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Decrypt Android Wear with these 16 essential tips and tricks

Using Android Wear isn’t always easy, but it’s beginning to catch on. Google has been busy packing new functionality into Android Wear, and though smartwatches (like any new tech) have a steep learning curve, they’re quickly becoming more practical. Here are some essential tips to get the most out of your Android Wear smartwatch.

Related: The 5 best Android Wear devices right now

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.

Related: The big problems with Android Wear and how to fix them 

Bring back a card you’ve dismissed from the Context Stream

If you accidently dismiss an important card, swipe down from the top of the screen. The down swipe action will make the dismissing button appear.  Press the button and presto, the card will be retrieved.

LG G Watch R

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 mute icon to mute your watch.

Use Theater Mode to mute and silence notifications

Swipe down from the top of the screen. Then swipe right to left until you see theater mode. Touch to activate. Even if you move your wrist, the screen won’t light up and you won’t see notifications.

  • To deactivate Theater Mode, tap the screen twice quickly. If your watch has a power button, tap the button twice quickly.
  • To temporarily turn off Theater Mode, simply press the power button once. When you release the power button, the watch will resume theater mode.

Use Android Wear’s other modes

  • Sunlight Mode automatically makes the screen brighter. The idea here is that you can more easily see a brighter screen when you’re out on a sunny day. To preserve battery, this mode lasts for a few seconds. Enable sunlight mode by pressing your power button three times quickly. If your watch doesn’t have a power button, swipe down from the top of the screen. Then swipe right to left until you see Sunlight mode. Touch to activate.
  • On phones with Android 5.0 or higher, you can also set up priority notifications which allows you to manage who can interrupt you and at what time. This feature can be set up from your phone by going to Settings > Sound & Notifications > Interruptions. Take note: adjusting priority notifications on your watch will also adjust the notifications on your phone.

Install a Web browser

Wear Internet Browser lets you browse the Web from your watch. You can tap into your phone’s browsing history and access bookmarks. In most cases, however, viewing the Web on the sub-two-inch screen on your wrist will be a frustrating experience.

Listen to music offline

Android Wear lets you store music on on your watch. For now, it’s only available from Google Play, and it’s extra handy (yep) for the gym or morning run. Open Google’s Play Music app on your phone and choose settings, then choose the option labeled “download to Android Wear.” You’ve now enabled your watch to download music from your Play Music App. However, any song marked as available for offline play will appear on both your phone and watch — there’s not a way to separate these yet — it’s a bummer considering the limited space offered on most Android smartwatches.

Android Wear update

Block notifications from specific apps

You can block notifications on your watch by swiping left to right on the context stream until you see the card Block App. 

If this doesn’t work — you can also block 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

Putting your palm completely over the watch screen until the watch vibrates.

Use Google Now

Taking advantage of all that is Android Wear means using Google Now and voice commands. It’s one of the most valuable and effective ways to interface with Android OS.

LG G Watch R

Review the list of Google Now commands

Say “Ok Google.” A white screen will appear with a red “g”.  From here you can swipe left or right to see a “context stream” of common commands. Listed below are some good ones. Also check out the full list at XDA developers’ forum.

  • When is [Valentine’s Day]
  • Should I bring a jacket today?
  • Who is [the Speaker of the House]
  • Show me the stocks for [Sony]
  • Play [Modern Love]
  • Start [stopwatch]
  • Define [oxymoron]

Voice Texting

Voice texting is easy enough. Simply say “Ok Google” then wait for the red “g” to appear. Then “Send a text to [insert name here].” Assuming that person is in your contacts, you’ll be prompted to voice your message. You’ll get a chance to review the content of your message before sending.

Our reviewers have concluded that Google Voice does a pretty good job of actually transcribing your messages. But Google Now has trouble sorting between the three different Kates or four Joes in your contacts.

Take notes from your watch

Google Now also lets you take notes. Using Google Now, you can prompt your watch to transcribe a quick memo by saying “OK Google … take a note.” The note will then land in your inbox or to Google Keep (if you have it installed).

Android Wear hands on

Navigation

Android Wear can be be used for navigation too. Saying “Ok Google … Navigate to Mt. Hood.” It’ll show you turn commands but won’t actually provide voice commands unless you’re connected to your phone, which — obviously — will provide audible commands.

Install new watch faces

The release of Lollipop has made available a whole buncha new watch faces available straight from Google Play. Install them from your computer or your phone via Google Play and they’ll automatically be available on your watch by touching the the background of your watch for two seconds.

Android watchface 2

Android Wear isn’t app-centric but it has a growing library of apps

Android Wear isn’t a stand alone device. But it can run apps that will make your life easier. And the library of apps optimized for Android Wear is growing. Check out Google Play’s selection.