Smartwatches, which appeared on the market soon after fitness wearables, were expected to fill the gap between trackers and smartphones, providing a universal solution. This hasn’t happened yet but currently, smartwatches can’t perform all the actions a smartphone can. 2019 might prove to be the year change begins because new Wear OS (formerly known as Android Wear) and Apple Watch models boast functions above and beyond the health-related concerns we’ve come to equate them with.
The health-measuring capabilities of smartwatches have improved, moving from heart-rate tracking to ECG readings. In line with these improvements, various new applications are being designed for wearables which allow users to set reminders, pay bills, listen to podcasts and more.
In this article, we take a closer look at the best Wear OS apps. We will also provide an overview of which smartwatch features are yet to be enabled and which are already performing well.
It stands to reason that smartwatch apps need to suit the devices they are designed for. Wear OS apps should have a design that is suitable for small, round smartwatch screens. Since there isn’t much space available, wearable applications require simple actions without too many clicks or scrolls.
An example of an elegant solution to this is provided by Google Assistant. Users can open any app via voice commands that start with ‘Okay, Google.’ There’s also Gesture Launcher, a separate app to manage wearable apps. It allows users to create custom launch commands for programs such as by drawing letters or other symbols. Interestingly, there are even apps which customise watch faces, such as Looks and Facer.
Here are the best Wear OS apps, broken down into categories. Let’s get started with health and fitness, arguably the most popular smartwatch app category.
Activity tracking and continuous health monitoring are among the biggest advantages of smartwatches. Fitness was named the top priority feature in a smartwatch, according to a 2018 survey of American users. Because of high demand, health and fitness programs are among the best apps for Wear OS.
Most running apps are compatible with Wear OS as users find it handy to have their data and recommendations on their wrists. MadAppGang’s own running app is compatible with Apple Watch at the moment but we plan to develop a SmartRun version for Android users as well. Market leaders including Strava and Runkeeper, as well as popular exergames like Zombies, Run! can be connected to Wear OS.
Ghostracer is a GPS tracker for running and cycling. It can synchronise data with many similar apps. For example, it provides maps with routes that were created in Strava. Customisable screens and offline maps are offered in a premium version for $5.99 per month.
Google Fit is among the best fitness apps for Android Wear. It offers a pedometer and a heart-rate monitor. Users can check their data at any time or get charts displaying statistics and measurements over time. Both steps and the current heart rate are shown when triggered by voice command.
Nike+ Run Club
Nike+ Run Club added Wear OS compatibility in 2018. Users can track their progress and get running insights to both their smartwatches and phones. All the data is synchronised between the two devices.
Source: Play Store
Lifesum is among the most popular Wear OS-compatible nutrition apps. Users can add their meals and monitor their calorie intake on a smartwatch. The app also informs users how many calories they have left for the day.
Sleep as Android
Wearables are capable of tracking sleep. With Sleep as Android, users get a smart alarm which adjusts to their sleep patterns. The app also measures heart rate and pulse. It provides a battery optimisation mode but there are still complaints about the program draining battery life.
The pill reminder app Medisafe added Wear OS support as early as in 2014. The app not only sets notifications about drug intake but also gathers health data from other apps.
This sun safety guide provides information on the UV Index and reminds users about vitamin D intake. It gathers real-time data, makes forecasts, and suggests the best protection time so people don’t get sunburnt.
The craving for productivity is probably the hallmark of modern society. Since people can hardly imagine tracking their tasks without a smartphone app, the emergence of to-do programs for wearables was only a matter of time.
Any.do functions on a host of devices, providing synchronisation between them all. The basic app is free and the premium version costs $2.99 per month. The paid subscription enables customisable themes, attachments, and location-based reminders − it makes more sense to get these benefits for the desktop or mobile versions. On a wearable device, users can plan their day, make grocery lists by dictating items, or receive notifications right to their wrists.
This native application for Android devices also features lists and notes which are synchronised between a computer, a phone, and a smartwatch. It’s possible to add or modify notes, schedule reminders, and pin or hide items on Wear OS. Google Keep recently removed the ‘open on phone’ shortcut but users see no reason for the change.
Similar apps including WearTasker, Bring!, and OurGroceries are also helpful but aren’t as popular among smartwatch owners.
Controlling playlists from the wrist seems like a practical step, especially for people who listen to music on the go. Most popular music streaming services like Spotify work on smartwatches. Here are some of the other contenders for best Wear OS apps in the entertainment field.
Wear Music Controller
This app allows users to control their music from a smartwatch, set the volume, and modify playlists. It supports a variety of platforms with music, podcasts, and audiobooks including free options like SoundCloud and paid like Audible. The app itself offers a four-day trial and then asks users to purchase a license.
EchoWear is a Shazam alternative available on wearable devices. It was among the first programs developed for Android Wear but shortly after, Shazam also became compatible with smartwatches. Both apps make song identification fast and easy.
Wear Casts, as the name suggests, is dedicated to podcasts. It allows users to create playlists and it notifies users when new episodes are released. The application lacks many improvements, such as flexible controls. It has also been noted that the media widget functioned incorrectly after using Wear Casts.
This may come as a surprise but some people use their wearables to write messages and read texts. Coffee was the first messaging app for smartwatches and featured a number of preset messages so users could react immediately. Now, Wear OS supports major communication platforms like Facebook Messenger and Telegram and offers voice actions along with the keyboard.
It’s one thing when people exchange short messages on a smartwatch, but reading a whole book on such a small screen seems unnatural, to put it mildly. Wear Reader allows people to upload books and then display them one word at a time. It seems more reasonable to synchronise audiobooks with a smartwatch; NavBooks is the most popular app for that.
It’s already common practice to have remote control over a property and the ability to monitor kids and pets while one isn’t at home. But people want further digitisation of such features and would appreciate being able to manage their smart home technologies and cameras via a wearable device.
This app allows users to monitor their home cameras. It’s a cross-device solution but its free version isn’t available for Wear OS. With tinyCam Monitor Pro, users get additional functions along with the smartwatch app including motion and face detection, video recording, TV support, and so on.
Listens for Alexa
There’s no native app to manage Amazon’s Alexa on Wear OS, even though opportunities to do so were introduced on Samsung smartwatch and CoWatch. Listens to Alexa accesses the Amazon assistant from any Android device, including wearables. It’s a convenient tool for those with several smart devices voice controlled by Alexa. The app supports many features such as alarm setting alarms and searching for information.
IFTTT stands for ‘If This Then That’ and refers to the interaction between different services. The application creates applets which connect various devices and apps into one manageable ecosystem. For instance, users can get emails when their smartwatch completes a new action or get notified on their wearable about the phone’s battery level. Practically everything, including social networks, thermostats, and smart speakers, can be synchronised with wearables via IFTTT.
Although it seems very practical, not many people use wearable apps to monitor their smart home setups. Due to that fact, Google disabled the Nest app for Wear OS. The program connecting security systems is still available on smartphones, though.
Smartwatches can be really convenient while travelling. With applications to track location, build routes, and share data, it’s easy to manage trips and quickly acclimatise to new places. While performing all these actions on a phone is what modern travellers already do, facilitating the process with wearables is on its way to wide acceptance.
Citymapper builds a route for a set destination and finds relevant buses and other means of transportation. The app shows an approximate schedule for buses and allows tracking, showing the bus stops a user has or hasn’t yet reached.
Foursquare is a travelling companion which helps find cafes, restaurants, and other places of interest. It supports voice search and sends push notifications when a user is near a place worth visiting.
Uber introduced a standalone app for wearables in 2017. It features the very same functions as a smartphone app, allowing users to request a ride, see the details, and track the car’s progress.
App in the Air
This flight tracker sends updates and facilitates check-in right on a user’s wrist. It also includes airport maps and tips.
Mobile wallets become a revolutionary means of payment, giving people the opportunity to manage their payments without dealing with physical wallets and cards every transaction. It seems that the time is ripe for the adoption of payments via wearables.
Stocard stores both loyalty and payment cards. Users can type the number of their card or scan the barcode to add it to the database. Those details can then be applied to payments, right from the user’s wrist.
LevelUp is a restaurant app helping businesses connect with customers and make their payments faster. To process payments, this app uses a QR code loaded onto a smartwatch. Payments which are enabled by a simple hand movement are probably the easiest way to buy a meal.
The size of the smartwatch face doesn’t readily lend itself to games. However, many popular games have a Wear OS version. There are simple apps like Roll the Dice, which throws dice in case people don’t have any handy, as well as complex games with storylines like Space War.
Infinity Loop is one of the most interesting examples and probably the most suitable game for a wearable. This relaxing game became a hit on smartphones and now is available on wearables as well. By creating looping patterns, users have fun and relieve daily stress.
Google and Apple are two smartwatch brands who have been involved in software competition for years. After five years of smartwatches existing, the situation is still in Apple Watch’s favour. It appears that Apple chose a better approach by introducing distinguishable products, while Google has been supplying its software to several dozen brands, making no flagship device. In 2018, 17 brands released 21 distinct smartwatches.
What’s more, the typical complaints about Android Wear’s functionality didn’t disappear, even after the latest Wear OS updates. Poor battery life, which is one of the major gripes, is still a problem. Some Wear OS improvements are not considered particularly helpful. For example, the addition of Tiles is useful to a certain extent as only Google services can have Tiles while third-party developers can’t make their own. Also, with the Apple Watch update coming in fall 2019, smartwatch apps will work independently from iPhones. This may motivate Android users to buy an Apple Watch instead of a wearable powered by Wear OS.
Google’s partnership with the watch brand Fossil looked promising but the company reported a drop in sales of their smartwatch. It was also discovered that one in three Android Wear owner uses an iPhone, even though wearables better synchronise with smartphones powered by the same OS. All these facts show a lower level of trust in Google’s software, and, at the same time, Apple Watch continues to top sales records.
This doesn’t mean that Wear OS is completely lacking in positive. It’s estimated that 37 million smartwatches powered by this OS will be produced by 2022, which shows that people worldwide expect to use these wearables. It’s especially intriguing to see whether the Pixel Watch release, planned for autumn 2019, will change the market.
If you find the wearables industry attractive and have an app idea in mind, we’ll be happy to discuss the development details. Smartwatches are still in their infancy so there’s plenty of room for growth in the wearable app market.