With thousands of Android Wear apps available and Android Wear 2.0 just around the corner, there's no excuse for settling for the basic features that comes built into your Android Wear smartwatch. Whether you own a Polar M600, Asus ZenWatch 3 or Nixon The Mission; or you're waiting on the newer LG Watch Sport and LG Watch Style.
A good Android Wear app should give some serious added value to your newest gadget, take you away from your smartphone, and generally make your life a lot easier.
Essential reading: The best smartwatches for women
Still, some Wear apps that sound promising just don't cut it once downloaded and the most popular apps on Google Play are actually watch faces. To save you time, we've rounded up our favourite apps to install straight away.
Made for Android Wear 2.0
With Android Wear 2.0 now landing, we're starting off with the apps that have been enhanced for the new OS, often adding features that let them better stand alone from your smartphone. Many still have Wear 1.0 versions, but you won't benefit from the enhancements of their native-running updates.
The overhauled Foursquare app on Android Wear 2.0 is a delight to use, with easy navigation helping you find the best food, drink and activities in your local area. There's a handful of complications to choose from too, meaning you can get straight to the top coffee spots in the area with one easy tap.
Free, Download Foursquare app
Strava has given its app an update for Android Wear 2.0, letting it work on the watch independently. For devices like the LG Watch Sport, which include built-in GPS and LTE, this means you can now track your runs and biking sessions sans smartphone. It also gives you another fitness platform to choose from besides the default Google's Fit app.
Even on Wear 2.0 you'll still need the phone app to get Nest working, but once they're paired you can use your watch to control your home heating (assuming you do, in fact, have a Nest thermostat of course). So what makes it better on Wear 2.0? Rotational input, friends. Assuming your watch has a digital crown like the LG Watch Sport and Style, you'll be able to use it to adjust the temperature. It's the little things that matter.
Free, Download Nest app
Glide's phone app wants to make sending and receiving video messages as basic as texting, and on the Android Wear app, enhanced for Wear 2.0, you can watch video and hear audio from your conversations. You can also send back audio if your watch is rocking a mic like the LG Watch Sport's.
Free, Download Glide app
If you want to keep track of your food intake, Lifesum gets even more handy on Android Wear 2.0 as you don't just get to track independently on your wrist, but you also get complication widgets for the watch face. Keeping tabs on those calories is now more simple.
Free, Download Lifesum app
The rest on this list are our picks of the best Android Wear apps. They'll all run on Wear 2.0, but right now we don't know if they will be any more enhanced for the update in the future.
An obvious candidate for wrist-based access, Shazam's Android app now has full Android Wear support. You can use your smartwatch to launch the app (set it in settings to start tagging on launch), then the tracks will appear in the main smartphone app. Handy if you have only seconds to spare before a track ends and you're fumbling for your phone.
Despite the small screen size and limited input options offered by Android Wear devices, there are some pretty neat games for Google-powered smartwatches, including PaperCraft. The game is set in space but your ship is made of paper and so are all the bad guys you have to blast your way through. A lot of fun if you've got a bit of time to fill.
Free, Download PaperCraft app
There are several music player options for Android Wear but we like CloudPlayer because it comes with a fantastic Android app as well. You can use it offline or with OneDrive, Dropbox and Google Drive, and it essentially lets you build your own personal Spotify with your own MP3 files. The Android Wear app gives you instant control from your wrist.
Free, Download CloudPlayer app
IF by IFTTT
IFTTT stands for 'If This Then That', and enables you to link apps together to create applets to perform certain actions – for example, IF your weather app says it's going to rain THEN tell your Philips Hue lights to turn blue. The IF Android Wear app enables you to automate a host of tasks such as sending automated SMS messages by tapping your smartwatch.
Free, Download IF by IFTTT app
Your wristwatch might not be the ideal device for getting through large chunks of reading but if you do have to browse through an article or two then Wear Reader is the perfect option, giving you the ability to read ePub, PDF, Word and plain text documents one word at a time. You can set your own word rate and there's a handy night mode available too.
Free, Download Wear Reader app
The world's most famous streaming music service has made its way onto Android Wear at last, though you can only control playback somewhere else (on your phone or another device linked via Spotify Connect) – you can't actually sync music to your watch yet. Still, it's a capable little player, and lets you switch between your recent Spotify playlists.
Hole19 is one of the most comprehensive Android golf assistants and the Android Wear extension provides distance details for more than 34,000 courses around the world. The app itself is extremely in-depth, but as getting your phone out on the course is a big no-no, you'll be better off making use of the distance scoring features on your smartwatch.
Free, Download Hole 19 app
If wanting to be able to send SMS messages is high on your list of 'tasks I need to be able to do on my smartwatch' then Wear Messenger is well worth considering and offers a useful alternative to Google's own app. It comes with several keyboard options, voice input, customisable alerts and the option to send quick responses to your contacts.
Out of the many fitness tracking apps that work with Android Wear, RunKeeper is one of the best options for tracking the miles you're putting in around the park. It's the app's comprehensiveness that's most impressive – it monitors pace, distance, elevation and calories burned, and works with your walks and cycling trips as well as your runs.
Free, Download RunKeeper app
A no brainer: the popular notes and reminders app (which you probably have on your phone already) has been reworked to give you glanceable info on your Android Wear watch. Everything is clean and simple with some full background images, but otherwise it's just checking off to-dos with taps and adding new reminders with voice control.
Wear Audio Recorder
If you're in a lecture or an interview, or someone is just spouting hilarious nonsense on the train, you can quickly record the sound around you using this simple app. Following the Google Material design guidelines, it lets you sync to both Google Drive and Dropbox, and you can even record with the screen display off if you'd prefer people not to realise.
You're probably already familiar with TripAdvisor, and the wealth of local info and user reviews it offers can come in very handy when you're travelling around – and of course it's often much easier to glance at your wrist than get your phone out. Read reviews, get directions, find things to do in the area where you are, all from your watch's display.
Wrist-based computing lends itself to quick, uncomplicated actions – such as checking off items on a to-do list, for example. Enter the aptly named Todoist, already a well-respected app for smartphones and the web, which makes the switch to Android Wear seamlessly, enabling you to bring up and clear your list of current tasks with a few taps of your finger.
Free, Download Todoist app
If you're looking for something akin to the relaxation exercises available on the Apple Watch, then Calm could be the Android Wear app you're looking for: it helps you to meditate, relax and even sleep more soundly, and you can choose between different times and sessions for the exercises (anything from two minutes to a 21-day course).
Free, Download Calm app
Sleep As Android
We're big fans of Sleep As Android, which lets you monitor your sleep patterns just by placing your smartphone on your mattress at night. If you have an Android Wear watch then the app can give you even more data on how you're sleeping: activate the wearable option inside the phone app and you can then start sleep tracking from either device.
Aeris Wear Weather
One of the best weather apps we've seen for Android Wear is Aeris Wear Weather. It brings with it a choice of classy weather widget options, a live satellite view, short-term and long-term forecasts, severe weather warnings and more, right on your wrist. The main Android app is very useful as well, although some features do require an in-app purchase.
Feel the Wear
Feel The Wear is a very handy, Android Wear-specific utility that lets you adjust the alerts you get on your smartwatch – if you've ever wished that WhatsApp would notify you in a different way to Snapchat, get this app installed and customise the alerts as you see fit. If you upgrade to a premium account inside the app you can even upload your own sounds.
Google Maps does a fine job already on Android Wear, but if you're in a part of the world that enjoys Citymapper coverage, this app is arguably even better if you're trying to get around via public transport. You can get live updates on buses, trains and trams, as well as precise directions right on your wrist. You need never be stuck at the wrong stop again.
Free, Download Citymapper app
Fluenty is one of the more inventive Android Wear apps we've come across – it generates AI-powered responses to the messages you receive, saving you the trouble of doing any typing or getting your phone out. It works with Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Hangouts, SMS and more, and is usually pretty good at guessing what you might want to say.
Free, Download Fluenty app
This simply turns your smartwatch into a viewfinder for the camera app on your smartphone, so you can set up your phone for a selfie and then use your Android Wear screen to check you're in shot. You can also access features like the flash settings, self-timer and zoom, and there's also the option to take the shot from your wrist.
$1.99, Download PixtoCam app
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