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Android Wear apps: Lots of promise, lots of glitches

Chris Nerney | Sept. 22, 2014
While the Android Wear ecosystem still is in its nascent stages, developers of existing Android apps are scrambling to adapt their creations to the tiny screen.

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As I wrote earlier this week, the new Motorola Moto 360 is a beautiful device and the best of the three Android Wear smartwatches on the market.  

Still, the real value of wearables is in what they allow you to do and that primarily comes down to which apps you can use on your smartwatch.

While the Android Wear ecosystem still is in its nascent stages, developers of existing Android apps are scrambling to adapt their creations to the tiny screen. A year from now the choices for Android Wear users will be exponentially larger.

For now, though, Android Wear users will have to go to war with the apps they have, not the apps they wish they had. And what they have available for now in the Google Play store can be found here (presented in the usual clunky and slightly confusing Google Play way).

If you go to the link you'll see a lot of the following:

  • Cool watch faces
  • Phone "finders" (your smartwatch alerts you when it's out of range of its paired smartphone
  • More cool watch faces

But you'll also see apps that will make your Android smartwatch a better productivity tool and more fun device. These are a bunch I've downloaded and played around with over the past two days, so these aren't recommendations (unless they are).

Hand Dialer for Wear -- Download this app, tap the icon, and you get a simple phone dial pad with large enough buttons that it's easy to tap out a phone number that your smartphone will then dial.

As I wrote in my review of the Moto 360, Android smartwatches allow users to voice dial a specific contact, but sometimes you're not in a place where you can easily use a vocal command, or you don't have the number in your contact list.

The rectangular layout of Hand Dialer is better for the Samsung Gear Live and LG G Watch, but it fit easily into the round screen of the Moto 360.

And as with all of these apps, users can open Hand Dialer with a voice command. Just say "OK Google," and after the watch screen says "speak now," tell it to "Open (app name)." ("Start" also works as a command.)

Calculator for Android Wear -- This is another simple app that does one thing well: Calculate. A numeric keypad on your smartwatch screen allows you to do basic math; slide to the right and you get a screen that enables users to determine square roots and perform trigonometric, logarithmic, and exponential functions.

I tried another Android Wear calculator (Wear Calc), but every time I tried to open it, I would get this message: "Unfortunately, Calculator has stopped." I uninstalled Wear Calc because Calculator for Android Wear is working, and Wear Calc wasn't. Maybe it will work for you.

 

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