Even the best Android Wear apps aren’t good

I got a Moto 360 a few weeks ago and have been using it daily since. See the watch review here, the Android Wear review here and a comparison between Google’s and Apple’s implementations here. And now, the final look of this mini-series: third party apps.

Here’s the bottom line — they’re not very good.

I downloaded a bunch but will only talk about three that I ended up keeping, sorta: OneNote, RunKeeper and Wear Mini Launcher.

OneNote

android wear onenote

You can use voice to take notes with your Android Wear watch, which can be useful when you need to remind yourself to buy milk, pick something up, and so on. Given my vested interest in OneNote because of the Surface Pro 3, no brainer right?

I almost deleted this app.

At first, it just didn’t work. Voice-dictated notes didn’t save in OneNote even though the watch says it did. I even went to the length of downloading Google Keep as an alternative.

Then I realized what was happening. I hadn’t specified a “default” notebook in OneNote — primarily because I never had to, and was never asked to — so notes weren’t saved.

How did I know this? OneNote flashed a brief error message on my phone. For like a second, before it permanently vanished.

That’s dumb on several levels:

  1. The message is almost impossible to catch unless you’re looking for it because it’s so fast and doesn’t leave a record. Plus, the whole idea of the watch is so you don’t have to look at your phone, so few will be looking at the phone in expectation of an error message.
  2. It’s not explained anywhere how to make a notebook the default (hint: long press).
  3. Specifying a default shouldn’t be necessary — OneNote already has “Unfiled Notes” which would serve this purpose perfectly fine.

Argh!

RunKeeper

This works like how you’d expect it to. It’s OK.

I’ve barely used it however, primarily because the Moto 360 isn’t exactly the kind of device I’d like to go jogging with. It’s uncomfortable and the leather band feels gross when you sweat.

In future, when Android Wear devices get more diverse to take into account various use cases, I’m sure RunKeeper will be more useful. But all the Android Wear devices today are more watches than fitness bands, so I don’t expect many wearers will find RunKeeper that enticing yet.

That’s no fault of the app though.

Runtastic is a viable alternative to RunKeeper, but I went with RunKeeper because Runtastic killed me with notifications.

Wear Mini Launcher

I wrote before how Android Wear eschews the traditional app launcher paradigm in mobile to one driven by voice, and secondly by a list of actions. The app launcher is buried in a list of lists.

Wear Mini Launcher is an interesting app that changes that. With Wear Mini Launcher, you can view a selection of apps like you’d expect from Android phones (and Apple Watch). I was impressed with its execution and feature set. You can customize the appearance quite a bit and it even has a shortcuts menu for adjusting volume, brightness, so on.

Unfortunately, Wear Mini Launcher was bad for my Moto 360. It crashed a lot with the Wear Mini Launcher installed. That and the fact that there weren’t many apps I wanted to even use on Android Wear meant even this relatively useful tool got uninstalled.

It’s still early days, but so far, Android Wear lacks a killer third party app. Smartwatches still have a long way to go.

One thought on “Even the best Android Wear apps aren’t good

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