Earlier this month users finally got their hands on the first wearable devices running Google’s brand new operating system for wearable technology called Android Wear. The first wave of gadgets is the smartwatch, but more are surely coming.
Now that Android Wear devices like the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live are readily available to users, we’re starting to see a few faults and problems with it as a whole. There is a lot to love about Android Wear, and the voice controls do a lot of things extremely well, but one big problem is launching apps on the device.
Obviously not all apps run on the small screens of Android Wear-powered devices, but the ones that do aren’t very easy to access. Not right now at least. Getting notifications, call alerts, weather details and more is extremely simple, but launching some of the many apps that are compatibly with Android Wear is very difficult. This is a major problem with the overall UI design, and a new app has arrived to fix it.
One of the many things that makes Android great is the amount of customization at any given moment. From widgets, custom fonts and ROMs, to even simple things like a home launcher replacement. Using a custom 3rd party launcher is nothing new to Android, but this weekend the first home launcher for Android Wear debuted, called Wear Mini Launcher.
From any of our hands-on or how to videos of Android Wear, you probably noticed opening apps isn’t very easy. You have to use voice commands like “Ok Google” then say start, then scroll through the apps until you find what you want. Android Wear is designed to be easy and simple, and it is, but there’s no app tray for opening apps like most smartphones and tablets these days.
Having to tap, swipe, and flip through settings and use your voice isn’t ideal for opening apps like Google Keep, games like Flopsy Droid for Android Wear, or any of the other apps. As a result we now have an app to fix these big issues. Wear Mini Launcher curbs this entire problem, at least until Google releases an Android Wear update with an improved user experience.
The brand new Wear Mini Launcher shown above gets users to all their apps, mini apps, and Android Wear settings with just a simple swipe. The entire interface and Android Wear experience is unaffected, but a swipe from the top left opens a tray of sorts, similar to opening the app tray on most Android smartphones and tablets.
Swiping from the left also removes Google Now notifications and cards that show up on Android Wear. Like weather alerts, missed calls, incoming texts and more, so don’t accidentally clear notifications while trying to launch the Wear Mini Launcher. Users and developers are slowly starting to see some of the cons to using such a small display on a wrist, but again, Android Wear is brand new and still in its infancy.
The Wear Mini Launcher has already been updated with improvements, easy toggle sliders for brightness, and we can expect much more to arrive in the coming days or weeks. This is just one app of many for Android Wear and as the platform expands and improves we’ll likely see more and more continue to arrive.
So far the LG G Watch and Samsung Gear Live are the only two Android Wear devices available, but we’re expecting the Moto 360 to arrive in August, and potentially a watch from Fossil, HTC, and others in the near future.