Google has been busy packing new functionality into Android Wear 2.0, and though smartwatches — like any new piece of tech — have a learning curve, they’re quickly becoming more practical with each and every iteration. To that point, here are some essential tips to get the most out of your Android Wear smartwatch, whether you want to listen to music offline, dim the display, or take copious notes.
More: The 5 best Android Wear devices right now
Install new watch faces
The watch face is the most important part of a smartwatch, and you’ll want to make sure you pick ones suitable to your tastes as there may only be a limited collection pre-installed on your watch. Google has a catalog of hand-picked watch faces in the Google Play Store, and you can even access a “Featured Watch Faces” section in the Wear Play Store on your watch. All you need to do is download the app from your phone or watch and it’ll appear as a choice when you’re switching watch faces.
Switch between watch faces
Once watch faces are installed, it’s extremely easy to switch between them — which is perfect for those who might want to use different faces in different situations. Simply swipe from the left or right from your current watch face to navigate between all of them. If you want to get rid of a watch face, swipe it up or down in this screen. Scroll all the way to the right and you’ll see an icon that allows you to add more watch faces — click here to find and add any new watch faces you recently downloaded.
Edit your watch face and personalize your device
In Android Wear 2.0, you can customize subdials or “Complications” on your watch face so you can see information like your fitness goals or upcoming calendar events at a glance. You can also change things like background color, and whether you want a notification indicator. To edit your watch face, press down on the background of the face. You’ll then be presented with a few options, including “Styles,” and “Data,” depending on your watch model.
- Hit “Data” or “Layout” to customize your complications. You’ll be presented with a view of the complications you have installed, and you can tap one to change it. Complications vary depending on the apps you have installed, and you can also opt to have none.
- Hit “Styles” to change the color scheme of your watch face.
If your Android Wear smartwatch has more than one button, you can customize what app you want the second button to open. Swipe down from the watch face and tap the gear icon. Scroll down to Personalization, and tap Customize hardware buttons. Here you can choose what app you want each button to open.
Install apps on your watch
With Android Wear 2.0, you can now install stand-alone apps on your watch with the pre-installed Wear Google Play Store. To access all your installed apps, press down on your watch’s main button. To install new ones, scroll to the Google Play Store, and when you tap on it you can scroll through categories and install apps.
Check and manage battery life
Checking the battery life is a cinch. Simply swipe down to see a quick summary of your battery life. If you need more information, go to the Android Wear app on your phone by choosing Settings > Watch Battery. From here you can see how much juice you’ve got left, which apps are burning the most battery, and enable power saving features like dimming and theater mode.
You can still have your phone ring and not your watch
If you’re not impressed by Android Wear’s vibrating notifications you can always mute watch notifications by swiping from the top to the bottom of the watch face. Touch the “do not disturb” icon to mute your watch.
Use Theater Mode to mute and silence notifications
If you’re in the theater and don’t want your watch’s screen to light up during the movie, you can use Theater Mode turn your screen off. Swipe down from the top of the watch face, and depending on your device, you’ll see a watch with a diagonal line over it (Theater Mode) or a brightness indicator. Tap the brightness indicator and you’ll be able to access the same watch indicator — tap on it to trigger Theater Mode. Even if you move your wrist, the screen will not light up now, and you won’t see notifications. To deactivate Theater Mode, press your watch’s main button.
Install a web browser
It’s hard to think of practical reasons for accessing a web browser from a smartwatch, but Wear Internet Browser lets you do just that. You can tap into your phone’s browsing history and access bookmarks. Expect a frustrating experience, though, and you will have to pay for the full version of the app if you want to use this for more than search.
Block notifications from specific apps
You can block notifications for specific apps from your phone. Go to your Android Wear app on your phone, choose Settings > block app notifications. Touch the plus icon then select the apps you want to block.
Dim screen with your palm
Dimming the screen on your Android Wear watch is actually very easy. All you need to do is place your palm over the watch screen until you feel it vibrate. Take your hand off again and you should see a dimmed screen.
Use voice commands
Taking advantage of all that is Android Wear means using voice commands. It all works with Google Assistant, though you won’t find the same features on your phone’s Assistant. Press and hold down your watch’s main button and say your command. On many watches you can also use the classic “OK, Google” voice command to activate Google Assistant. You can Assistant the weather, to place a call, send a text, set a reminder, create an alarm, and more.
Review the list of voice commands
Hold down your power button. A black screen will appear with a the Google Assistant colored dots. Say “show me a list of voice commands.” You’ll then see some suggested commands that you can try. We’ve listed some of our favorites below:
- When is [Valentine’s Day]
- Should I bring a jacket today?
- Who is [the Speaker of the House]
- Show me the stocks for [Sony]
- Set a reminder
- Play [Modern Love]
- Start [stopwatch]
- Define [oxymoron]
Voice texting is easy — activate Google Assistant with the main button or your voice. Then say “Send a text to [insert contact here].” Assuming that person is in your contact list, you’ll be prompted to voice your message. You’ll get a chance to review the content of your message before sending. Google does a pretty good job of transcribing your messages, but it may have some trouble sorting between the three different Kates or four Joes in your contacts.
Take notes with your watch
Android Wear also lets you take notes. Using your voice, you can prompt your watch to transcribe a quick memo by saying “take a note.” The note will then land in your inbox or to Google Keep (if you have it installed). If you don’t want to use your voice to write a note, you can open the Google Keep app, press the “+” icon, and choose the keyboard to write it manually.
Android Wear can be be used for navigation too. Say “Navigate to Mt. Hood” and you’ll get turn commands, but no voice commands. If you need audible assistance, make sure your watch is paired with its smartphone and your phone will provide audio commands.
Updated on 04-12-2017 by Christian de Looper: Updated article to reflect release of Android Wear 2.0.