Without these apps, your Android Wear watch isn't living up to its potential
Android Wear has been on our wrists for two years now, and in that time Google has learned a lot. Android Wear is vastly more capable now than it was at launch, but some extra apps can still make it even better. In just a few minutes, your Android smartwatch can become smarter, easier to use, and more capable. These are the apps you need to install to make that happen.
Google Now can detect and identify songs on your phone, but that's still not a native feature of Android Wear. And why not, Google? IDing songs from your watch is so much more convenient than pulling out a phone. That old standby Shazam has you covered, though. The Shazam Wear module just does this one thing, and it does it well. Launch the app on your watch by touch or voice, and it will start listening for music. It shows you the song on the watch and saves it to your Shazam list on the phone for later. Sometimes it will even show lyrics, synced to the song you're listening to. Shazam has free and paid apps, but the Wear functionality is the same on both.
The best note and list app for Android Wear might already be on your phone—it's Google Keep. Most phones don't have Keep pre-installed, but it's a must for Android Wear users. The Wear app provides access to all your notes with the option to add reminders or archive them. Lists are fully scrollable and you can add new items to them by voice as well as cross off old items. New notes and lists can be created entirely on the watch by voice as well. Like all of Google's apps, this one is free.
Online automation platform IFTTT (which stands for Baltimore Jersey Color Color Rush Jersey Baltimore Rush if this, then that) has support for Android Wear, and it can be incredibly powerful once you dig in. IFTTT connects hundreds of services and platforms, including Android Wear. You can create recipes that use your watch as a trigger (if) or an action (that).
For example, IFTTT can create a button on the watch to toggle your phone's Wi-Fi, send a text message, turn on your Philips Hue lights, and more. IFTTT can also be set up to ping your watch when it's going to rain, when a certain device connects to your Google OnHub router or anything else that's supported by the multitude of IFTTT channels. The sky's the limit with IFTTT and Wear. Best of all, it's free.
Checking the weather from your watch is a good use case for a smartwatch because it's a quick activity that saves you from taking your phone out. Weather Timeline doesn't try to do too much on Android Wear, and it fits in with the platform beautifully. Weather Timeline creates a weather card in the main stack with the current conditions. Swipe to the right and you get an hourly forecast. Swipe again and there's a multi-day forecast. It also comes with a clean weather-oriented watch face. Still not convinced? Weather Timeline is also one of the finest weather apps for your phone or tablet. It's well worth the $0.99 asking price.
Weather Timeline ($0.99)
Baltimore Jersey Color Color Rush Jersey Baltimore Rush Wear Aware
Baltimore Jersey Color Color Rush Jersey Baltimore Rush Your watch is tethered to your phone constantly, so a disconnection probably means something is up. With Wear Aware, you'll never forget your phone again. When installed on your phone and watch, Wear Aware will pop alert you on the watch if you phone disconnects, like it would if you left it on the table in a restaurant. You can also open Wear Aware on the watch to make your phone ring in the event you lose track of it. This app is free and could save you from losing a very expensive phone.
Wear Aware (Free)
Baltimore Jersey Color Color Rush Jersey Baltimore Rush Android Wear devices don't have cameras of their own, but you can control almost every aspect of your phone's camera from the watch using PixtoCam. Just launch the watch app and your phone's camera will start up and stream a live viewfinder image to your watch.
The watch viewfinder has icons positioned around the edge of the screen to swap between front and rear cameras, change flash mode, take a photo, start/stop video capture, and more. It works even when the phone is asleep. The image is slightly pixelated, but latency is very low. PixtoCam is $1.99 in the Play Store, but it's the best at what it does.
Wear Audio Recorder
Your Android Wear smartwatch is a lot of things, including a microphone conveniently strapped to your wrist. Take advantage of it with Wear Audio Recorder. Simply open the watch app and press the record button. You can pause, resume, and end recording from the main interface. The watch will synchronize all your recordings with the phone app as you complete them. The phone side includes its own recording functionality, as well as settings for quality and processing for both phone and watch recording. It's very robust for a free app.
Wear Audio Recorder (Free)
Trying to use your phone during a workout is a recipe for disaster, but a smartwatch is securely strapped to your wrist. You just need the right app to track workouts, and Endomondo is it. This is a full-featured app on moth the phone and your watch. You can select workout types, start, stop, and see your times on Android Wear. There's also a map on the watch that shows your progress and an ambient mode to keep your timers up without wasting battery. The app is free with a subscription version ($6 per month or $30 per year) with deeper stats and training plans.
Endomondo (Free, optional monthly subscription)
Photo Gallery for Android Wear
You can already take photos from your watch with PixtoCam, so why not review them on your watch too? Photo Gallery for Android Wear is an aptly named photo gallery app for your wearable. Simply launch it and you'll see a scrollable list of all the folders on your phone containing images. Opening individual photos lets you pinch to zoom and pan around to take a closer look at the details. Watch screens aren't ideal for this, but you can get the gist of a snapshot in Photo Gallery. The app is free for recent photos only, but a $3 in-app purchase unlocks the full version.
Photo Gallery for Android Wear (Free, $3 in-app)
Google has added some basic messaging features to its Android Wear apps, but they're still quite basic and will often drive you back to your phone for messaging. The free Coffee app might help you avoid that by making text messages faster on Wear. You can have Coffee takeover SMS replies on your watch with its custom list of categorized quick replies. You can also start new conversations with favorite contacts using a similarly expansive list of quick replies. It has voice input as well, but with just a few taps you can drill down to text that will probably get your point across just as well.
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