Smartwatches are on everyone's minds right now -- but you know what? "Revolutionary" as it may be, that one watch isn't the only wearable out there.
Here in the land of wearables that don't include $17,000 devices, we're seeing some exciting stuff in terms of both promising new hardware choices and fresh app options. While everyone else oohs and ahhs over Apple's latest offering, I thought it'd be a fine time to talk about two of my favorite things in the land of Android Wear -- things that have made my own Wear watch even more enjoyable and could do the same for yours.
Our first item, as you may have guessed from its name, is a custom watch face for Android Wear devices. Big deal, right? Well, hang on: You might think it's just another face in a sea of many, but Pujie Black is hands-down one of the most polished, practical, and customizable Wear faces you'll encounter.
The app, which costs all of $1.46, lets you personalize practically every detail of your Wear watch's appearance -- everything from the presence or absence of hands to the size and style of numbers, on-screen text, and minute markings. The face features three customizable indicators that can show things like the weather, your watch and/or phone battery levels, and the current time in alternate locations. Pretty much every element imaginable can be tweaked to look and act the way you like -- or if you don't want to mess with things, the app's default setup is quite nice as well.
Basic design aside, part of what makes Pujie Black so special are the slick animations it adds into the Wear equation. The animations appear as transitions -- when you move from the dimmed-down ambient state into the fully illuminated face, for instance, or when you tap the center of your watch to view upcoming calendar events (another function Pujie Black enables).
Keeping with the face's customization-heavy focus, you can opt to disable any or all of those animations if you want. I've been using 'em on my Moto 360 for a while now, though, and haven't noticed any significant effects on battery life. I'm still making it through full days of use without any problems.
Most watch faces are a dime a dozen, but Pujie Black isn't your average item. If you're looking for something sleek, powerful, and insanely customizable, it's well worth giving a whirl.
Android Wear is all about voice control, which makes sense for a wrist-based device most of the time -- but not always. Sometimes, it's awkward or even impossible to speak into your arm when you want to send a message.
That's where Coffee comes in. The free app takes over texting on your Wear device and gives you an easy way to send predefined messages on the fly in addition to dictating by voice.
When you receive a new message, Coffee shows a notification on your watch, as you'd expect. But that's where things take a twist: When you open the notification, the app gives you an expandable list of category-based quick responses along with a standard microphone icon so you can reply with whatever method's most convenient at that moment.
When you want to start a new text message, you can call up Coffee on demand by using one of the app's available launch gestures. I set it to be a long-press on the top-right corner of my watch's face, between the 1:00 and 2:00 hour marker. Anytime I touch and hold that area of the screen, Coffee pops up with circles showing my favorite contacts (as defined by me in its companion phone app); I can then tap any of the faces and scroll through a list of ready-to-send messages custom-tailored to that person.
Coffee makes it easy to change the default responses and to define custom sets of messages for certain contacts or situations. The companion phone app has some other interesting features, too, like the ability to set custom vibration patterns for notifications from different people so you know who's texting before you even glance at your watch.
All in all, there's an awful lot to like about this app. It fills a gap in Android Wear's functionality and gives you more ways to communicate while keeping with the platform's quick-interaction spirit. I've been sending messages from my watch far more frequently since installing it.