Android Wear smartwatches do a good job of delivering notifications and other alerts to your wrist, but the fun really starts when you start downloading apps that add additional functionality. Although the selection of Android Wear apps is small for now, there are already some pretty compelling options in the Google Play store. You can order food right from your watch, get car service, keep tabs on your fitness and more.
Before you get going, you'll need to download the full apps to your Android phone. The best part is that all of these options are free (so far). You'll need to make sure you've set up an account in each service before you open the apps on the smartwatch. All of these should be seen as companion apps, rather than stand-alone programs. Here are the best Android Wear apps so far.
AlltheCooks is a social network of sorts, dedicated to those with a love of cooking. Through the phone app you can share and browse recipes. Favorite those dishes that sound promising or create a shopping list for tonight's dinner. The meal planner section can make a busy parent's life much easier. There are forums, messages and news feeds that make for an incredibly robust app.
When it comes to the Android Wear component, it's simple and wonderfully helpful. Once you favorite a recipe you can send it to your watch. From there you can head to the store and leave your phone in your bag. Swipe from right to left to go from the ingredient list to step-by-step directions (each on its own screen).
IFTTT, short for If This Then That, connects events into a simple statement that triggers an action. For instance, if the EPA says that the UV Index today will be 6 or 7 today, an Android Wear watch will alert its wearer, reminding him to apply sunscreen. These recipes, as they are called, can range in subject matter from stock prices to Craigslist posts or your calendar. Just imagine never forgetting to call Mom on her birthday again because your watch reminded you. Priceless.
The friendly little green bird logo immediately puts you at ease with the daunting idea of learning a new language. And the rest of the app is just as simple. Duolingo works with a combination of images, spoken words and text to teach you Spanish, German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian and Dutch. The Android Wear extension of this app creates handy flashcards to keep you fresh between lessons.
It's raining and you're never going to find a cab. No worries. You don't even have to take your phone from your pocket to order a car. Just tap your Android Wear watch face, swipe up and tap Start. Tap on the Lyft app and your ridesharing car with a fuzzy pink mustache should be arriving at any moment. The Android Wear version of the app will send you notifications about timing and approaching drivers. The service, which offers drivers in personal vehicles, is currently available in 64 U.S. cities (but not New York).
For podcast junkies, the Player FM app is a definite must-have. Through the app you can discover, download and import audio files from all the big names, including This American Life and RadioLab. New episodes can be saved for later listening as well. When you open the app on your Android Wear smartwatch, you can control the playback; start, stop, next and previous.
Eat24, the online food delivery service, is giving Seamless and GrubHub a run for your money. The slick mobile app remembers your credit card info, locations and past orders for quick re-ordering. We had trouble finding a delivery restaurant that wasn't an option. With a tap of a finger on an Android Wear smartwatch we instantly re-ordered our previous Chinese food eats. It doesn't get easier than this.
The hyper-popular dating app Tinder has come to smartwatches -- everything's just smaller. Opening the app instantly recognizes members in your area, allowing you to swipe right or left to like or dislike a prospective single. On each profile you'll see if you know anyone in common, the person's age and first name. Tapping a profile allows you to see whatever description the person may have added. Now the only time you'll need the full smartphone app will be to update your app settings or change your profile.
Turning your Android Wear watch into a running partner, the Runtastic app can help you stay fit and trim. Opening the app from the watch activates the program on your phone. You can begin and end workout sessions from your wrist and get a report on how you performed. The app will track distance covered, calories burned and your average pace. You'll also be able to check today's performance against your workout history. Just keep in mind that you'll need to run with your phone, too.