APPLE this month released a faster, smarter Apple Watch and also sped up its first-generation smartwatch with a faster chip. The speed increase will help watch apps run more smoothly, and plenty of great software is available to take the improved watches for a test drive.
One Apple Watch app that is immediately interesting for its simplicity is Glimpse. The new free app essentially replaces your regular time display with a photo drawn from online sources.
Each time you raise your wrist to check the time, Glimpse drops a different photo onto the display. Itâs like a constant feed of news and social media updates, in tiny bite-size form. Glimpse can be connected to content sources like CNN, National Geographic and Time magazine.
There is also an option to connect your Pinterest and Twitter accounts. Glimpse grabs images from these sources, updating them throughout the day.
You can, of course, still see the time and other information like the weather and your exercise status using Appleâs built-in complications feature.
Things offers interactive lists that help manage your daily life, including work tasks with a deadline, shopping lists and personal goals.
The main interface of Things is on your iPhone, where you build a suite of to-do lists, adding a headline title and notes, deadlines and so on. You can see the lists on your watch, where you can mark items as read and add items by voice. The voice recognition feature works well, even in noisy environments like a busy aisle in a supermarket, though you do have to get over the embarrassment of talking to your watch. Things is $ 10.
Babel, the language-learning app, is also on Apple Watch, and uses a clever trick to teach new words and phrases. The app detects where you are and shows relevant words and phrases in the form of a language quiz on the watch screen. For example, as I sat in a cafe in Portugal, Babel set up a quiz asking what the Portuguese word âaÃ§Ãºcarâ meant. I correctly tapped âsugar.â
Youâre not going to become fluent using this watch app alone, but its short, context-based language learning quizzes can help words stick in your memory. Babel is free.
Built-in GPS is the signature new feature on the Apple Watch Series 2, and one of the first apps to take advantage of the sensor will be ViewRanger. This is a popular hiking and biking app that does a good job of routing you across the countryside and tracking your trekking progress. It shows navigational information and statistics, and buzzes when you need to make a turn.
With a coming update, ViewRanger will work with the new Apple Watchâs GPS system for even more precise location awareness. As long as you preset your route before entering the wilderness, the app will work without your phoneâs needing a cellphone signal; your phone could even be turned off to preserve battery power. ViewRanger is free.
Games on the Apple Watch have always been a bit halfhearted, but the new Field Day app works well on the deviceâs tiny screen. You manage a farm, planting crops in a field to fill orders placed for products like carrots and grain. You control the cartoon-style game via the watchâs touch screen and rotating crown, which takes a bit of getting used to, but feels natural after a while.
Sometimes you will be sent to your iPhoneâs Field Day app to, for example, chat to the baker about what he would like you to grow for him. On the whole, this is a simple game that is fun and free.
Last, for a peek into a potential future for online shopping, check out Fancy. This is an image-based free shopping app that shows a wide variety of attractive (and sometimes strange) clothes and other products, and you can select things to buy right on your wrist. Some of the prices are astonishing. In general I would see this as more of a shopping experiment than a regular app, but itâs worth a look.
Tinder is widely known for online dating, but its new Tinder Stacks app for Apple iMessage has nothing to do with finding love. Instead, the app uses Tinderâs famous swipe-left or swipe-right interface to let friends vote on collections of photos you share inside a chat message.
Verne: The Himalayas is a fun educational app thatâs new and free on Android. Using Googleâs 3-D mapping data, the app lets you take control of a cartoon yeti and run, skate or fly around the famous mountain range, learning about locations as you go.