10 awesome Android Wear apps you won't find on Google's list

Developers are all over this smartwatch thing, and some of the new apps are great.

android wear apps
Credit: Ryan Whitwam
The coolest apps aren't in the official list

Android Wear has been available for barely a month, and already developers are cranking out really interesting apps with new functionality. Of course, some apps are aiming to fix some of the issues with Wear.

Google has featured a number of high-profile Android Wear apps in the Play Store, but some of the best stuff has escaped Mountain View's notice. Let's check out ten of the coolest, most useful Android Wear apps so far.

wear mini launcher
Wear Mini Launcher

Opening apps on Android Wear can be frustrating, especially if you aren't in a place where you can talk to your wrist. Wear Mini Launcher adds a slide-out panel with all your apps to the Android Wear homescreen. It also provides access to quick options like brightness, and settings toggles for the phone your watch is connected to. You can choose where the gesture area goes, though the default top-right makes the most sense to me.

Wear Mini Launcher (Free)

wearlock app
WearLock

Google demoed an Android L feature at Google I/O 2014 that will allow you to keep your phone unlocked when your smartwatch is attached, but WearLock lets you do most of the same things right now on older versions of Android. This app sets the watch as a trusted Bluetooth device and asks for your password only when the watch isn't connected. It doesn't work with a pattern lock (an Android restriction), but it's still a real timesaver.

WearLock ($2)

wear app tracker
Wear Apps Tracker

Another common complaint about Wear apps is that you can't tell when one is installed, updated, or removed. Wear Apps Tracker adds exactly that functionality. It will alert you with a card on the watch each time an app on your Wear device changes. It even shows the name of the app so you won't be left wondering. It's absolutely essential if you're playing with a lot of apps.

Wear Apps Tracker (Free)

pixtocam
PixtoCam

Google's stock camera app can add a shutter button to Android Wear, but PixtoCam goes much further. This app produces a live viewfinder on the watch that can be used to snap photos and videos with autofocus and zoom controls. PixtoCam can even be activated while the phone is asleep.

PixtoCam ($2)

shopping list app
Shopping List

Shopping List is mostly a regular Android app (with a boring name), but it now comes with a full-featured Wear component. The items added to your lists are all accessible from the watch as a series of cards. Simply swipe them away as you make your way around the store, and each change is synced to the phone.

Shopping List (Free, $4 Pro)

display brightness for wear
Display Brightness for Wear

Neither the G Watch nor the Gear Live have ambient light sensors, meaning you have to manually change the brightness like a caveman. Display Brightness for Wear can fake auto-brightness by monitoring sunrise and sunset times in your location and adjusting brightness accordingly. It also knows if you're driving, in which case it cranks the brightness as well. There are no settings to mess with, but it seems to work as advertised.

Display Brightness for Wear (Free)

better wear face app
Better Wear Face

Google has yet to release the official Wear watch face API, so most of the early watch face apps are busted in various ways. One of the few that doesn't require you to make a bunch of compromises is Better Wear Face. This one app includes text and digital watch faces with customizable backgrounds and optional weather. It isn't even covered up by the taller Wear cards, like so many other watch face apps.

Better Wear Face (Free)

wear aware app
Wear Aware

An Android Wear watch connects to the phone over Bluetooth, making it a handy Bluetooth tether as well. If you walk away from your phone, Wear Aware will vibrate the watch to let you know the connection has been lost. If your phone goes for an unauthorized expedition in the couch cushions, you can also launch the phone app to make the phone ring.

Wear Aware (Free)

wearable widgets app
Wearable Widgets

Android Wear's interface is based on cards, but that doesn't mean you can't throw a few widgets in there too. Wearable Widgets lets you mirror any widget from your phone to the watch. They work just like they would on the regular Android home screen with all the functionality intact, carried over to the phone.

Wearable Widgets (Free, $2 Pro)

link bubble app
Link Bubble

Link Bubble is a phone app that loads pre-loads web pages for you in floating bubbles that work a bit like Facebook chat heads. You can stack them up and open the page on top of what you're doing when you want to check them. This app has just added Wear functionality that lets you sync a text-only version of all your bubbles to the watch so you can read short articles without taking your phone out.

Link Bubble (Free, $2.50 Pro)