I’ve been an Android Wear user since the day the original G Watch hit shelves. This is not a badge of honor of course, I’ve just been unnervingly obsessed with the smartwatch for some time. Since then, Android Wear has gotten so, so much better. The recent update to Android 5.1.1 was a big step forward for the platform and righted a number of wrongs that Google let slip out of the gate. Android Wear now has an easier way to access apps, it’s quicker (at least on my Moto 360, anyway) and we have WiFi to help fill in the gaps of connectivity. Some apps can now even run in an ambient mode, sticking notes and such on your watch face without opening up your watch. That’s great and all, but why is it so difficult to find new apps for Android Wear?
If we take a look at the official way of finding apps, this is best done through the Android Wear app. There’s a new listing in recent updates called “Essential Wear Apps”, hitting more next to that takes you to the Play Store. Things have improved here, there are a number of different categories of Android Wear apps and the “Communication Apps” has some good stuff in it right now, however it’s still not good enough. The “What’s Hot” section has 15 apps in it, and they’re mostly old or irrelevant to me. Runtastic, Golfshot, Map My Run and Delta are all great apps, but they’ve been around a long, long time. It’s almost as if Google doesn’t see any of these new apps. This is a common theme in this “store-within-a-store”, each category seems to top out pretty quickly, as if the limited selection is all the Android Wear games out there. It’s a young platform, I get that, and I understand that Google is perhaps trying to highlight better apps. Still, I would like to decide just which is “better” myself, and to do that I need more choice.
There’s no distinction between just Android Wear apps and those that have a Wear extension. This is a double-edged sword, as it’s nice to mix the two together, but ultimately those that have gone looking for Wear apps aren’t going to try out Evernote because they suddenly see it has an Android Wear element. One of my most used Android Wear apps is Wear Sticky Notes. It basically puts a sticky note on your wrist. This would go in the “Tools” section in the Play Store. Looking on my phone, it’s not there. In fact, it’s not in any of categories, yet it is very much alive in the Play Store. How can Google expect developers to jump on the Android Wear train if only a handful of blessed apps will end up in the most likely place for a user to find and install said Android Wear apps?
Now, looking at the unofficial ways of finding apps, the best app I have found for this is Wear Store, which has been around for some time now. This little gem makes finding piping hot apps ad watch faces a breeze, it is a little clunky at times, but I’m sure the developer has done their best around Google’s API. Other apps present recently updated Wear apps as “new” which isn’t strictly true, and I’m not sure if this is a developer decision or a bug. Either way, it’s less than ideal.
Google has an opportunity with the power inside of Android Wear devices (which most run a Snapdragon 400 CPU) but the selection of apps in the Play Store is generic and stunted. To get developers to write great apps, and I’m sure the best are yet to come, Google needs to better highlight the weird and wonderful that exists in their app store that they leave the gates open of.