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Hands on: The first Apple Watch apps for road warriors

Galen Gruman | April 28, 2015
30 first-gen apps show promise, but still make you wonder about smartwatch utility

What should have been a handy app on the Apple Watch is the Alarm app. Who doesn't need alarms when on the go? Unfortunately, although it's easy to set alarms on the Apple Watch, it's hard to hear them. Don't rely on it to wake up in the morning in your hotel room.

Likewise, the Music app -- one of the apps I use the most when on the road -- feels like an uneasy fit for the Apple Watch. It plays your iPhone's music, even letting you choose your music using the crown in a way to how the old iPod selection wheel worked -- a revolution in its era that works on the Apple Watch today. And of course you can use Siri to say what you want to play.

Plus, you can send the music to an AirPlay device, such as an Apple TV or speakers. Otherwise the music plays on your iPhone.

Which is what bugs me about the Music app: You're not likely to use your iPhone as speakers, but instead use earbuds or headphones connected to it. In which case, why not use the iPhone itself to control the music selection and playback? OK, so maybe the iPhone is in your backpack, with the cord behind you. Still, using the Apple Watch as music controller feels a bit forced.

When looking at apps from vendors other than Apple, I found more middling offerings. None are bad, but they felt minimally useful -- apps for apps' sake.

An example pair is Apple's Keynote and Microsoft's PowerPoint. Their Apple Watch apps let you advance or reverse your slides in a presentation. I often do that today from an iPhone or iPad Mini when speaking on stage. At first blush, doing so from the Apple Watch was appealing. But you don't get speaker's notes on the Apple Watch, and you can't use the laser-pointer simulation on it, much less the ability to draw on your slides while presenting. OK, that latter capability is not commonly used, but speaker's notes and laser pointers are.

For UI, I slightly prefer the PowerPoint app because it provides both the Forward and Back buttons. The Keynote app can display both, but only if you force-touch the screen to explode them both. Yes, you can swipe to the left on the Keynote Apple Watch app to go backward, but that's not immediately obvious. (Apple obviously knows that, which is why it gave Keynote the option to display both buttons.)

But Keynote for the Apple Watch can remote-control (via the iPhone) a presentation on an iPad, whereas PowerPoint for Apple Watch can remote-control only a presentation on the iPhone. The iPad is a much better editing platform for slideshows, so that's likely where the file will reside.


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