Getting started with Glances
Nestled somewhere between an app and a complication, Glances are the ultimate evolution of the widget. Small, smart, and sleek, most of them require little or no interaction and need only seconds of attention, offering useful bits and quick shortcuts that are able to be gleaned in an instant.
But even in the specialized section of the App Store inside the Apple Watch app, Glances are given short shrift. Generally, an app needs to be downloaded before you even know if it has a companion Glance, let alone what it displays. With just 20 spots available to fill on your Watch, finding the right mix can make the difference between forgettable and indispensable, boosting the convenience of Apple Watch and seriously cutting down on the amount of time you need to spend tapping away at your wrist. So, if you still haven’t hit upon your perfect batch of Glances yet, try these selections on for size.
Settings is the only Glance that Apple forces you to keep, but it’s actually pretty useful. The three main buttons it offers are all ones that come in handy: Airplane Mode (which severs the Bluetooth connection), Do Not Disturb, and Silent Mode. And if you lose sight of your iPhone, you can tap the bottom ping button to have it broadcast a distinctive alert sound.
Apple gives its own Glances a powerful advantage: Users are able to actually interact with the buttons rather than being whisked away to the companion app at the first tap. That’s what makes Now Playing so essential. Whatever you happen to be listening to on your iPhone is shown on a scrolling marquee, and you can use the controls to pause, play, or skip to another track. And if you don’t want to tap the screen, spinning the Digital Crown will also adjust the volume.
The custom heart rate sensor isn’t just the coolest sensor in Apple Watch, it’s also the most useful. Whether you’re tracking the effect of your exercise routine or keeping tabs for medical reasons, the Heart Rate Glance is the quickest way to get an accurate reading of your ticker whenever you need it. As soon as you select it, the Glance will begin measuring, and in just a few seconds it’ll display your current bpm, along with the most recent previous reading for comparison.
DataMan Pro ($6) for iPhone was designed to quickly show you how many megabytes you’ve burned through in your current cycle, so its only natural that it would be right at home on the Apple Watch. DataMan’s Glance is the perfect tool for tracking your data usage, offering a real-time look at the percentage of your plan that’s been used as well as how many gigs you have left, so you’ll know if you need to cut back on your Walking Dead binge watching.
There are several sporting apps that offer decent Glances—MLB At Bat, NBA, and theScore to name a few—but if you only want one, ESPN (free) is the best choice. Fully customizable based on your favorite teams for each sport (selectable in the iPhone app), the Glance will show you a schedule of who’s playing who, as well as provide quick live score updates during the games so you don’t have rudely whip out your iPhone during dinner.
Fantastical ($5) is bar none the best calendar app for iOS, and its Apple Watch app only continues its superiority. Flexibits brought its stunning user interface and first-rate user experience to its Apple Watch app, but it spent considerable time designing its Glance, too, offering a clean, sophisticated look at your immediate schedule as well as a color-coded representation of how busy the day ahead will be.
Thanks to its gesture-heavy controls, Gneo ($10) for iPhone kicked off a new way of looking at to-dos and reminders, embracing multi-touch on mobile and eschewing the conventions of traditional task managers. Gneo on Apple Watch is similarly refreshing, utilizing a series of buttons and taps to quickly zip through your day’s tasks. And its Glance will dutifully keep you updated on what needs immediate attention, including a handy “clock” that shows you exactly how much time is remaining before your next task needs to be completed.
Workflow’s ($4) unique system of automated actions and shortcuts extracted bits of power and efficiency we never dreamed possible on our iPhones, so it’s no surprise that it’s found a way around Apple Watch’s limitations, too. Its Glance is particularly clever, only showing actions that are useful on Apple Watch, while automatically scrolling to highlight the one that will be run once the screen is tapped. But if you want to get to one quicker, simply knock your Watch against your iPhone to quickly switch to the next one in the list (even if it’s in your pocket).
Notes for Watch
Relying on notifications and reminders is great when we’re able to schedule something, but the things we need to remember don’t always fit neatly on a calendar. The Notes for Watch ($2) Glance is something like tying a ribbon around your finger, letting you store important snippets of text that can easily be accessed throughout your day. Whether it’s something related to a project you’re working on, a motivational quote, or something you’re studying for tomorrow’s test, the Notes Glance won’t let you forget about it.
Just like on the iPhone, weather apps are in abundance on Apple Watch, so much so that you could probably fill every one of your 19 free Glances with a different one. And also like the iPhone, AccuWeather (free) is the best of the bunch. Utilizing as much of the screen that it can, the Glance manages to provide the current conditions, real feel temperature, high and low, wind speed, humidity, and sunset time, all without making it feel too cramped.
We all have things we just can’t seem to remember, like locker combinations, security door codes, or license plate numbers. Whatever your mental block is, Cheatsheet (free) will eliminate it, storing it inside its Glance for easy viewing. It can display up to five single-line cheats, complete with identifying icons that can be as cryptic or as literal as you need them to be.
Since a tiny calculator probably wouldn’t be the most efficient Glance, popular calculator app PCalc ($10) had to take a different approach. Swipe over to it and it will show two numbers: The last calculations you made on both your iPhone and Apple Watch. It might seem like a dumb idea, but it actually comes in handy quite often—when comparing two numbers or completing a complex problem, for instance—but the best part is you won’t have to struggle with the confounding m+ button any more.
If you like numbers, Numerous’ (free) network of digits should surely make its way onto your iPhone, if it’s not there already. But if you haven’t installed it on your Apple Watch, you’re missing out on its true beauty. Tailor-made for a tiny screen, Numerous lets you pick any of its number trackers to display in its Glance, from the price of crude oil to the number of days left until Apple’s next event, the current mortgage rates, or anything else you can think up. And it has the two qualities that make a great Glance: Good looks, and smarts.
There are plenty of ways to track your iPhone’s battery life on your Apple Watch, but Power’s ($2) full-on embrace of the Unix philosophy is surprisingly comforting. The app and the Glance are one in the same: A simple battery icon that mirrors the one in your iPhone’s status bar and the percentage of juice remaining. That’s it. But it’s the most accurate one you’re likely to find.
The Apple Watch’s diminutive screen isn’t exactly the best way to catch up on the hundreds of new tweets in your timeline, but the Twitter (free) Glance can at least keep you up to date on what’s happening right now. You can set it to display the last thing tweeted by one of the accounts you follow, but an even better option is showing what’s trending at any given moment—ensuring that you’ll never be too far out of the conversation.
Among the myriad things the iPhones has made accessible, astronomy has to be among the coolest. With the SkyView ($2) app you need only point your iPhone at the heavens to see what celestial bodies are populating the sky above you, with an augmented reality of stars, constellations, satellites, and planets all in full view. The Apple Watch Glance doesn’t offer such detail, but it will tell you when the next major object will be viewable, so you’ll know exactly when to look up.
No one wants to hold up their wrist to read full-length news stories all day, but we shouldn’t have to pull out our iPhone just to find out what’s happening in the world, either. The NYTimes (free) Glance strikes a perfect balance, giving you a rotating stream of headlines that will keep you informed all throughout your day.
Apple’s stock Glance has one of the best designs around, displaying a mini graph and letting you customize it with the current price, points change, percentage change, and market cap. But its prettiness comes at a cost: You can only display one stock at a time. Ticker (free) offers a similar range of data, but it’ll let you track two stocks, which is worth the sacrifice of beauty.
There’s no doubt that the Apple Watch has helped wearers boost their activity and exercise, but lost in the tri-colored circles is the simplicity of a basic pedometer. That functionality is actually buried inside the Activity app, but if just you want a quick way to see how far you’ve walked throughout the day, Pacer’s (free) Glance is better than a Fitbit, showing you your cumulative steps and how far you need to go to reach your goal.
It’s not entirely clear why Apple didn’t include a Glance for its Mail app, but Spark (free) fills the void nicely. Even if you don’t use Spark as your main email client, you can still enjoy its Glance. In an instant, it’ll let you know how many new messages you have, and also display the sender and subject of the last one you received. It’s almost enough to make you not hate email.