Best Apple Watch apps for your smartwatch in 2017
Best Apple Watch apps for 2016
Update: The best Apple Watch apps list is one we’re constantly updating. Here’s what’s been making our iPhone smartwatch tick.
The Apple Watch has now been superseded by the Apple Watch 2, and yet these much-hyped iPhone smartwatches are just now seeing their true potential through apps and games in 2017 following the Watch OS 3 launch.
The number one question we hear from new Apple Watch owners is “Well, what apps should I download first?” To make answering that query easier, we devised a thorough best Apple Watch apps list.
See our review of the Apple Watch Series 3 below.
New this week: MySwimPro
This is a tale of two apps, depending on which version of Apple Watch you have. If yours is a first-generation model then it’s a useful but limited way to track your swimming stats: the first-gen watch shouldn’t be submerged, so you shouldn’t wear it while swimming.
However, if you have a second-generation Apple Watch (Apple calls it the Apple Watch Series 2) then you can take it into the pool – and that makes MySwimPro a much more useful application. You can log your workouts while you’re still in the water, and you can also follow the app’s workouts to set goals and monitor your heart rate during your swim.
Once you’ve dried off you can pick up the iPhone or iPad app, which syncs data from your Watch and enables you to see your progress in much more detail: miles swum, hours spent swimming, top times for specific distances and so on.
You can share your triumphs online, or you can just watch videos showing how other swimmers do particular types of workout. It’s probably overkill if you only do the odd couple of laps at the gym swimming pool, but if you’re serious about swimming it’s worth wearing on your wrist.
Proving that you should never underestimate our basic laziness, Just Eat created an app for people who couldn’t be bothered using the telephone to call for a takeaway. Now, it’s added an app for people who can’t be bothered reaching for their iPhone to open the Just Eat app.
One day historians may look back on this as one of the key steps in the downfall of western civilisation. Then again, easy pizza!
The Just Eat app is UK-only – if you’re in the US, try the Domino’s Apple Watch app instead – and it enables you to choose, order and pay for takeaways from the comfort of your wrist thanks to Apple Pay integration.
You can also choose to collect instead of having the meal delivered, but let’s be honest: if you can’t be bothered getting your phone you’re hardly going to want to go outside to collect your food – although if you’re driving it’s handy to order a pickup with a few taps.
The main iPhone/iPad app is much more attractive and informative, but when it comes to ordering regulars from your favorite local takeaways it doesn’t get much easier than having Just Eat on your wrist.
A Tiny Game of Pong
Sometimes the titles do all the work for us: yes, A Tiny Game of Pong puts a tiny game of Pong on your Apple Watch.
If you’re not familiar with Pong, perhaps because you aren’t really, really old, it was one of the first video games and was released in November 1972. The fact that it’s still playable – and quickly becomes frustratingly difficult – just demonstrates what a classic game it really is.
If you’re new to Pong, the gameplay is very simple: there are two paddles, one of which you control with the Digital Crown, and there’s a ball, which you try not to miss when the other paddle hits it towards you. The more times you don’t miss, the better your score. And that’s pretty much it.
There’s an in-app purchase that unlocks extra colors, which you can also unlock by posting about the game on social media, and there are high score tables that work via Game Center. But ultimately what you get is exactly what the title describes: a tiny game of Pong.
It takes the same colorful, minimalist approach as the iPhone/iPad app, with screens showing trend lines for temperature, precipitation and wind speed, along with sunrise and sunset times and where the sun is right now, whether it’s going to rain and what the temperature highs and lows will be.
You don’t get the right-now weather warnings of Dark Sky or the sass of CARROT, just a clear, easy to understand and really well-presented set of predictions.
It’s not all sunshine and flowers, though. The host app is pretty big – 137MB, which is on the large side for a weather app, given that the UK Met Office app is 80MB and Dark Sky 20.8MB – and the accuracy of the weather forecasts seems to depend on where you live.
US users seem very happy with it, but UK users say it’s a little pessimistic: while it rains a lot in Britain, it doesn’t rain quite as often as Yahoo Weather says it will.
Then again, it’s better to warn of rain and be pleasantly surprised than to predict good weather when the skies are about to open.
Workflow is an absolutely fascinating app, recently acquired by Apple. If you’re familiar with OS X’s Automator it’s a bit like that but much more user-friendly and focused, and for iOS. And if you’re not, you’re going to like it a lot.
Workflow essentially turns your iPhone or iPad’s features into LEGO. You can take bricks from app X, combine them with bricks from app Y, and have a new toy to play with.
For example, you could create a workflow that takes your most recent photos and saves them to Dropbox, or a workflow that offers one-tap information on where the nearest coffee shop is, or that tweets the song you’re listening to. It’s absolutely brilliant and now it’s available on your Watch.
As you might expect, Workflow on the Watch doesn’t offer any creation tools: it’s purely a launcher in Watch form, allowing you to call up your workflows with a tap.
You might have a workflow to give you directions home from wherever you are, or to calculate a tip in a restaurant, or to read out your messages. It’s the kind of app you can’t imagine using, and then you use it and can’t imagine going without it.
There are lots of reasons to love Twitter, but there are lots of reasons to find it annoying too. Promoted tweets filling your timeline, people talking about subjects you couldn’t care less about, people retweeting people you couldn’t care less about, Piers Morgan… wouldn’t it be great if you could have a Twitter without all of those things? Don’t look to the official app for that any time soon. Go for Twitterrific instead.
Now in its fifth incarnation, Twitterrific on iOS is a superb Twitter tool. The Watch features require a $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 in-app purchase to work fully, and they’re worth paying for: you can track your stats, be notified about direct messages, favorites, new followers and other action, use Handoff to start replies on your phone, compose tweets via dictation and block idiots instantly.
We’d recommend keeping notifications to an absolute minimum unless you only follow a few people – Twitter can be incredibly noisy when you follow and/or are followed by lots of people – but the Watch app is a great way of staying on top of Twitter while you’re out and about. It also reduces the risk of picking up your phone and thinking “while I’m here I’ll just check…” and losing hours to trivia.
If you deliver a lot of presentations tied to a computer or iPad you might watch Apple keynotes with envy. Wouldn’t it be great if you could stride around the room like that, surreptitiously tapping a button to move to the next slide instead of hovering over your hardware?
There are plenty of electronic clickers to do just that, but why get another bit of hardware you’ll probably lose when you can control Keynote from your Apple Watch?
Don’t expect speakers’ notes, views of upcoming slides or other presentation app goodies: the Watch app is designed simply to play presentations and move to the next slide when tapped. Everything else happens on devices more suited to editing: your phone, or your iPad.
And provided there’s decent Wi-Fi or you’re close enough to the presenting iPad or iPhone for Bluetooth it works really well. It’s surprisingly functional-looking for an Apple app – it isn’t remotely pretty, and looks like it was designed in a tea break – but then how much design do you really need when you’re using your Watch as a clicker?
You can’t get much more hipster than this: an Apple Watch app for the AeroPress coffee maker, enabling you to use a gadget costing hundreds of dollars to work out how to make a cup of coffee.
But while it’s easy to mock it’s actually a really useful and well-designed app, assuming of course you have an AeroPress. It’s the kind of thing that watch apps excel at: it does one thing, and it does that thing very well.
AeroPress Timer’s thing is to help you make the perfect cup of coffee. The app features coffee recipes from the 2014 AeroPress world championship, and takes you step by step through the process for each: how much coffee to use, when to stir, when to steep, and when it’s time to take a sip of your masterpiece.
It’s not just about fancy award competitors either: the app also includes the instructions you need to make standard recipes, two cup recipes and to improve your brewing prowess in general.
If you’re the kind of person whose eyeballs are vibrating with caffeine by lunchtime, you’re going to love the convenience of having everything you need to hand. Or rather, on your wrist.
Pennies was a recent Apple Editor’s Choice, for good reason: it’s a very simple and effective budgeting app that allows you to get on top of your spending without having to spend too much time doing so.
You can set weekly, monthly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, one-off and custom budgets, track in multiple currencies – great for holidays or business travel – and on the Watch, all you need to do is record how much you’ve spent against a particular budget, so for example if you have a shopping budget you’d tap it, tap Spend, and then enter the total.
The app then recalculates the amount you’ve got left, and if you wish you can have it displayed as a permanent Complication on the Watch face.
Pennies isn’t interested in what you’ve bought; just what budget it should be allocated to. As the developer puts it, “it’s all about keeping things easy and flexible so you can get on with having fun, spending what you want, and saving money at the end of the month.”
If like us you find personal finance a mix of tedium and terror, Pennies might be the app that helps you take control of your cash.
This former Apple App of the Week is probably the most beautiful stargazing app you’ve ever seen, and it has a suitably stellar user rating: with nearly 6,000 App Store ratings it’s currently sitting at just under five stars.
The app makes really good use of the Apple Watch: there’s a Complication that can tell you when it’s time to look for the International Space Station flying past, and its app can help you identify the stars and constellations above you, while it uses the Digital Crown for “time travel”, so you can see the sky move on your wrist.
It’s a clever and effective approach to a common problem: how do you make complex and highly visual apps work on your wrist?
Developers iCandi have decided that the best approach is to complement rather than try and copy the main iOS app, and that means the Apple Watch app is pitched just right: it’s there for a quick ISS or eclipse reminder or glance upwards, leaving the iPhone or iPad version for when you feel like some serious stargazing.
Is there anything more annoying than missing a delivery of something you’re really excited about? Yes: there’s missing a delivery of something that you really need to have in a hurry. Deliveries can help ensure that neither of those things happen to you.
It supports stacks of services including UPS, FedEx, US Postal Service, DHL, TNT, Canada Post, City Link and Royal Mail, can track packages, can add delivery dates to your calendar and can record past deliveries in case you need to refer to them later.
It’s unnecessary for the odd package, but it’s useful if you do a lot of online shopping or if you’re in the middle of a project, such as furnishing a flat.
On the Watch the app acts as a ready reminder of what’s in and what’s incoming, so for example it’ll show you if an item has just been delivered as well as the ETA of any other outstanding deliveries.
There’s a Complication too, which works particularly well on the Utility watch face and shows you the most recent delivery. If you have the macOS version of the app too you can automatically sync between Mac and mobile via iCloud or the developer’s own cloud sync service.
We’ve described the iPhone as the Very Hungry Caterpillar of tech, munching its way through entire product categories as stand-alone devices become iOS apps. We’re often delighted by the simplest things, and Clicker is one of those things.
It’s a replacement for those hand-held clickers people use to count things, and it’s appropriate for counting people, days, laps, drinks or anything else you might want to quantify.
To use it, just tap on the screen and tap again when you want another click. Haptic feedback means you don’t need to look at the watch, and you don’t need to have the clicker display all day: when you’re ready for a new click you can pull it up from its Complication. You can record up to 2,147,483,647 taps.
And that’s pretty much it: there are only two other options: subtract, to remove a mistaken click, and reset, to start again.
It’s hardly a must-have but it’s actually very handy, so for example we’ve seen users tracking how often they smoke during the day or how many glasses of water they’ve had. We wouldn’t recommend using it for counting sheep, though – or at least, not on the first-generation Apple Watch, whose battery isn’t really up to working nights.
Elevate Dash – Brain Training and Games
We’re not convinced by the supposed science of brain training – it’s a sector that makes bold claims based on very flimsy evidence – but there’s no doubt that spending time learning or practicing useful things is better for you than mindlessly swiping through trivia on Twitter.
Elevate claims that its brain training app will “improve critical cognitive skills that are proven to boost productivity, earning power, and self-confidence”, and it does so by setting little tasks for you: choosing the correct meaning of words, calculating percentages and so on.
Correct answers earn points, and you can track your progress on the main iPhone/iPad app as well as on your Watch. The Watch’s small screen means the games you get are very simple ones, but that works well when you’re on the move.
The app is free and lets you play 4 mini-games. If you want to access the full selection of 40+ Elevate games you’ll need your iPhone or iPad and a subscription to the premium membership package, which is $4.99/£3.99/AU$7.99 per month or $44.99/£34.99/AU$69.99 per year.
If you could do with a boost to specific skills – working out restaurant tips, perhaps, or improving your vocabulary – then you might feel that’s well worth the money.
You may know CARROT from its weather app, which combines Dark Sky-style weather forecasting with sarcasm and lies. But CARROT wants to make you unhappy in many other ways – and what’s better for a sadistic AI than being in control of a fitness app?
Enter CARROT Fit, which takes a somewhat unusual approach to motivating you to get healthier and lose weight.
CARROT promises to “get you fit – or else”. To achieve that it offers a dozen punishing exercises (more are available via in-app purchases) accompanied by threats, ridicule, bribes and the occasional compliment.
It’s rude, crude and much more entertaining than trying to complete the rings on Apple’s own activity tracker, and we’re pretty sure it’s the only fitness app that rewards progress with cat facts. But there’s a proper fitness tracker in here too: it’ll track your steps and weight loss, remember your workouts and add data to Apple’s health app.
Most of the personality is in the main iPhone app, but the Watch alerts include such cheery prospects as “seven minutes in hell”. If you find getting fit or losing weight a little bit tedious, CARROT might be the, ahem, carrot that you need to get motivated.
Passwords are essential, but they’re also rubbish. The ones you can remember are easy to guess, the ones that are hard to guess are equally hard to remember, and if you do passwords properly it can be a pain to enter complicated strings of text and characters when you’re in a hurry.
Wouldn’t it be better if you could prove your identity to your Mac with your Watch? That’s exactly what Knock does.
Knock is a simple idea brilliantly executed. Provided your Mac is of relatively recent vintage – an Air from 2011 or better, a MacBook Pro or iMac from late 2012, a 2013 or later Mac Pro and so on – you can use Knock to automatically unlock your Mac or Macs by tapping the Apple Watch app.
It’s connecting via Bluetooth Low Energy – hence the reliance on relatively recent Macs; older ones don’t have Bluetooth LE – which uses tiny amounts of energy, so you don’t need to worry about the app killing your Watch’s battery any more than usual, and it works instantly if your Mac isn’t in sleep mode.
It may seem quite pricey for such a simple app, but think about how much time you spend locking and unlocking your Macs in a year.
Note that you may not need this if you have a recent Mac running macOS Sierra, as there’s a similar feature built in, but Knock is compatible with slightly older Macs too.
Buy Me A Pie!
When we first got an Apple Watch we thought we’d use it for everything, but years later we’re still using Post-It notes when we go to the supermarket.
That’s mainly because list apps are often overkill for something as straightforward as a shopping list – so can the excellently-named and quite expensive Buy Me A Pie! app finally persuade us to leave the sticky notes at home?
User reviews certainly think so: it’s had nearly 3,000 ratings, averaging four and a half stars.
On the iPhone the app offers flat design and color coding, which by necessity has to be adapted for the Watch: the colored lozenges of the iPhone app are replaced with little colored lines beside items.
But the key feature here isn’t the appearance: it’s synchronization. Buy Me A Pie! syncs across all your iOS devices, so your partner could add an item to your shopping list on their iPad and have it automatically sync to your Watch along with a push notification.
It supports location-based reminders, stores multiple lists and has a learning function that automatically stores unfamiliar items in the app’s dictionary for future use. It’s very good at what it does, although it’s rather pricey if you only do the occasional big shop.
Mindfulness, the art of focusing on being present and aware in the world instead of being constantly distracted by things and thoughts that don’t matter, isn’t something you’d associate with the Apple Watch. If you aren’t careful with your notification settings your Watch pings away merrily all day, interrupting countless trains of thought.
But the Happier app hopes to use the Watch to make you feel better, not more harassed.
The app itself is free, but it’s designed as a gateway to paid-for mindfulness courses. If you don’t go for them you can still take advantage of the app, though. You can tell the app how you’re feeling – we suspect “meh” is the most-used option – and it then responds with uplifting quotes to help you feel a bit more optimistic.
It can pop up to remind you to take a meditation break, and you can dictate a positive thought to a private journal or to the Happier community. That’s not as daft as it sounds: there’s some evidence that keeping a journal of positive things can boost your mood over time.
Just be careful what and how you share: one iTunes reviewer says that they were able to locate their private journal with Google.
Readers of a certain age will remember Tamagotchi, the infuriatingly addictive electronic pets that took over the world in the late 1990s with their incessant demands for care and attention.
And now they’re back! Back! BACK! And this time, they’re on your wrist – which is fitting, because Tamagotchi is apparently a portmanteau of the Japanese words for egg and watch. If you’ve never used your watch to raise a virtual pet, here’s your chance.
This app is the Tamagotchi L.i.f.e Gen1, and it uses the Apple Watch in several ways: when your Tamagotchi wants your attention it’ll pop up on your wrist, you can monitor your Tamagotchi’s health, and you can carry out care actions – such as feeding it a meal or making it go to the toilet.
There are two modes to choose from: toy mode, which recreates the originals, and App Mode, which adds special colors. The app also enables you to put multiple Tamagotchi into a gallery, where you can then take pictures of them, and save said digital snaps to your Camera Roll.
It’s spectacularly pointless, of course, but it’s also pretty cute and faithful to the original toys – so it’s an app for rose-tinted spectacle wearers as well as for people who’ve never encountered Tamagotchi before.
As you’ve probably guessed, this app is a remote control for VLC. If you’re not familiar with those initials they belong to one of our very favorite apps, the VLC media player.
It’s a kind of Swiss Army Knife for playing or streaming music and video, and it’s available on iOS and on desktop computers too. We love it for many reasons: it’s fast, it’s free and it can read media formats most of us forgot ever existed.
The remote app solves a simple problem with computer media playback: if you’re on the sofa you probably aren’t anywhere near the computer that’s got all your media files on it.
It works with VLC on Mac, Linux or Windows, automatically finds any running copy of VLC on your local network and enables you to control the on-screen action with your phone.
The Watch app reduces that to bare bones: it gives you volume and transport controls, shows cover art and offers additional options – repeat, shuffle, audio on/off and subtitles on/off – via Force Touch.
If you’ve made VLC the heart of your home entertainment, this app should save you from wearing a path in the carpet between computer and couch.
TripIt – Travel Organizer
Whether you’re a road warrior or an occasional holidayer, keeping track of the various aspects of your trip can be a pain. TripIt solves that by pulling all your travel-related documentation together.
All you need to do is send your travel confirmation emails – flights, hotels, car hire – to TripIt and the app will automatically organize them and tell you the information you need when you need it.
If you use Gmail, Outlook.com or Yahoo mail you can get TripIt to monitor your mailbox automatically, which makes things even easier. If you’re in the US, it even tells you when it’s time to head for the airport.
The phone app stores your itinerary and key documents, and the Watch app lets you know what’s important right now – so if you’re about to board a flight you’ll see the flight number and departure time, if you’re checking in you’ll see a booking reference and so on.
Things get really clever with the Pro subscription ($48.99/£38.99/AU$77.99), which adds live flight notifications, seat tracking and alternative flight finding should your plans change.
That’s probably unnecessary for most people, though: the free version of the app includes all the essentials you need for any kind of travel.
If your Watch strap is feeling a little more snug than it used to, this app may be the answer: it’s designed to help you achieve your weight loss goals “without the unsustainable gimmicks, fad diets, restrictive foods, on-site meetings, or large price tags of other weight-loss companies.”
It tracks the calories you’ve consumed and the goals you’ve set, focuses on nutrition as well as overall calorie intake, works happily with other fitness apps and trackers and provides an online peer group where everybody encourages each other to achieve their ideal weight.
It also enables you to set exercise goals and focus on general wellness, so it’s not just about losing weight.
The Apple Watch app doesn’t replace the phone app completely – for example, you’ll need your phone handy if you want to use the barcode scanner to automatically record what you’re eating, and the team-based features such as group challenges are phone-based – but it’s a great way to focus on your goals, monitor your progress and keep your motivation no matter how sorely tempted you may be.
The program is $39.99/£29.99/AU$62.99 per year but you can explore the app for free without signing up.
Microsoft earned well-deserved death stares from many Watch users when it bought and retired the excellent Sunrise Calendar iOS app, but its Outlook app is worth adding to your wrist.
It’s from the new, interesting Microsoft, not the staid bore of old: it works well, looks great and won’t crash your watch.
Outlook is a combined email and calendar app that connects to Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, Outlook.com, Hotmail, MSN, Gmail, Yahoo and iCloud, and its main claim to fame is the focused inbox: instead of showing you everything emailed, it shows the most important stuff only and learns by watching your swipes.
It’s particularly good in a corporate environment, where its talents cope admirably with endless meeting requests, time changes and backside-covering email traffic, enabling you to prioritize things that matter and forget about things that don’t.
That doesn’t mean it’s only for corporate types, though. Outlook is a really, really good email app and boasts a useful Complication that enables you to see what’s next on your schedule from the main Apple Watch display. If you have a busy life, a busy inbox or both it’s a very useful app to have on your arm.
Fitness fanatics look away now: for those that find exercise really boring, and their get up and go often gets up and goes while they stay sedentary. Mount Burnmore could be the answer to that lethargy: it turns fitness into a game.
The concept is quite clever. Mount Burnmore depends on “active energy”, which it pulls from the Health app: the more calories you’ve burned, the more active energy you have in the game.
When you have sufficient energy you can attempt to solve the game’s puzzles, which involve finding routes around the titular mountain, collecting in-game items and smashing things with a pickaxe.
There’s a Complication that enables you to see your progress without launching the full game, and the app makes good use of the Digital Crown to help you navigate around larger levels later in the game. There are also leaderboards to compare with other players and in-game challenges to win freebies.
It’s bright, breezy and a bit brash, and we suspect it’s best suited to older children rather than grown-ups – although if you do give this one to the kids you might want to disable in-app purchases, as they can be used to buy in-game items.
This one’s US-only for now. It’s a way to pay for fuel and car washes with your Apple Watch via the magic of Apple Pay, and it syncs with Ford SYNC 3 so you can use voice commands in the car too.
You can use it in 10,000 participating Exxon and Mobil stations across the US, and it’s capable of more than just payment: the app records sales for electronic receipts and enables you to manage your loyalty points as well.
It’s really straightforward to use, assuming you’ve got funds in the bank. Just roll up to the pump or automated car wash, pull up the app and tell it which pump you’re parked at. Use the app to approve payment to that pump and then double-tap your watch’s side button to pay with Apple Pay. As soon as you do that, you’re free to pump all day long.
You’ll see more apps like this over time, as many manufacturers are looking into mobile payments, so – for example – Jaguar and Shell in the UK have an Apple pay app for their customers, and fuel companies are keen too: in addition to ExxonMobil, Chevron’s also experimenting with Apple Pay.
- Free / in-app purchases
Sometimes the best way to learn new things is to have fun, and that’s particularly true of languages: we can’t remember a taught word of the languages we rote-learned in school, but we can remember all the swear words and rude ones our peers snickered about on the bus home.
Babbel takes a more mature, but no less effective, approach to language learning, using data from the check-in service Foursquare to tell you about nearby words you need to find and translate on its Watch app. For example: you might learn the foreign word for a type of drink when you’re at a coffee shop.
The main iPhone app is more formal but still concentrates on real-world language, so you’re more likely to learn how to ask if somebody’s married or if they want some wine than tell them that your aunt’s pen is in the garden.
It’s proven to be effective and has more than a million subscribers, making it one of the most popular language learning tools around.
Just watch out for those in-app purchases, though: each language pack costs money, but some cost a lot more than others.
Sleep tracking is an area where the Apple Watch lags due to its charging requirements, and while the second generation Watch does last longer, you can’t keep it on for a week i the vein of some dedicated fitness trackers.
That means any sleep tracking app has to overcome that obstacle, and in the case of Sleep Watch that means making sure you’ve still got 65% battery left at night and Power Reserve off.
You may need to get into the routine of a pre-bed charge if you want to use the app regularly… so decide now if this is an app that could be one of your ‘best’.
Is it worth it? It is if you think your sleep is subpar, as that can make it hard to concentrate and damage your health.
The app is very good at differentiating between deep, restless sleep and cheese-fueled tossing and turning, and version 2’s new trends feature enables you to see if there’s a pattern emerging that suggests a possible cause. The app also tracks your sleeping heart rate, and again you can see if there are trends emerging there.
It’s a clever app but it’s up against the Achilles Heel of the Apple Watch: little smartwatches can’t have big batteries. But if you don’t mind establishing a new charging routine it might just help you sleep a little better more often.
Activity Tracker – Step Counter & Pedometer
This is an interesting one: the pitch is that Activity Tracker doesn’t require you to have a wearable device, but it also boasts about the Apple Watch app that enables you to track your progress.
It’s designed for the iPhone 5S onwards and uses that device’s motion coprocessor to track your progress – even if you have a second generation Apple Watch, which has its own GPS tracker. That means it’s an alternative to Apple’s own Activity app, rather than something bringing features Apple doesn’t already offer, and you’ll still need to take your phone with you.
The main iPhone app is pretty and makes it easy to see your key stats, and the Watch app can help motivate you by showing your steps, burnt calories and distance travelled. The parent app also enables you to set weekly goals and track your progress against them.
The main app is free, but there’s also a $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 unlock that adds weekly and monthly activity visualizations and the ability to import data from or export data to another iPhone.
It can also pull in data from Apple’s own Health app, which is useful if you’ve been filing your fitness data in that for some time.
Yes, we know you might have heard of this one and it’s technically not an app… but did you know that Siri in the Apple Watch became a lot more powerful in the March 2017 watchOS 3.2 update?
That’s because Apple has opened Siri up to third-party developers, so instead of asking Siri to send a message and seeing the Messages app open, you’ll be able to ask Siri to send a WhatsApp message instead.
This is important because previously Siri could only work with Apple’s own apps. Now s/he can talk to third party apps too. You’ll be able to ask Siri to call you a cab, to start and stop workouts, to make payments… apps such as Spotify aren’t currently invited to the Siri party, but we’d expect Apple to open its voice assistant up further in the not-too-distant future.
Don’t expect Siri support to appear in everything overnight: the developers need to add it to their apps, but the list of imminently-compatible apps includes a whole host of exercise apps such as Fitso, mySwim Pro, RunGo, Seven, Slopes, Streaks, Zones, Zova and the forthcoming Ace Tennis.
Other apps with Siri support include the aforementioned WhatsApp and Lyft in the US.
This app might be free, but it’s designed to work with some reassuringly expensive hardware: it’s from B&O, makers of high-end speakers and headphones such as the really impressive Bluetooth headphones, and it’s for their hardware and nobody else’s.
If you’re fortunate enough to own the right cans or speakers then there’s lots here to like: good design and usability, really easy wireless pairing, the ability to link two identical speakers in stereo or ambient modes and audio presets for different kinds of content or listening environments.
One of the great features of this phone-based control, though, is what B&O calls Tonetouch, which uses your phone’s touchscreen to control the overall sound and make it warmer or brighter, more relaxed or more exciting, and to customize it according to the particular device you’re listening to.
That control isn’t available on the Beoplay Watch app, but you can access your saved Tonetouch presets from it.
The app works with the BeoPlay A1, A2, S3, H5, H7, H8, H9, M5 and Beolit 15, although you may need to update the software before they’ll play nicely with it. Where appropriate the app will also provide access to headphone settings such as noise cancellation and battery status.
On the face of it, and by face we mean Apple Watch face, Drafts doesn’t seem to offer much for six quidbucks: it enables you to dictate text and save it for later. But it turns out that it does an awful lot…it just does it in a really simple way.
On the iPhone, Drafts is designed to make it easy to capture ideas, thoughts, to-dos or anything else.
It has an email-style interface for easy navigation and it enables you to send your Drafts to a whole bunch of other apps and services: email, message, apps in your Share sheet, social media and so on.
It supports Markdown for easy formatting, and it hooks into the iMessage app to provide stored “snippets” of text and/or emoji for instant replies.
Bringing Drafts to the Watch makes it even faster. Tap on the microphone icon to capture and it does just that – but it also enables you to add to existing drafts using either your voice or the Scribble input, which means it’s brilliant for those moments when you think of something really clever to write or something you’d missed from your to-do list. It’s the kind of app you’ll quickly learn to love.
- Free / in-app purchases
Strava is one of the most popular running and cycling apps around, but it’s always required you to have your phone or a non-Apple smartwatch to track your travels and record your vital statistics. Not anymore.
If you have an Apple Watch 2, the Strava Apple Watch app can use its GPS to record your run without requiring you to strap a phone to anything. The interface isn’t as pretty as the iPhone app’s interface, but when you’re running or cycling that doesn’t matter: the information you need is presented cleanly enough and the app is simple and straightforward to use.
The main app is free and offers essential features including distance, pace, speed, elevation and burned calories, and there’s a premium service for $5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99 per month or $59.99/£54.99/AU$89.99 per year that offers more detailed post-exercise analysis, live performance feedback and personalized coaching – although not through the Watch.
However, if you’re someone who uses the premium features like Beacon on the main app, you might not find Strava on the Apple Watch to your liking compared to using it on the phone.
Many of us need to track the time we spend on specific tasks, but the team behind Hours rightly point out the three big pitfalls of time tracking: we forget to start tracking in the first place, forget to stop when we change tasks, or just forget to stop the timer(s) altogether. Hours hopes to address that by making it really, really easy to start and stop and switch.
The iPhone app is a very beautiful thing, with a visual timeline that makes it easy to see what you’ve been up to. The Watch interface is much simpler, but just as effective: you can see the list of tasks with a timer icon for each, and if you tap on a task you can add a verbal note as well as starting or stopping the timer.
There’s a Complication for instant access, and the app will prompt you from time to time to see if you want to keep the selected timer running.
The standard version is free and ideal for self-employed or freelance types, but the $7.99/£5.99/AU$12.99 upgrade to Pro adds multi-device synchronization, web access, reporting and data visualizations, team creation and management, and online backup, which means it’s a great team tool too.
There’s no shortage of apps promising to make email fun again, and Spark is one of our favorites: on our Mac and on our iPhone it does a superb job of showing us what we want and hiding what we don’t.
The Apple Watch app is as well thought-out as its siblings, with the ability to use Messages-style quick replies as well as emoji and dictation. It’s quite possible to reply to most everyday emails without reaching for your iPhone, although the option to Handoff is there if a message is too long to bother scrolling through on your wrist.
The main selling point for Spark is its Smart Inbox, which groups messages from multiple accounts into personal, notification and newsletter categories. It then displays how many unread messages you have for each category in the Watch app’s home screen.
You can pin messages for quick access, and you can snooze them to hide them for a specified period of time. We find ourselves using that last one a lot: messages we can’t process properly on our wrists are quickly snoozed so they’ll resurface when we’re back at our Macs. If you have to handle a lot of email Spark is a massive time saver.
Your Watch has a pretty good stopwatch app, but what happens when you need to time several things that happen at the same time?
Workouts involving high intensity training are the most obvious application, but you might need to time a marinade here, a slow cook there, a bit of boiling over there and some roasting over there, or time a presentation, test, exercise or video recording.
Whatever the scenario, MultiTimer can handle it without getting complicated, erring firmly on the side of simplicity.
With MultiTimer you can run multiple timers simultaneously, getting reminders when it’s time to do something, and the period can be from seconds to 100 hours, which should be enough for most situations. The app runs continuously in the background and takes up hardly any system resources: it’s just 20MB in size.
The main app displays multiple timers at once and has a Today widget for easy access, but the Watch version takes a more streamlined approach: timers appear in list format, and you tap on the list item to see the timer for it.
If you aren’t already familiar with Hailo, it’s a high-tech way to hail a taxi cab. It started in the UK but it’s also available in Ireland, Spain and Singapore, although if you’re in the US you’re out of luck for the time being. For US readers we’d recommend the Uber app, which uses the Watch’s maps to great effect.
In some respects Hailo is the anti-Uber, because it’s designed to put you in touch with taxi drivers rather than self-employed Uber contractors. If you’re in one of the countries that Hailo covers, it’s beautifully simple and feels suitably Dick Tracy-esque: when you want a taxi, you just tap on your location and then tap on the big yellow button to call a cab.
It allows you to pay from the app too, and there’s no need to work out a tip (if you want to leave one): the Watch app can calculate the right amount for you. While you wait for the cab to arrive, you’ll see its ETA in real time.
It’s a good example of developers keeping the Watch features to the absolute minimum: you get everything you need without unnecessary bells and whistles.
If you love to listen to podcasts and you don’t already have Overcast, you’re in for a nice surprise: it’s a superb app, and its Watch integration is particularly well thought out.
In addition to the usual controls and lists of shows and episodes, it gives you quick access to two really useful features: Smart Speed, which can make the podcast play more quickly without turning into Alvin and the Chipmunks; and Voice Boost, which can make indistinct speech noticeably clearer and compensate for podcasters who can’t pick a single spot in front of the mic.
If you’ve ever strained to hear something only for the host to move closer to the mic and nearly blow your eardrums out, you should be rushing to the App Store already
Overcast is free, or $9.99/£8.99/AU$12.99 without the ads. We’d recommend going for the ad-free version, because while the advertising isn’t too invasive this is an app that’s been put together by people who really care about the end user experience, and paying for the full app is a great way to ensure that they’ll keep on caring.
- $3.99/£3.49/AU$5.99 monthly subscription
A reliable and secure password manager is a must-have in these days of security breaches and hacks, and is one of the best. And it turns out that it’s also one of the best password managers you can use on your Apple Watch.
Our favorite apps don’t just port entire iPhone apps across. They think about what you’re actually likely to need on your wrist, and do that instead. In the case of 1Password that means you choose the pieces of information you want available on your Watch, so for example you might want details of a few logins, one credit card and a couple of notes, or perhaps the PIN codes for everyday locks.
If you’ve ever frantically scrolled through an iPhone app or contacts list to try and find the PIN for a bank card you don’t use very often, the appeal should be obvious.
Where 1Password gets particularly clever is in its support for team and family accounts, so you can share sets of information with everybody who needs it. And if a site you use has been compromised, 1Password will alert you to change your password. It’s great stuff, and comes with a glowing recommendation from Apple.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember everything, especially when you’re traveling. What level did you park the car on? What’s the hotel room number? What did you change the combination on your locker to this time? Say hello to , which is designed to remember the things you probably won’t.
It’s important to stress that Cheatsheet is not a secure app: it’s not designed to store any sensitive information. What it does instead is make it really easy to jot down all the little bits of information you might need during the day, from registration plates to flight numbers, bus routes, clothes sizes and bike lock codes.
It has 160 icons you can use to label each bit of information for easier identification, and you can add, edit and delete bits of information without having to open the phone. If you wish, you can use a Complication that shows your top memory-refreshing nugget of information right on the Watch face.
The main app is offered free, but if you want to use it on your Apple Watch you’ll need the Unlock Everything in-app purchase, which is currently $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49. If you’re constantly juggling, looking for or misplacing Post-It notes and scribbled-on scraps of paper, this app might just change your life.
We refer to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy in another entry, and Microsoft Translator is the closest we’ve come to its Babel Fish – a fish you stuck in your ear to translate the universe’s many languages.
Translator sits on your wrist rather than in your ear canal, but it does much the same thing. Speak into your watch and you’ll see the translation, and it remembers recent translations on Watch or phone so you can find them again easily. You can also pin translations for instant access to essential words or phrases.
It gets even better if you use it on your phone, because it can translate in real time as you message somebody. You’ll see your typing with the translation in the same bubble, and it can even handle simplified Chinese and Arabic script.
The amount of thought that’s gone into Translator is obvious. Want to translate a sign? Point your camera at it. Want to have a conversation in a language you don’t speak? The phone display splits with your words facing you and the translation facing them.
If you don’t have a dedicated fitness tracker but fancy being able to track your sleep patterns, can help. It turns your Watch into a sleep monitor, using its motion detection to track your twists and turns as you have that cheese-fueled nightmare again.
Using it is simple: tell the app when you’re going to bed, tell it when you wake up in the morning – and the resultant reports can be eye-opening.
Your sleep is broken into blocks according to quality and movement, so you can see whether you’re restless at particular times.
There is a downside to all of this, and that’s the Watch itself: you can only track your sleep if you keep the Watch on, and clearly you can’t do that and charge it at the same time. That’s a particular issue for the first-generation Apple Watch, which doesn’t have a brilliant battery life – and the newer isn’t a whole lot better.
We found that the answer was to pop the Watch on charge while we breakfasted and showered, but sometimes that didn’t give us enough juice for a full day’s wear.
If your Watch usage means you already struggle to make it through the day before running out of juice then you might want to skip Sleep++, but if you’ve got battery life to spare it’s a fascinating insight into what happens when you’re asleep.
You don’t want the full Twitter experience on that little screen, but you do want to know if anything important or interesting happens. With Twitterrific you can do that without being overwhelmed.
You can set notifications to let you know of new replies, mentions, Retweets, favorites or Direct Messages, force-press to dictate new tweets via Siri, follow or block new followers and track your Twitter stats in real-time. The app uses Handoff to keep the Watch app in sync with the iOS one, so the tweets you compose on your Watch (if you’re so inclined with the small screen) will be there on your phone too.
The main iPhone app is pretty special as well. It color-codes tweets for easy identification, has a Today mode that acts as a dashboard for anything important, and allows you to mute specific words, phrases, hashtags, people or websites.
That can make an enormous difference to your Twitter experience, especially if you’re tracking controversial subjects or popular Tweeters.
The only irritant is the advertising, but you can banish that and add push notifications for $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 via in-app purchases.
We like to personalize our technology: we can’t be the only ones who’ve caught ourselves saying “thanks” to Siri. But while digital assistants can be sassy if you ask them the right questions, apps tend to be rather less interesting.
CARROT uses the same weather data as the fantastic Dark Sky app, but presents it rather differently: a typical update might say “It’s a beautiful, sunny day!” and then add “Ha ha, just kidding. It’s raining.”
You’ll either find this highly amusing or intensely annoying. We think it’s funny: who can resist an app that urges you to “bask in the glorious warmth of the partly-obscured sun”?
CARROT doesn’t just have personality, though. It also has radar and satellite weather maps, a time machine with up to 70 years of historical weather data to look at, and forecasts for right now, the next 24 hours and the next 7 days.
The basic app costs $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99, but to unlock some of the Watch features you’ll need an annual Premium subscription, which is currently $2.49/£2.29/AU$3.49. This unlocks the half-hourly updates and the option to customize the Watch complications.
Just Press Record
One of the most useful things about the Apple Watch is that it enables you to do things without having to take your phone out of your pocket or bag. brings that handiness to voice recording, enabling you to capture bright ideas, rambling monologues or memos when you’re out and about.
The interface is just a big red button with a picture of a microphone on it, and as you might expect you tap it to start recording. The phone app can transcribe your recording to turn it into text – which means your recordings become searchable by keyword – and it recognises formatting commands such as “new paragraph” and “comma”.
To use it is to feel like you’re living in the future: we remember when dictation and transcription required a powerful PC and endless patience, and now you get much better results with a watch. Isn’t technology brilliant?
In addition to its recording and transcription features, the app syncs automatically via iCloud, so you can access it on all your devices – including macOS, for which there’s a separate app – and it uses the Watch’s own local storage so that you can record even if your phone isn’t currently connected.
The best apps are those which the developers have thought: “what watch-based features would actually be worthwhile?” and TripAdvisor definitely falls into that category: while the iPhone app is a veritable feast of information about absolutely everywhere, the watch app is much more focused.
To take a typical example, imagine you’re hungry. Tap on the app, tap restaurants, and the first thing you’ll see is a list of restaurants within 1km of your current location.
The key data is right there: the star rating, its rank in the local area, and what kind of food it does, so you can see immediately if the place offering easy cuisine is more likely to serve salmonella than smoked salmon.
Tap on the listing and you get a map, individual reviews and a photo gallery from users, not the establishment itself. There’s also a Save button, so if you like it you can add it to your favorite places.
When we say it’s focused we mean it: other than restaurants, the only options are Things To Do and Hotels. TripAdvisor clearly thinks that if you want to use other features, like damning a diner or praising a pie shop, you’ll do that in the iPhone app. And it’s right.
Getting Fantastical 2 up and running on your watch can be time consuming, but it’s worth it: one of the very best iPhone calendar apps around develops even more powers when you add its app to your watch.
You can also add it as a complication, which means you’ll see details of your schedule right there in the watch face.
To actually make it work you’ll need to install Fantastical to your watch and then open the iPhone app, not the Apple Watch one. This is where you specify what information should be sent to the watch, and the options are extensive.
You can choose from events, calendars, reminders and lists, include a map of the event location, show end times and specify how reminders should appear, and you can even specify what should happen if you tap on the Fantastical 2 complication on your watch face.
It’s that kind of thought and attention to detail that makes us love the app so much.
The best thing about Fantastical 2, though, is that it understands you. Force Touch the app, tap on Add Event and Siri starts listening.
It knows what you mean by “lunch with Dave”, automatically putting the appointment at 12 noon, and it knows that if you say “to-do get dinner on the way home” you’re adding an item to a to-do list. Siri’s voice recognition performs brilliantly when it’s limited to such a specific set of instructions.
’s a strange old thing these days. What started off as a haven for Pez collectors is full of high street retailers and no-name knock-off factories, professional power sellers and the usual bunch of con artists.
Browsing all of that on a watch would be absolutely horrible, which is why the eBay app doesn’t do that.
What it does do is concentrate on the ways an Apple Watch app can actually be useful in online auctioning. It pings you when an item in your Watch List – as in items you’re watching, not a list on your watch – is coming to a close, it pings if you’re outbid while an auction progresses, and it lets you know when your auction purchases are en-route.
It’s particularly great for those occasions when you don’t want to miss out on a great bargain but you can’t bring out your phone, such as when you’re attending the birth of your child, defusing a fiendishly complicated bomb or hiding from a jealous husband or wife.
Being able to stick your watch into silent mode and surreptitiously update your auctions is an absolute godsend in any situation where poking at your phone would be considered rude.
Dark Sky Weather
What Dark Sky does seems very simple, but is actually very clever. It tells you what the weather’s going to do – not in a vague sense, but as in telling you that it’s going to bucket down in ten minutes and that the storm won’t stop for an hour.
That means it’s the perfect app for anybody who’s thinking about going outside for any reason, or who’s already outside and really ought to be getting inside in a big hurry.
In more dramatic climates it alerts of dangerous weather such as storms, and you can set it to notify you of specific kinds of weather that you select in the companion iPhone app.
We use it to decide if now is a good time to walk the dog, if it’s time to get the kids back to the car or if we really shouldn’t be going out dressed like that; you might use it when you’re hiking or biking, or doing any other activity that could be affected by changes in the weather.
If you used Dark Sky in the early days of the Apple Watch and found it painfully slow and unresponsive, give it another go: the current version runs on the watch, not on the phone, and the difference in performance really is dramatic.
You’ve probably noticed something of a trend in our favorite apps: they tend to approach their mission by asking what useful things the watch can do rather than trying to cram an entire phone app into that tiny screen, irrespective of whether that’s sane or useful. Yelp is a great example of an app that gets it right.
When you open it you’ll see just four icons: Restaurants, Bars, Coffee & Tea, and Hot & New. Tapping on the one you’re interested in then shows you a list sorted by distance, with the all-important star ratings and average cost listed on top of a photograph. Tap again and you’ll get the opening hours and a map, and of course you can read the reviews too – that’s what Yelp is all about.
It’s particularly good for the kind of venues and experiences popular among bright young things in big cities, (the most committed Yelpers), but the database is truly enormous and doesn’t turn into tumbleweed whenever you venture into the countryside. Yelp’s app is very good for finding places in unfamiliar towns, or unfamiliar places in towns you know very well.
“Wouldn’t it be great if you could read an entire newspaper on a screen the size of a postage stamp?” said no-one, ever. That hasn’t stopped people from trying, often with terrible results. So all credit to The Guardian, which has taken a completely different approach that actually works. It’s a news app, but rather than tell you everything it only tells you a little bit.
Rather than deliver a newspaper, The Guardian’s watch app only wants to do one thing: to show you something interesting every time you look at it. In practice that means the app is looking at your preferences in the larger iPhone app and showing you one story that it thinks you’ll be interested in.
You’ll see a headline, a small photo and a synopsis, and you can either Force Touch to save the item to your reading list, or use Handoff to open the full item on your phone.
Trust us, it’s a lot more useful than it sounds. Provided you’ve personalized the main app, the one-shot suggestions do generally fall into the “hmm, that’s interesting” category, and we think it’s a much better approach than some other apps that give you half a headline for a whole bunch of stories.
Some people bought their Apple Watch to track their fitness. Others, like us, hoped we’d be able to control every appliance by shouting at it. That dream hasn’t quite been achieved yet, but in the meantime we can command our Philips Hue lights with the power of Siri, or access pre-installed lighting effects with the tap of the wrist.
Hue is Philips’ HomeKit-compatible bulb system, enabling you to create light recipes that you can save for easy access. It’s based around a hub that connects to your wireless router, allowing control via phone, tablet or watch.
If you plump for the colored bulbs or colored lightstrips you can mix and match the colors and brightness by mood or activity, so you might have warm whites for reading, soft pastels for dining and something spookier for watching horror films.
The Watch bit of the app isn’t the most straightforward to set up – once installed you need to create its widgets using the Hue app on your phone – but once you’ve done that you can then tap on the appropriate icon to call up its settings.
And because the Hue setup is HomeKit compatible, it also integrates with Siri. The novelty of asking Siri to turn the lights on or off or to call up a particular ‘light scene’ never really wears off.
Foursquare City Guide
Foursquare’s mission has changed somewhat over the years: what started off based around location check-ins and “king of the castle” bragging had to change when Facebook promptly copied the idea.
Robbed of its raison d’être, these days Foursquare has separated the check-ins from the venue recommendations. ’s job is to find decent bars and restaurants wherever you are in the world (if you still want to be the mayor of wherever, that’s the companion app, ).
The main interface of City Guide has five tappable areas: Search, Favorites, Food, Coffee and Nightlife.
Tapping on the appropriate option takes you to a list of venues, but instead of just filtering by distance the app also filters by Foursquare user ratings – so a rating of 9.5 that’s 500m away will appear below a 9.7 that’s 100m further.
The list gives you the name, price bracket, average rating and distance for each venue, and if you tap on a venue you’ll see reviews, photos, maps and other key information. The big selling point here is Foursquare’s global reach: it’s a really good app for travellers who don’t want to spend their time in the hotel bar or eating in faceless chain restaurants.
UK Bus Checker
- Free / £2.99 to remove adverts
What makes a good watch app? We think it’s one that tells you exactly what you need to know, when you need to know it, without fuss or fluster.
Open up the apps and you’ll be staring at four icons and your location, with Favorites showing your saved stops, Nearby the stops around you, Journeys enabling you to plan a trip, and Get Home finding the best way to get you there from here.
We use the Favorites one a lot, because it offers real-time data so you know if the number 60A is running late again or if you’ll need to sprint to the bus stop. It includes mapping and points of interest too, so you can use it to find a coffee shop when you’re on foot.
The only real downside to UK Bus Checker is that it’s only as good as the data supplied to it, and unfortunately if – like us – you live in an area where the buses are operated by the devil himself and driven by his henchmen, that data isn’t always accurate.
But you can say the same about the signs on the bus shelters – that’s the bus company’s fault, not the technology.
Do your colleagues do much thinking outside the box? Do they talk about “going forward” with projects or “surfacing” information? Is the oldest person in the building still in their mid-30s? Then you’re probably all too aware of , the corporate communications system that’s replaced email and instant messaging for more than a 1.7 million daily users.
We’re kidding, but only a little bit: Slack has become the go-to communication platform for tech and media businesses and start-ups. The iOS app provides a fully-featured Slack experience with file sharing, social media integration and powerful search and archiving features, while the Apple Watch app doesn’t.
That’s entirely deliberate, because if your Watch app tried to cover all the different interactions in a typical Slack team it’d be pinging away so often your Watch would run out of power before your second cup of coffee (and do be careful – Slack on the wrist does munch the battery of your smartwatch in our tests).
What the developers have done instead is focus on what you want a watch to do, which is to notify you only of the things you really need to know about. That means the same push notifications you’ve set for your iPhone, direct messaging and incorporating Handoff so you can move from watch to iOS without losing your train of thought.
If you aren’t already familiar with Tweetbot 4, it’s the best Mac and iOS Twitter client bar none. This is why it can charge $9.99/£7.99/AU$14.99 for an iOS app and people gladly pay it, and it’s worth checking out on the Apple Watch too.
Tweetbot doesn’t unleash the Twitter firehose onto your wrist – we can’t think of anything guaranteed to kill your battery more quickly – but it does give you exactly the information you need when you aren’t looking at your phone.
The developers have rightly assumed that if you have your phone to hand you won’t be using the watch instead, so they’ve concentrated on making an app for when you can’t or don’t want to pull your phone out of your pocket or purse. And that’s clever.
Its Activity pane shows you what’s happening in your feed, so if somebody’s followed you or replied to you or tweeted you then you’ll see it in Activity. Tapping on the item opens the appropriate tweet or user page, and with tweets you’ll see icons for a quick reply, a retweet or a like.
If you push into the screen using Force Touch you get an offer to create a new tweet, and both it and the reply option use Siri for dictation, because on-watch typing would be frankly horrible – and you can dictate a direct message or follow/unfollow accounts from the app too.
If you’ve tried Twitter or Facebook on the Apple Watch you may well think that social networking doesn’t really work on such a small device, but begs to differ. The Facebook-owned photo sharing service concentrates on the basics and does them very well.
Like most Watch versions of iPhone/iPad apps the Instagram app is limited compared to its bigger sibling; for example you can’t use it to take photos with your phone camera and upload them from the Watch, with snapping and uploading remaining a job for your iPhone.
What the app does do is show a shortened version of your Instagram feed, offering the most recent posts from people you’ve chosen to receive notifications about. (You can change that list in the iPhone app).
Instagram works surprisingly well on your wrist. You can swipe through photos to view or like them, see recent comments and likes on your own photos, and send emoji replies to people’s posts.
It’s great for a bit of time-wasting when you’re out and about, and it’s compatible with Handoff so you can effortlessly switch from Watch to iPhone when you want to use a feature the Watch app doesn’t have.
The apps we tend to love the most are the ones that solve real-world problems, and falls into that category. Yes, it’s a fantastically useful calculator and scientific calculator, but much more importantly it prevents fisticuffs in restaurants.
That’s because of its handy bill splitter. Simply tell it how much the bill comes to, how many people are paying and how big a tip you want to leave, and the Watch app calculates how much each person should hand over. It supports watchOS 3’s Scribble feature too, so you don’t need to dictate or tap on a tiny keypad if you’ve downed that second bottle of wine. Alternatively you can use the Digital Crown to enter the figure in the tip calculator.
That’s not all the Watch app can do, though. It includes a converter for distances and other measurements, and if you Force Touch the app you’ll see a Send To iPhone icon as well as the clear and undo buttons.
And on the iPhone the main app is a great tool for serious calculating (and quick sums: there’s a mini-calculator if you Force Touch the app icon). It’s not the cheapest calculator app, but it’s worth the money.
One of the Apple Watch’s most impressive features is the remote camera option, which enables you to use the Watch’s display as a viewfinder and shutter button for your iPhone.
It’s as useful for looking in awkward places as it is for snapping selfies, but that usefulness only applies if you stick with the default Camera app – or if you use a Camera replacement such as , which has its own remote shutter app for the Apple Watch.
The ProCamera Watch app offers more options than the standard Apple one, with easy selection of photo, lowlight mode, HDR or video and the option to set a timer too. But the real draw here is the main iPhone app, which offers a range of image formats, RAW and UHD shooting, filters and effects and easy social media sharing.
Some of its best features require in-app purchases – Lowlight Plus and vividHDR are $2.99/£2.49/AU$4.99 each – but that’s still not much when you consider the kind of money you’d spend on real camera kit.
The app has just been updated for the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus too, with a clever option to switch between the iPhone 7 Plus’s two lenses and Wide Color Capture on both models.
- Free or $6.99/£4.99/AU$10.99 for ad-free version
was a genuine gee-whizz app when it debuted on the iPhone, and it’s even more impressive when it’s on your wrist. It does one thing and does it brilliantly: it listens to the music around you and lets you know what it is.
Its recognition algorithms are superb, and having it on your Watch means you can probably win pop quizzes without getting caught. Not that we’d recommend such behaviour, of course.
The experience on the Watch is very well thought out: instead of staring at a progress icon while the song is being recognised, you simply tap the app and then drop your wrist. It’ll then notify you when the song has been identified, at which point you can raise your wrist, see the song and then tap on the lyrics if you want to know the words too. The lyrics even scroll along with the music.
The Watch app uses Handoff, so you can pick up the iPhone to see more about the track, watch videos or buy the download, plus the iOS app also boasts Rdio and Spotify integration and artist recommendations. Jfriel1995scotland reckons it’s “lol best free app ever”, and he or she might have a point.
Now Watch users have a choice of transport apps on their Watch. The built-in Maps app from Apple is still the most versatile thanks to excellent maps, directions and now public transport options in some cities like London. But Google’s answer is straightforward and attractive.
Google Maps gives directions (though not maps) for two destinations, home and work, but will also show routes recently followed on your phone. A Force Press on the Watch screen lets you switch between walking, driving and public transport modes.
The cycle routing that the phone app offers isn’t here, perhaps because you shouldn’t be taking your hand off the handlebars to read your Watch screen as you ride.
You may have missed the built-in Camera Remote feature since the Apple Watch doesn’t have a camera, but you should use it to your advantage every time you take an awkwardly framed photo. It let’s your frame a shot remotely with your Apple Watch by seeing a preview of what’s in the phone viewfinder via the Watch screen.
It also has a shutter button and initiates a countdown. It works with both the front and back cameras and is free. Use this tool wisely to achieve less awkward selfies at a distance.
I sometimes wear my messy Chipotle burritos while scarfing down the healthy-ish Mexican platters, but I’m also purposely wearing Chipotle on my wrist to send order to the store via my Apple Watch.
While it’s not the most groundbreak app, I can create a one-tap order with the Chipotle Apple Watch app and have my meal ready to go while I’m on the treadmill at the gym next door. It’s as efficient as it is calorie rich. The best part is, I get the skip the always massive line.
Facebook Messenger on Apple Watch got a late start, but it finally lets you respond to those pressing messages to friends and family without opening up the sioled-off app on your phone or website on a computer.
You can initiate and reply with a thumbs up (which I see as kind of curt and rude) or dictate a reply. Sending Facebook’s ugly smiley face or your current location can be done with the press of one or two taps too. No, there’s still no WhatsApps for Apple Watch, but this is the next best thing from Facebook.
What’s better than controlling the lights throughout your entire household with your iPhone? Doing it with a flick your your wrist with an Apple Watch. That’s what the Philips Hue app does – if you have the WiFi-enabled lightbulbs popular among early adopters.
Calling an Uber isn’t too difficult, unless of course your hands are full or running down last-second tasks. That’s me right before I leave for a flight.
Often times, I’m packing my suitcase with last second gadgets and taking out the trash so it doesn’t take on another lifeform by sitting there for a week. The Apple Watch makes it easier to hail the 21st century taxi.
The Uber Apple Watch app is not only simple to use, it lets you see vital information, like the time the driver will take to get there and the car he or she drives, complete with a picture (when they have one).
This sleep monitor app works when you keep the Watch on at night. This may mean some users have to switch the recharging cycle to first thing in the morning, though as the Watch charges quickly this may not be a problem. Then, when you’re going to sleep tell the app that you’re doing so and then when you wake up, tell it that.
Sleep++ suggests putting your Watch into inflight mode to save battery. Although it’s no match for a dedicated health band like the Jawbone UP3, the sleep data it collects is interesting and useful.
It divides sleep into light and deep, and also tells you how much of the night you were restless for. The data can be included in Apple’s Healthkit so you can share it with other apps. A Watch complication is also available.
Lose It! is a weight loss program and calorie counter. It’s sophisticated and has advanced features. So you can set different kinds of goals such as weight loss or the steps you want to take. If you have aims that involve body fat, sleep or blood pressure, the app can help.
The Watch reminds you to log your food which can be done by tapping in details on the Watch or using a barcode scanner in the iPhone app.
There are also insights related to calories and nutrients and the app integrates with other devices and apps such as the Withings Body scale or RunKeeper. Clear, simple and accessible.
Like Citymapper, ETA will help you get somewhere. The title refers to its front-and-centre information. You add a location on the iPhone and save it. Then it’ll give you timings for driving, walking or taking public transport.
Some watch faces allow it as a complication, where it’ll show the time it’ll take to your top saved route. It knows what traffic is like so allows extra time for a drive in rush hour, say. On the Watch app you tap the chosen saved destination and it’ll take you through to Maps for directions.
Similarly, for public transport directions in select cities Maps will provide the directions. Like Dark Sky this is a paid-for app: £2.29/$2.99.
From a team of developers, psychologists and neuroscientists, Peak is a great app for keeping your brain active. The Watch version offers three games, ideal for the smaller screen. Some of these seem simple at first, but they quickly become more challenging.
There are workouts to test memory, focus and problem solving – all of them fun, engaging, and the ideal to while away the daily commute.
Currency converters abound on the iPhone and XE Currency is one of the best. While the Watch version doesn’t have the calculator feature found on the phone, it’s a clear chart of how many euros, Argentine pesos or Australian dollars a British pound buys.
You can add more currencies on the phone version – whatever’s there is replicated on the Watch. A button at the base of the screen lets the iPhone app control the refresh rates, so you can avoid roaming charges.
Headspace is a meditation app with lessons as short as two minutes or as long as an hour. It’s free to learn the basics in 10 beginner sessions, then £9.99 if you want to go further, with sessions divided into packs titled Creativity, Focus or Happiness.
It’s a great app, and becomes increasingly rewarding thanks to its down-to-earth approach and decent design.
On the Watch there’s only one function, but it’s a neat one. Opening the app reveals the SOS button. If you’re feeling stressed, tap this and it plays a two-minute session designed to help with what Headspace calls “meltdown moments.”
If you’re frustrated by trying to remember all the passwords you need, 1Password means you only have to recall one, which guards all the others safely. It also works with the iPhone’s Touch ID. It’s free, but for Watch functionality, you need the Pro version (£7.99).
Secure notes and logins have an option marked “Add to Apple Watch.” When you launch the Watch app, added items are viewable on your wrist. They’re still safe because as soon as you take the Watch off, it locks, so someone else can only read them if they enter your Watch passcode.
This powerful translation app works in 90 languages. It’s free but for full Watch use you’ll need the £3.99/$4.99 in-app purchase which offers voice recognition and unlimited translations.
A Watch complication means you can tap on the screen to start translating straight away and if you’ll let it, iTranslate will use your location to figure out what language it should be translating to or from.
It also responds to Time Travel so by winding the Digital Crown you can see phrases which change such as “Good afternoon” which is replaced by “Good evening” as you scroll forward.
Fantastical 2 is a great alternative to the Apple Calendar. It has strong natural language understanding, so on the iPhone you can type “lunch with John on Monday at 12” and it’ll know you mean noon and next Monday. It also understands more complex details like “every third Thursday until September”.
On the Watch you can view reminders and events or create new ones by speaking the details. It looks good, too, with events colour-coded to match your calendars. £3.99 – and worth it.
App in the Air
This is the app that aims to give you up-to-date information on upcoming flights. Set up your App in the Air account, enter the flight dates on your iPhone (or your booking reference, though this feature is still in beta) and in the Glances screen on your Watch it’ll show the flight number and time until check-in closes.
Tap through to the app itself and there are more details, including gate number when known.
There’s also a packing list to remind you to check travel insurance and roaming settings on your phone. Added features include gate change and status updates which can be sent by SMS to avoid data charges overseas. That’s £3.99/$4.99 for five flights. Boarding time, departure and gate can be displayed as a complication on the Watch face.
If you use the Boris Bikes, as London’s Santander Cycles bike hire scheme is affectionately called, this is handy. Since Transport for London releases bike and dock data every three minutes, apps are the best way to check availability. And unlike the official app, Cycle Hire has Watch compatibility.
In the Watch’s Glances screen it shows you how many bikes and spaces are available nearby. Then with a tap it’ll reveal more detail either on a map or in list form. The iPhone app offers expanded features such as routes and reminders to return your bike when the 30-minute free hire period is running out.
London Tube Tracker
This is a comprehensive London Tube app, with a journey planner, live departure boards and more. On the Watch, London Tube Tracker shows details for stations you’ve picked as favourites on the iPhone, down to what trains will be arriving when. Meanwhile, on the Glances screen it’ll tell you how long it is until your next or last train home and how long that journey should take.
The cool live Tube map, showing trains shuffling round London is restricted to the iPhone version, sadly. Still, the route planning and line statuses on the Watch are useful.
What are the tasks you really want to achieve? Pick six from the hundreds of icons on the iPhone and they’ll appear in the Watch app or the Streaks complication on the Watch face. So whether you want to read more, practise a musical instrument or walk the dog, there are icons you can invoke and reminders it can offer.
You can even choose to brush your teeth as a goal, though, frankly, I’d have thought that was a given. It works with the Health app to nudge you towards fitness goals and the name refers to the fact that you should aim to hit the targets for a streak of consecutive days.
Of course, bigger screens such as phones and, you know, TVs are best for expansive looks at the news, so the Watch’s little face is reserved for headlines and photos with BBC News. These appear in Glances and tapping on one takes you to a very slightly fuller version, and lets you access the other headlines.
You can create a personalised news list on the iPhone and these show up in the Watch app, too. Ideal for snacking on headlines and letting you follow up with the main story elsewhere.
Runtastic Six Pack Abs
If you’ve been meaning to get that six-pack tummy but just don’t have time to go to the gym, this iPhone app has high-quality videos of avatars performing crunches, situps, stretches and core twists that you can do in your own time on your bedroom floor, say.
Initial workouts with Runtastic are free, more come as in-app purchases. And if squinting at your precariously perched iPhone isn’t doing it for you, the Watch app means you can see an animation on your watch, with vibrations on your wrist to start and end a set. It’s easy to use and works well. Now you’ll have to find another excuse not to work out.
UK Bus Checker
Live journey planning and scheduled bus times for over 40 UK cities are the heart of this app, and once you’ve planned a journey on the phone, you can track it on the Watch. It uses the iPhone’s GPS and displays your location at the bottom of the screen.
Touch Nearby and UK Bus Checker will show you the Departure Board for the nearest bus stop. There are also helpful messages to help you plan your journey – for example, warning of train strikes that will make buses busier. Slick and efficient.
Clear is a beautifully designed to-do list app that uses gestures and colour to make for a really enjoyable experience – though whether that makes you actually do more of what’s on the list is another matter.
Still, confirming you’ve completed a task is satisfying and you can do that on the Watch as well as the iPhone. You can add tasks to the list on the Watch, thanks to Siri, or set reminders for when you need a nudge. Clear is an exceptional app and the Watch app is neatly realised.
7 Minute Workout Challenge
There are plenty of seven-minute workout apps (consisting of 12 30-second exercises with 10-second rests in between) but 7 Minute Workout Challenge appeals because it’s comprehensive and well-designed.
The Watch element includes a simple timer or animations to remind you how to know your lunges from your jumping jacks, and you can choose your workout from the selection available. The pause and restart buttons are also useful.
This app makes working out accessible, attainable, and (importantly) fast.
Organise your life better with Evernote, the brilliant note-taking app which saves photos, text, recipes, bookmarks, voice notes and more. On Apple Watch you can set reminders and check off tasks easily enough.
You can dictate new notes for those brilliant ideas you mustn’t forget just by tapping the Plus button or Force Touching the screen. The Watch app can search existing notes using voice – though this wasn’t as reliable as I’d have liked. Even so, if you’re an Evernote fan it brings an extra level of convenience.
Lark Personal Weight Loss Coach
You can use Lark to lose weight or just for general fitness. It mines the information in your iPhone’s Health app to understand how active you’ve been, and you tell it what you’ve eaten in text message conversations. Eat too much bacon and it’ll tell you to find protein elsewhere, for instance.
On the Watch it offers quick pep talks and you can log a meal by dictating what you’ve eaten. Lark can be a bit naggy so won’t suit everyone, but if you like it, the Watch offers simple extra functions that work well.
National Rail Enquiries
National Rail Enquiries is a brilliant app that if you’re a regular train user is quickly essential. It’s full of data like live departure boards and notifications if there are service disruptions, all colour-coded (green is on time, red means it’s late).
On the Watch it works in three ways: to show the nearest stations, your favourites (which usually includes your home station) and recent enquiries. A useful adjunct to the great iPhone version.
Check out the Easyjet app on the Glances screens and you’ll see that even if you don’t have a flight booked it’s kind enough to tell you the temperature in Tenerife, Palma or some other warm place!
When you have upcoming bookings, it gives you a countdown to your flight date, and shows you weather for the week ahead at your destination. It even provides you the latest exchange rate.
There’s also flight status info in Glances and more features are arriving, airport by airport to show gate notifications and reminders of when to head from duty-free to the plane.
Strava Running and Cycling
Strava is perfect if you’re competitive, even if it’s just against yourself. It’s great for tracking your training on foot or bicycle. On the iPhone it shows your outdoor runs and rides on maps, records your progress and more. It’s also plenty social if you want to share details with friends.
The Watch app is very simple: a sneaker or cycle in an orange circle, and you press this to start or end a ride or run. Force Press lets you change from one sport to the other. Then it shows the timing, speed and distance accurately – handier than pulling your phone out of your pocket.
Practising yoga is easier with clear instructions and guidance, which FitStar Yoga provides alongside high-res video. That’s not on the Watch, though there are useful features for when you’re more familiar with the poses.
You can start and pause sessions and the Watch reminds you what’s up next. And you can let the app know if that last exercise was too hard, just right, or too easy. It integrates with Apple’s Health app so calories burnt are noted in the app.
Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal
Information is power and if you’re trying to lose weight, calorie tracking is a good way to stay focused. MyFitnessPal works out a daily calorie allowance based on how much weight you want to shed. Eat a meal and your allowance is spent, take exercise and you earn credit.
The Watch gives you a running total of remaining calories and how that breaks down into protein, carbohydrates and more. It can integrate with your steps total so you don’t have to add those manually. It’s simple but convenient and helpful.
Walkmeter GPS Pedometer
If walking’s your thing, Walkmeter helps track your every step, showing your perambulations on a map and generating detailed graphs. The Watch app has clear data reporting and you can start and stop a walk from your wrist using the Watch’s Force Touch actions.
Apple’s own Workout app does a lot, but this app has more detail and the mapping detail on the iPhone is great. The app is free but for full Watch performance you need to upgrade to the Elite version for £3.99. There’s a lot here, including training plans and announcements as you hit targets or distances.
Withings makes a series of devices to help measure health including bathroom scales and a blood pressure monitor which connect wirelessly to the Withings site or the iPhone to store data.
The Health Mate Watch app shows some of this data including latest weight on the Glances screen plus in the app itself recent changes, BMI and how much of your weight is fat (I know, I know, but it can be important). The iPhone app can be used to track heart rate and count steps, too.
With the right Withings gadgets, this can lead to comprehensive and effective health monitoring.
The British Airways app doesn’t do a great deal until you’re close to travelling, but as soon as you’re within a week of wheels up, everything changes.
The Glance screen shows flight details with departure time and countdown to takeoff with more details in the Watch app itself. There’s also info on the weather at your destination, which obviously becomes more accurate and useful as you get nearer to flight day.
It tells you when to check in and which gate you’re flying from (once that information is available). And of course, once you’ve checked in, Passbook means you can use your Watch as a boarding pass at security and the gate.
Oh my, this is good. It’s a weather app, but it’s mighty specific. The iPhone Dark Sky Weather app lists your exact address moment by moment. So it’ll tell you when it’s going to rain where you are, with surprising accuracy.
The Watch app gives you a detailed forecast of the next hour on one screen, the day ahead on the next, and then the week on the third. The latest version works as a complication on compatible Watch faces so you don’t have to even touch the Watch to see that today is “13 degrees, mostly cloudy” or whatever.
The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel is the world’s most downloaded weather app, apparently. As well as instant weather descriptions for right now and forecasts for the next 15 hours or more, the Watch app shows details of how long until sunset, temperature and cloud cover now.
There’s also the current outlook, wind speed and chance of rain. Most of these details also appear in the app’s Glances screen. Since the arrival of watchOS 2, The Weather Channel is also available as a complication, appearing on some Watch faces as an icon, such as an umbrella when rain is expected. It’s free, or you can remove ads for £2.99/$3.99.
The Watch Hailo app makes it exceptionally easy to order a cab. You need to set up an account in the iPhone app first, but then the location features on the phone mean the app knows where you are so the cab can find you.
This means it takes just one click to order a Hailo – which also makes it easy to call one by accident, so thank goodness there’s a swift Cancel option using Force Touch.
Just Press Record
No, pressing the record button on an iPhone isn’t a giant hassle, but as a journalist, capturing what’s being said – often impromptuly – at a moment’s notice is of the utmost importance sometimes. That’s why we’re a fan of the appropriately named Just Press Record Apple Watch app.
It’s more than a handy off-site button, though. It also syncs records across all devices big (like an iMac) to small (like the iPhone SE), making the recording and listening back process a tad easier.
Citymapper is the pre-eminent public transport app, so no wonder it’s an Apple Watch essential. It tells you how to get around selected cities including London, Manchester, Paris, Barcelona and New York.
As well as bus, train and subway times and directions, the Watch app even offers cycling routes and bike hire details such as London’s Boris Bikes. Once you’ve set up the journey on the phone, step-by-step notifications will appear on the Watch screen.
You can start journeys to home or previously saved destinations right from the Watch, and it will even help you find your way to nearby bus stops and train stations. Brilliant, just brilliant.
Dave Phelan also contributed to this feature
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