned!
What apps do you have installed on your Android Wear device? If you’ve got a smartwatch, I want to hear from you! Leave a comment and your cool app might appear in my next list!