It’s been an interesting year for Apple Watch apps. In the spring it seemed as if the Watch had lost its sparkle, with many big-name apps either languishing or being pulled from the Watch altogether. The problem wasn’t that Apple Watch apps are a bad idea, though.
Far from it, as our selection here demonstrates. It was that sometimes, apps were designed to answer the wrong question: “could we make a Watch app?” but not “should we?”
Now, the Apple Watch is onto its fourth generation, and the aptly-named Apple Watch 4 is proving pretty popular - so that's why you're probably here checking out the new apps. In fact, it's one of the best smartwatch options out there, and now we're at the fourth generation it's becoming a particularly accomplished smart option for your wrist.
Our favourite apps, the apps that are still here after a bumpy year, both should and could have been made. They exist because they’re useful, or because they’re entertaining, or because they make your life that little bit better.
In this round-up you’ll find apps for podcasting and procrastinating, for getting fit and getting stuff done, for messing around and for sorting stuff out.
Before you get into our list remember to head into the Apple Watch main app on your iPhone - that's where you'll see a list of the apps already installed on your phone that can also be transferred to your Watch. If you see any you like the look of here, you'll need to download them to your iPhone first.
And make sure to check this article weekly, as we'll add a new app each week, highlighted below.
Apple Watch app of the week: Calendars 5
- Calendars 5
You may know Readdle already: it’s the developer behind the superb Spark email app, as well as the popular and useful PDF Expert. Calendars 5 has been around for a while, but the Apple Watch support only arrived in December 2018. As we’ve come to expect from Readdle apps it’s well-designed and useful without unnecessary gimmicks or eye candy.
The app works as a Watch face complication and as a dedicated app. It also supports Siri, so you can ask it to tell you what you’ve got scheduled or create a new item with just your voice. The app works with both iCloud and Google calendars for easy syncing, and it works both online and offline.
The iPhone app is great too, with natural language input and support for the kinds of things you need a calendar app to do such as complex recurring events (for example, a class that runs every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday), custom alerts and event invitations. The app also includes a good task manager that enables you to track and clear your various to-do and task lists. It’s good on the iPad, too, where it takes full advantage of the big screen to give you a birds-eye view of your week or month.
Best Apple Watch apps for fitness and running
There's no denying that the main thrust of the Apple Watch since the second model is for fitness: it's packing GPS, heart rate, water resistance and improved sensors to make the most of the fact people like to work out with this thing - it even connects to gym equipment.
This list of Apple Watch fitness, running, wellbeing and health apps are nearly all must-have - if you're going to do one thing with your new Watch, use it to become a healthier you in mind and body.
- Free (in-app purchases)
Late in 2018, Apple introduced improved snowboarding and skiing tracking for the Apple Watch Series 3 and later. That’s been a boon for snow apps such as Slopes, which can use the improved APIs to gather more useful information than ever before.
With Slopes you can track your speed, vertical, distance, lift vs trail time and more, getting the information you need right now on your wrist and sharing that data with the iPhone so you can analyze it later.
Slopes is very clever. It automatically detects runs and lifts, it can replay your runs in 3D with heat maps showing your speed on each bit of the run, and it even integrates with your photo library to automatically display photos you took on your skiing or snowboarding trips. The app also integrates with the Apple Health app, recording details of your workouts and the calories you’ve burned.
As with many sport apps the core version of Slopes is free but there’s also a premium subscription that introduces extra features. Here that means live run-by-run breakdowns, unlimited run and lift stat breakdowns, premium maps and even virtual 3D mountains to show you where you’ve been. An annual pass is a very reasonable $19.99/£12.49/AU$17.99.
- 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.
Nike Run Club
- Nike Run Club
The ongoing love-fest between Nike and Apple continues to bear fruit: the latest iteration of the Nike Run Club app introduces some welcome improvements.
It now integrates with Siri Suggestions, which means the app can now suggest good times for a run based on your previous runs (the feature is off by default so it won’t nag you if you don’t want it to), and there are new Apple Watch complications including one for the Infograph face that shows how far you’ve run this month.
There’s hardly a shortage of running apps in the App Store but Nike’s budget is a bit higher than most, so the app feels a lot more premium than many others. It tracks and stores all your runs thanks to your Watch’s built-in GPS, enables you to listen to audio guides as you run, offers a range of challenges to keep you motivated and has good social sharing features, so you can turn your friends into cheerleaders.
It’s very well designed and the Watch app doesn’t sacrifice substance for style: while visually it’s very attractive it also shows all the information you actually need as you’re pounding the pavements. It’s a really good running app.
Apple’s much-heralded ECG app has finally arrived. It’s available for free to Apple Watch users and should automatically appear in your list of available apps as part of the watchOS 5.1.2 update, but you’ll only get it in a select few territories: the US, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Guam.
If you really, really want the app and you don’t live in any of those places you can get around it by changing the system region to one of the countries where it is available, although of course that will affect the other apps on your Watch too. For users in the UK it may be the only way to get the ECG app for the foreseeable future.
The app itself is simple and potentially life-saving. You simply put a finger on the Digital Crown, wait 30 seconds and the app analyzes the electrical impulses in your body; this enable it to detect some cases of atrial fibrillation. The emphasis here is on ‘some’: the app can generate false positive results, and it’s no substitute for a real doctor. However, by detecting issues that may otherwise go unnoticed it’s a useful thing for your Apple Watch to offer.
We’ve written about Cardiogram before: it’s a very valuable health tracker that enables you to see how your heart is working over time, and which enables you to look for spikes related to what you eat, how you exercise and whether you’re particularly stressed at work. All you need to do is wear your Apple Watch, which checks your heart rate every five minutes. Cardiogram then crunches that data to give you an insight into what your body’s doing.
What’s interesting about Cardiogram now isn’t the app itself, but the partnerships that are starting to emerge.
In the US, Amica Life and Greenhouse Health Insurance are offering life insurance for Cardiogram users with any version of the Apple Watch: simply use the Cardiogram app and you can be eligible for up to $1,000 (around £775/AU$1,400) in accidental death cover for 12 months, with the option to purchase up to $50,000 (roughly £39,000/AU$70,000) more from within the app. $1,000 isn’t a lot in the great scheme of things, especially in America, but it’s a lot for free.
You don’t have to share data either, the insurers bet that people who use Cardiogram are more likely to take steps to improve their health than people who don’t.
As with most health things, such partnerships are subject to regulatory approval, and the Cardiogram partnership is currently available in Wisconsin, Arizona, Indiana and Georgia. Expect more states and more partnerships soon.
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.
Nike Training Club
- Nike Training Club
Nike and Apple are best friends forever, so it’s not a huge surprise to see Nike unveil another Watch app. This one’s really good, too. Describing itself as “your ultimate personal trainer”, Nike Training Club has more than 180 workouts covering strength, endurance, mobility and yoga, and they’re all free. There are daily personalized picks based on your previous activity, flexible training plans to help you achieve your fitness goals, and tips from top trainers.
The app splits jobs between phone and Watch. The former is where you do the planning and tracking; the latter is what you wear while you’re actually working out. By necessity as well as design that means focusing only on the information you really need right now, such as your heart rate and how many reps you still have to do before you can undo all your efforts with some cake and beer.
The app is by no means unique in its combination of Watch and workout tracking, although it does have Nike’s immediately recognizable and individual visual style. But what’s significant about this app is that none of its many workouts are hidden behind in-app purchases or pricey subscriptions. Everything in the app is free.
- Free + in-app purchases
The main selling point of Gymaholic isn’t in its Watch app: it’s an augmented reality avatar of you, and its muscles glow to show you what muscles you’ve worked and what ones you need to work a little more.
It also boasts a virtual trainer to show you how you’re supposed to do each exercise without landing yourself in the ER. It has the usual progress tracking and stats, although the presence of your 3D avatar does make it feel rather like the character creator in an online RPG.
You get 3D models in the Watch app, but they’re so small they’re just getting in the way. The rest of the app is pretty straightforward fitness fare, showing you the different exercises in your workout, tracking the reps and telling you whether your heart is about to explode. It also provides written instructions on how to carry out specific exercises, so for example it describes how to lift weights when you’re doing an incline dumbbell press.
It’s worth noting that there are some in-app purchases, but they aren’t expensive and you don’t need a pricey membership to use the app. Plus, many of the available programmes, such as the 4-day programme and chest-focused programme, are completely free.
- Round Health
The longer we’ve had our Apple Watches, the more we’ve come to appreciate simplicity: while the App Store is full of apps that offer all kinds of features, the ones we actually use every day tend to do one thing very well. Round Health is that kind of app: it’s designed to make sure you take your medicine, and it does so with the minimum of fuss. You can also have it as a complication, so you know exactly what you need to take next.
Whether it’s vitamins or medication, most of us have had that “did I take it today?” thing. That’s no big deal if you’re just topping up your vitamin D in winter, but for people taking birth control or who have serious and/or chronic conditions it’s often very important to take certain medicine at certain times.
With Round Health you can set simple but persistent reminders that make sure you take what you need to take, and it supports more complex medical regimes involving multiple medications and schedules as well as tracking when you need to renew your prescription.
The term ‘life-changing’ is bandied around a lot to describe rather ordinary apps, but Round Health is a great way of helping you stay on top of your health.
- Free + in-app purchases
Like many health-related apps, Lifesum really wants you to take out a subscription: that’s $44.99/£34.99/AU$69.99 per year, though it sometimes runs a 30% off promotion. The core app is free, though. Its goal is to help you think about what you eat and what activity you do and to make positive changes to make yourself healthier.
On the iPhone, Lifesum enables you to count calories and track your meals, discover healthy recipes and track your progress towards your goals. It works with other apps too, so for example if you’ve got a Fitbit or use Runkeeper it can get data from them.
On the Watch it’s a much simpler affair, urging you to stay hydrated, showing your progress towards your resting, moving and stretching goals and doing everything through a kind of little Tamagotchi character.
It pulls data from the Apple Health app as well as the Lifesum app to ensure you get the widest possible picture of your intake and activity, and you can add data as well as view it: for example, you can take a note of what you’re eating via the Watch app and then enter more details on the iPhone later. Unusually there isn’t a Watch complication, but the app does tie in with the Watch’s notification system to keep you updated.
- Free + in-app purchases
If you’ve ever felt that life is just that bit too busy or stressful, Headspace could help. It’s based around mindfulness, which is all about getting you to feel calmer without too much effort. In fact, it’s the opposite of effort: mindfulness is about taking a break from the rush.
The Apple Watch app is part of a wider offering for iPhone and iPad: it acts as a reminder and a coach, urging you to pick an exercise and focus on it for the allotted time. It also has an SOS mode for when things feel too much and you need help instantly. But it’s the main app that does most of the work, with daily mindfulness exercises and sessions designed to help with everything from workplace stress to sleep problems.
It’s very well done but one thing that might raise your stress levels is the cost: while the app is free to try it really needs a subscription to unlock its most useful features, and that subscription is $12.99/£9.99/AU$19.99 per month or $94.99/£74.99/AU$149.99 per year. That’s an auto-renewing subscription too, so you need to disable that in iTunes if you don’t want it to recur automatically.
Medical apps don’t just exist to persuade you that your mild headache is terminal brain cancer. They can help keep you healthy too. While WebMD does indeed let you compare your symptoms with various illnesses and conditions to scare yourself silly, that’s not the most interesting thing about it or its Watch companion app.
WebMD enables you to detail your medication schedules, with dosage information and the option to be reminded of what you need to take and when you need to take it. This can be in the form of a notification, or you can have it as a Watch face Complication so it’s right there in the middle of the display.
It can also remind you of any prerequisites, such as whether you need to take your medicine with food or on an empty stomach. It’s the sort of simple but very useful thing the Apple Watch does well.
Over on the main iPhone app there’s plenty more to discover. You can read up on the side effects and precautions of specific pills or patches, find out if you need to go hiding from the flu or just catch up on the latest health and wellbeing news from various credible sources.
How’s your heart? If you don’t know the answer, this app can shed some light. It might even save your life, as it did for James Green: the app alerted him about an unusual spike in his heart rate, and it turned out to be a pulmonary embolism. If it weren’t for the alert, Green might well have died.
You don’t really need more of a sales pitch to justify spending three dollars on staying alive, but HeartWatch isn’t a one-trick app. It pulls information from the Watch’s heart rate sensor to track what it’s doing when you wake, when you sleep, when you work out and when you just go about your day.
The reason for the different types of activity is simple: you don’t want your app warning you about elevated heart rate if you’re doing something designed to elevate your heart rate, an issue that used to drive us daft when exercising with our Apple Watch set to the defaults.
It won’t work without the Health app installed - that’s the route by which it gets its data - but you can also import data from other health apps if you use other kinds of connected health monitors.
One Drop Diabetes Management
We’re increasingly intrigued about HealthKit, Apple’s framework for health monitoring apps: we’ve already seen apps that can warn of rare but potentially lethal heart conditions, and now we’re seeing a whole host of specialist apps that can integrate with specific monitoring hardware to help with particular conditions. As the name suggests, this one’s for people with diabetes.
One Drop makes Chrome, a Bluetooth blood glucose meter that’s sold as a package with testing strips. If you have the meter the app gets information from each test, but if you don’t it’s still a useful app to help monitor your diabetes.
The app enables you to log your activity, your food intake and your medication and to share that information with HealthKit and the Health app (if that’s what you want to do). As ever the main iPhone app is where all the detail is, with the Watch app taking care of quick data recording and progress notifications.
The iPhone app builds on the basics with a database of foods’ nutritional information, historical data, insulin pump data and the ability to schedule reminders for your medication.
If your idea of good exercise involves going far from the madding crowds, you’ll like WorkOutDoors. It’s a workout app that’s based around vector maps that you can easily rotate and zoom, tracking your location and your progress.
It uses the Watch’s GPS (if you have a GPS-enabled Watch) so there’s no need to take your phone on a hike, cycle or snowboard run, and features such as breadcrumb tracking, custom points of interest and customizable stats displays enable you to make the app truly your own.
In a nice touch you can export your workouts from the iPhone app in GPX format, which can be imported into many other workout apps and sites.
It’s very, very well thought out. For example, something as simple as the stats display is available in a variety of sizes to suit different kinds of activity (not to mention different levels of eyesight).
It makes good use of color-coding to make routes crystal clear, waypoints can provide extra information such as directions, and the map automatically rotates as you move so you’re always sure of the right direction. It’s a brilliant app for pretty much any outdoor activity.
The trick to living better isn’t to damn near kill yourself on a treadmill and then give up after a few weeks. It’s to make smaller, lasting changes to your life, changes that you can and will actually stick to. And that’s what Streaks offers.
Whether you’re trying to eat more healthily, exercise more or break a smoking habit, Streaks enables you to track positive and negative habits. It offers a range of reporting tools so you can see exactly how well you’re doing, and you can track up to 12 different tasks at once.
They needn’t be exercise or eating tasks: you can remind yourself to walk the dog, study, take vitamins or practice a musical instrument. It’s good to see wheelchair users included in the default tasks list too.
Where Streaks really shines is in its integration with the Health app, which enables it to pull data to use for monitoring suitable targets you’ve set. That reduces a lot of the form-filling of similar apps, and it’s particularly effective if you’re trying to work on good healthy habits or eliminate unhealthy ones, or both.
There’s a Complication too, so that you don’t forget your goals, and the whole thing is customizable so that you can get it just-so.
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.
Peak - Brain Training
- Peak - Brain Training
- Free + IAPs
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.
Runtastic Six Pack Abs Workout
- Runtastic Six Pack Abs Workout
- Free + IAPs
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.
- Free + IAPs
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
- Free + $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 IAP
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 $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99. There's a lot here, including training plans and announcements as you hit targets or distances.
- CARROT Fit
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.
- Lose It!
- Free / in-app purchases
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.
- Mount Burnmore
- Free / in-app purchases
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.
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.
Best Apple Watch sleep apps
It's worth noting that there aren't a lot of apps for sleep tracking, as the Apple Watch can't really last overnight on battery.
That said, there are some clever apps to do it, and many people are now on their sequel Apple Watch and can even have one for the day and one for the night - so sleep tracking with your 'Night Watch' is possible.
Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock
- Sleep Cycle
- Free + optional subscription
The App Store isn’t exactly short of sleep tracking apps, but Sleep Cycle offers more than just tracking. It can wake you up at the right point in your sleep cycle so that you jump out of bed like an excited puppy instead of rolling out of it with a woozy head.
That doesn’t mean it’ll start bleeping four hours before you need to get up, though. You set the 30-minute window in which you need to be woken and Sleep Cycle will find the optimum point during that window.
Unusually for a sleep tracker, Sleep Cycle doesn’t expect you to wear your Apple Watch to bed. Instead, it listens to you and detects vibrations from you, and that means it can detect and yell at you if you start snoring.
It’s just like having a partner, except you don’t have to put your partner on a wireless charging mat every night. And because it’s designed to be used by humans, of course there’s a snooze option: if Sleep Cycle wants to wake you and you really don’t want to get out of bed, you can shake or double-tap your phone.
The main app is free but if you want to take advantage of heart rate monitoring, reporting and goodies such as Hue smart lighting integration there’s a subscription service for $29.99/£24.99/AU$39.99 per year.
- Sleep Watch
The massively improved battery life of the current generation Apple Watch makes it much better for sleep tracking: you can now wear your Watch in bed, pop it off while you get ready for work or school and leave home with a full charge for getting on with your day.
And that means there’s been an influx of new sleep apps, many of which take the basic idea of sleep monitoring and add additional reporting and insight.
When you use Sleep Watch you’ll get used to the daily question, how well rested do you feel? The app tracks that as well as your heart rate and the quality of your sleep to give an indication of how good or otherwise your sleep has been.
It offers daily sleep briefings (we’d love an abusive CARROT-style AI for the days when the report clearly says we’re knackered) and trend analysis, and it highlights whether your heart rate is dropping normally during rest - a potential warning sign if it isn’t.
It’d be good if we could also add blame, such as a heavy night out causing us to get up all through the night, but maybe that’ll be in a future version.
Best Apple Watch apps for music, podcasts and audiobooks
- Free (requires Plus or Premium subscription)
Spotify isn’t the only streaming music giant to bring offline listening to the Apple Watch. If you’re in the US (the service isn’t currently available to international listeners) Pandora does it too. It has released a brand new app that enables you to listen offline, and rate and control your music without having to reach for your phone.
The app itself is free, but you’ll need a paid-for Plus or Premium subscription to use it: like Spotify, the free tier doesn’t support offline music. Offline listening requires watchOS 5 or later. Plus subscriptions are currently $4.99 per month and Premium subscriptions are $12.99.
The updated iPhone app brings support for Siri Shortcuts, and it also integrates with the Messages app so that you can send and receive songs without leaving the Messages app. There’s even an Apple TV app that uses the same subscription.
Pandora is a good way to get hold of not just music but podcasts too. Discovering new content, whether music or podcasts, is simple thanks to a good selection of recommendations and playlists, and if you go for the Plus subscription you can create unlimited personalized stations as well as up to four stations for offline listening.
- Pocket Casts
Pocket Casts is a firm favorite among podcast users, with 8 years of constant improvements under its belt. Now in its seventh incarnation, it’s one of the best ways to stay on top of your podcast pile. It’s also eminently sociable with support not just for the Apple Watch but for Chromecast, Sonos, CarPlay and AirPlay.
Although the app is perfect for beginners, there’s a lot here for serious listeners, including excellent filters, automatic downloads, listening history and extensive notifications.
Version 7 enables you to listen to individual episodes without subscribing, streamlines the user interface, has excellent archiving that retains your playback history and supports Siri Shortcuts. There’s been a big effort to improve discovery, so the app makes it much easier to find new podcasts it thinks you’ll like as well as the podcasts you’ve found for yourself.
As with other apps of this ilk most of the heavy lifting is done by the iPhone app, with the Watch app there to provide access to the features that make sense on your wrist: playback control, of course, but also speeding the podcast up or down, trimming silence and boosting the volume. You can see what’s next, browse new releases and scroll through the podcast charts too.
- Spotify Music
At last! Spotify finally makes its way to the Apple Watch with an app that does everything you might expect it to do. It plays music! It pauses music! It connects to other devices via the magic of Spotify Connect! It gives you playlists! It has a shuffle button!
The one thing it doesn’t do, though, is stream: the music you hear via your Watch is coming from your iPhone, not directly to the Apple Watch. We’d expect that to change in future versions of the app. It hasn’t been optimized for the larger display of the Apple Watch 4 either, so it looks a bit odd on the most recent models.
We’re big fans of and subscribers to Spotify: its catalog is enormous and it’s enormously sociable too, with apps for every conceivable platform. Being able to pay once for an ad-free subscription that works on your phone, tablet, Watch, TV, console and in the car is a fantastic thing.
While the ad-funded version isn’t too annoying we think the higher quality and convenient offline listening features (already available on iPhone but coming soon to the Watch app too) of the paid-for Premium version are well worth the money.
- djay 2
We’re big fans of Algoriddim’s clever DJ app, and it’s a particularly fun thing to have on your iPhone: its clever algorithms and straightforward interface make it easy to mix like the pros, its Spotify Premium integration means your DJ box is almost infinite and its Automix feature does a really good job of working out the best places to transition and the right fades and effects to apply.
But sometimes you want to take part without necessarily firing up the full djay app on your phone, for example if you’re in party mode and want to quickly change tracks or just show off a bit.
Enter the Apple Watch app, which enables you to DJ in much the same way as you would if you were a giant in a world of really tiny people: don’t expect to do much scratching, but you can fade from one track to another, pause and sync, add special effects or turn Automix on and off. It’s effectively Apple Music’s watch integration brought to the world of DJing, and that means it’s an absolute hoot.
The watch integration is little more than a remote control, but that’s okay: the main app is really clever and enormous fun.
- Free + IAP
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.
- Castro Podcasts
- Free + optional subscription
The Castro podcast app has been around for a while and has developed a loyal fanbase, and it’s just been given a major overhaul as well as an Apple Watch companion app.
On your wrist it’s really very simple: it enables you to move around the audio, change the volume or move between episodes.
On the iPhone the main app has been completely rebuilt with a brand-new playback engine to significantly boost speed and responsiveness, and the player screen now incorporates AirPlay controls for easier streaming to compatible hardware.
It’s a very good app, and there are extra features if you go for the optional Castro Plus subscription, including getting rid of silent sections, mixing stereo down to mono, episode limits to prevent your device from downloading entire volumes of podcasts, and automatic start positions to skip past standard intros and other pre-content content.
You can set these preferences on a per-podcast basis, which is a really useful option for power podcast users. You can try Castro Plus for a week before deciding whether to get it, and it’s available as a quarterly or yearly sub.
You may know Audible already: it’s the Amazon-owned audiobook service that enables you to devour books on the move, in bed or anywhere else you can get comfortable. The catalog is vast, books are often narrated by very big names and the overall quality is very high. And now, you can use it without taking your phone with you thanks to its Apple Watch app.
The app is compatible with every Apple Watch made so far and enables you to transfer audiobooks to your Watch, provided of course that you have enough available storage.
It’s important to note that Audible doesn’t stream to your watch: you need to sync your audiobook(s) from your iPhone, which can take a while over the Watch’s desperately slow connection. But once the book has been transferred you can play, pause, fast forward and rewind. You could listen via the Watch’s speaker but we wouldn’t recommend it; Audible is best experienced on a decent pair of wireless headphones.
We think the Audible Watch app is best suited to environments where you don’t want to have your phone: the gym is the one that springs immediately to mind: we can’t be the only people who’d rather listen to a book than pumping techno on a treadmill.
Musixmatch Lyrics Finder
- Musixmatch Lyrics Finder
- Free (in-app purchases)
Here’s a fun thing you can bring to your Apple Watch: real-time lyrics for whatever song you’re currently listening to. Musixmatch claims to be the world’s largest lyrics catalog, and in addition to the original lyrics it can deliver translations for those songs performed in languages other than English.
The Watch app feels rather like Shazam, with a pulsing “listening” icon as it attempts to find the right lyric for songs your microphone can hear, and it works with both Apple Music and Spotify. The latest update brought Siri Shortcuts support, so you can ask Siri to identify the song that’s playing on the radio.
The main app is free, but if you want some of its more advanced features you’ll need to shell out $3.99/£3.49/AU$5.99 a month. That removes the ads, enables offline mode for songs already recognized and offers a party mode with karaoke-style word-by-word displays.
We’re not sure the premium features are compelling enough to make us want to take out a subscription, but if they appeal to you then the price is the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee so it’s hardly breaking the bank.
Best Apple Watch apps for photo and video
- Free + in-app purchases
The GoPro app used to be called Capture, but its new name suits it better: after all, what else would you call the companion app for GoPro cameras? Like most camera apps for the Apple Watch, the bits you can do on your wrist are fairly limited. It’s really just a viewfinder and remote control, which is perfectly useful if hardly revolutionary.
The main iPhone app is more ambitious. It features Quikstories, which automatically turns your GoPro footage into a finished video complete with effects and background music. You can view the images and video you’ve captured on your camera, trim videos down and share to social media or via text or email.
One nice feature is the ability to overlay data such as GPS paths and locations on top of your footage. You can even detail the G-force you felt when you were doing whatever extreme thing you’ve been recording. There’s also video stabilization for Fusion cameras and the ability to turn 360-degree photos into videos.
It’s pretty good, but make sure your camera is compatible. The app is currently limited to Fusion, HERO6, HERO5, HERO4, HERO Session, HERO+ LCD and HERO+ cameras.
- Camera Plus
While using Apple’s Watch as a remote control or viewfinder can be handy - we can’t be the only ones who use it to see what’s on top of cupboards or to read the meters when there’s loads of stuff between them and us - the app has always felt as if it could do more. That’s where Camera Plus comes in.
As an iPhone/iPad app it’s an interesting and fun alternative to the iOS 11 default, with a useful feature that enables you to control the camera on one iOS device with the Camera Plus app on another. It adds an extra function to the Watch too.
The Apple Watch bit is obviously a lot less ambitious, but it’s still useful. As with the Apple app, you can remote control the iPhone or iPad camera, turn the flash on or off, use a countdown timer and switch between the front and rear cameras. But where the Apple app offers the ability to turn Live Photos on or off, Camera Plus gives you the option to switch between photo and video.
The main iOS app is clearly the driver here, with some fun and useful features including flexible flash levels for better exposure and the aforementioned iOS-to-iOS remote control. But the Watch app is a handy, or perhaps wristy, companion.
HomeCam for HomeKit
- HomeCam for HomeKit
You can probably guess what this one does from the title: it’s an app for cameras that use Apple’s HomeKit. The app is a remote viewer that enables you to check multiple cameras simultaneously, and if your hardware supports features such as temperature and air quality monitoring you can then take action by invoking other HomeKit devices such as connected air conditioners or heating.
It can also combine data from multiple devices together, so for example you could overlay temperature data over a live camera feed, and it’s fully compatible with the new Siri Shortcuts feature in iOS 12, which enables you to create automated actions. You can also use it to control HomeKit features such as the lighting in a room, and you can add a Today widget for even faster access from your lock screen.
The main action happens in the iPhone and iPad app, largely because of screen real estate: the Watch has many good features, but a giant screen isn’t one of them. That means the Watch app shows a single-camera view.
It can use your Watch’s microphone and speaker as an intercom (again, if your camera hardware supports audio), but it’s best suited for quick camera checking when your iPhone isn’t handy.
- FiLMiC Pro
- $14.99/£14.99/AU$22.99 plus in-app purchases
Here’s an odd one: FiLMiC Pro has a distinctly average App Store rating of 2.3 out of 5 at time of writing, and yet the developers’ shelves are groaning under the weight of the app’s many awards from reputable websites and publications who say that for video, it’s the best thing since bread came sliced. What’s going on?
The short answer is that when you have hardly any reviews, one or two disgruntled users can send your rating down the drain. That’s clearly what’s happening here.
Negatives first. FiLMiC Pro costs more money than many apps, and it can kill your phone battery in prolonged use. But it’s an incredibly powerful iOS camera app used by film-makers, journalists and hobbyists alike. Pair it with a decent editor and your iPhone is a pro-level film studio.
The Watch app is really just a remote for the main event. You can record, pause and resume your recording and see what the phone camera’s pointing at, and you can play back what you’ve just recorded. It’s not really different from Apple’s own camera Watch app.
But the app it connects to is a powerhouse: people complaining about the price tag should really be marveling that it’s possible to get something so good for so little money.
Best Apple Watch apps for notes, passwords and making life easier
Smart home technology and the Apple Watch go together like cheese and biscuits or winter and horrific energy bills. Being able to control your smart home without having to find your phone, iPad or remote is a great time-saver and particularly good when you don’t want to move.
We’ve seen good smart home apps from the likes of Philips’s Hue, and now Ecobee is getting in on the act. The latest iteration of its iPhone app adds Apple Watch functionality, and while there aren’t any complications for ultra-fast access, they’re apparently on the to-do list.
As you’d expect the app is designed solely for Ecobee hardware: it’s not cross-platform with support for other people’s smart home hardware, so you can’t use it to replace multiple apps from other providers.
The Watch app takes a familiar approach with large icons showing numerical information where appropriate, so for example if you set the heating to 72 degrees, you’ll see the number 72 in the heating temperature icon. You can adjust temperature, fan speeds and lighting from within the app, and if you’re out and about you can switch the thermostat from Home mode to away mode or just turn the lights off to frighten your family.
HomeRun for HomeKit
HomeRun doesn’t do much, but what it does do it does very well. It’s a companion for Apple’s HomeKit framework, which enables you to control various smart home devices, and it addresses one of the key problems with Apple’s own Home app: Home is a bit of a mess, cramming lots of stuff on screen and making what should be really quite simple rather confusing.
HomeRun takes a different approach. Its interface uses icons rather than text, so for example if you want to change a smart thermostat you could choose to have buttons showing a thermometer: a blue one for colder and an orange one for warmer. And it focuses solely on scenes, with up to 12 scene icons shown on your Watch at once. Effectively it’s a bunch of toggles: turn this on or off, turn that up or down, make that louder or quieter.
It’s simple to use and just as simple to configure, with the iPhone app making it easy to create the scenes you want on your wrist. You can also create Apple Watch complications, so for example you might put an on/off toggle in the corner of one of your Watch faces for quick control of something.
- Fantastical 2
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.
This is an intriguing one. SimpleCommands enables you to connect your Apple Watch to various other devices – LIFX lights, TP-link switches, Wink doors, Nest thermometers, Netatmo home automation and so on – and soon, services such as Spotify, Lyft, IFTTT, Todoist and Twitter.
Once you’ve established a connection, you can then control that connection via your iPhone or Watch (you need to set them up in the iPhone app first). Your Watch then becomes what the developer calls a listener.
All you then need to do to make something happen is tell the listener what to do. The main benefit is that to paraphrase Radiohead, everything’s in its right place: whether it’s your aircon or your lighting system, it’s all done from a single app on your wrist.
Brilliant, right? Well, potentially. The list of coming soon connections is longer than the list of currently supported ones, and early adopters say it’s a bit flaky: we’re still in version one-point-something territory, so you should expect bugs.
But if you’re fed up having to use different apps to control every different digital thing in your life, this could be the thing to make your digital life much more comfortable.
If This Then That, IFTTT for short, may be one of the most useful things on the internet. As the name suggests, it enables you to create scenarios where if this happens, it does that. And the ‘that’ can include all kinds of things, with a selection of connectors for software and hardware alike.
For example, you can automatically change your thermostat based on the weather forecast, or send someone a message when you’re near the shops, or backup your photo collection to a cloud storage site at a particular time or when a particular event occurs. It’s absolutely brilliant, and the main iPhone app enables you control more than 600 different apps as well as smart home devices such as Hue lights and Nest thermostats.
As you’d expect the Watch app doesn’t do everything. What it does do is provide quick access to IFTTT functions you’ve already installed or created on your phone, so for example you might post a quick tweet or turn your smart lights on or off.
That simplicity is no bad thing, because of course the whole ethos of IFTTT is to reduce the amount of effort you use to communicate with your various bits of technology.
- $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 1Password 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.
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
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.
- Cheatsheet Widget
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 Cheatsheet Widget, 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.
Just Press Record
- 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. Just Press Record 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.
- Free + IAPs
Organize 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.
If there’s one thing the App Store isn’t short of, it’s note-taking apps. But it’s worth taking a look at OneNote, especially if you work across a range of Mac and PC devices, because as it syncs via Microsoft’s cloud, it’s a very good cross-platform app with particularly well-designed iPhone, iPad and Mac apps to organize pretty much everything.
We use it for shopping lists, to-do lists, random scribbled ideas in the wee small hours and anything else we think we might need to refer to later, and unlike some rival cross-platform services it’s completely free. Microsoft hopes you’ll like it so much you’ll embrace Office, which is available for a very low price as part of a premium OneDrive plan.
Microsoft has become rather good at keeping its Watch apps simple, and OneNote is no exception: tap the cross icon to dictate a new note, or tap a notebook or note to see its contents.
And that’s pretty much all it does - and that’s all it needs to do, because any watch screen is poorly suited to complex tasks. We’d much rather have speed and simplicity than any ill-conceived bells and whistles.
Epicurious Smart Timer
The food site Epicurious isn’t scared of technology: it attempted to make a recipe app for Google Glass (although that didn’t quite work out). Its Watch efforts are much more successful, with the Watch doing what watches do best: timing. Think of it as an egg timer that can do more than eggs.
Using the app is simple. Choose the kind of food you want to time, such as a roast chicken or a steak, and tell the app how heavy it is and, where appropriate, how well done you want it to be. The timer lets you know when to flip or remove it from the heat.
It then tells you what to do, so for example in the case of your steak you’re urged to let it rest for five minutes and then slice across the grain. You’ll also see photos so you can compare what your food looks like with what it should look like.
It’s not the most comprehensive app around, but it isn’t supposed to be: it’s designed for relatively inexperienced cooks and the 40-odd items it does know about cover all the basics. If you’re unsure of cooking times or just easily distracted, it’s a great app to have.
- AeroPress Timer
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.
Owaves is an interesting app: it’s a 24-hour day planner that’s designed for people who want to focus on their physical and mental health. That means scheduling and prioritizing me-time and play time as well as work time, a kind of Getting Things Done for the mindfulness generation.
Owaves is based around what it describes as the five key ingredients for a happy life: sleep, nutrition, exercise, relaxation and social interactions. You can still schedule work things, chores and day to day admin, but they’re not the sole focus as you’ll find in other planning apps. The idea is to make room in your life for your life.
The bulk of the action - scheduling events, seeing your entire schedule and so on - happens on your iPhone, and the Watch app has been designed as a companion rather than a replacement: it tells you what’s coming up rather than trying to replicate the main app’s functions.
You can add it as a watch face complication, which is particularly good on the Modular watch face: if you make it the main complication in the center it’s got room to tell you not just what you’ve scheduled now but also what you’ve got happening afterwards.
Voice in a Can
- Voice in a Can
Voice in a Can is famous, or perhaps infamous: it hit the headlines because it brings Amazon’s Alexa to the Apple Watch, something neither Amazon nor Apple have decided to do so far. That’s an interesting idea, because in our experience Alexa is much more reliable than Siri on our various devices: she’s much better at recognizing our commands and doing what we want. However, while the idea’s interesting the execution isn’t great.
The app works, but there are some important restrictions. You can’t use it to control your music, play podcasts or make calls, and only some flash briefings work. If your watch goes into standby mode it drops the Alexa connection. The developers recommend extending the timeout period for apps on your Watch, which is effectively admitting that it just doesn’t work quickly enough.
Until or unless Amazon or Apple offer Alexa support this is the only way to have Alexa on your wrist, and the app is a handy way of controlling smart home devices if you’re committed more to Amazon than to Apple. However it’s very limited, very much a side project for the developer and more of a proof of concept than an app you’re going to use for everyday Alexa stuff.
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.
Passwords aren’t good enough anymore. The easy ones are too easy to crack, and the hard ones keep getting compromised when big-name firms get hacked and all their customer data gets compromised.
You can make your various online services much more secure with two-factor authentication, which adds an extra level of security to everything, and that’s what Authy offers.
The big benefit of Authy is that it isn’t insecure like SMS is, so you can be sure that your two-factor authentication code isn’t going to be intercepted and used by the bad guys.
Authy is compatible with Google Authenticator, so any service that accepts the Google tool will accept it – so you can use it not just with Google but with Microsoft and Amazon accounts too. There’s a growing number of Authy-supporting websites as well.
As ever, the bulk of the work happens on the iPhone app, with the Watch component simply providing access to the time-limited tokens so that you can enter the appropriate code into the site you want to access. That’s not a weakness: the whole point of two-factor authentication is to make life harder for the criminals without making it more annoying for you.
Find Near Me
- Find Near Me
- Free + in-app purchases
Guess what this does. Go on, guess. Yep: it finds things near you. Sadly that doesn’t mean the TV remote, your keys or the gaming controller – whoever finds a way of doing that which doesn’t involve sticking Bluetooth tags to everything will become a trillionaire – but it does mean cash machines, bars and coffee shops. The only in-app purchase is $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49 to remove adverts from the iPhone app.
It works exactly like you’d expect. First, you choose the category of thing you want to find. Then, you scroll through the results. And to finish, you tap the one you want to find out more about. From there you can then be guided on foot, in the car or on your bike.
The app makes extensive use of Google Maps, and that means it’s only as good as the Google Maps data: some users report inaccuracies such as long-shut businesses. If you’re wondering why you can’t just use Google Maps and cut out the middleman, it’s because Google canned its Apple Watch app last year: if you want Google Maps on your wrist, you need a third-party app that hooks into it. Like this one.
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.
One of the things we hoped Apple’s Wallet/Passbook app would deliver was an end to purses and wallets full of loyalty cards: our purse is so packed with the damn things that if we sit down with it in a back pocket one of our buttocks is a good six inches higher than the other. Wallet hasn’t quite changed that yet, but Stocard has a pretty good try.
Stocard enables you to scan and store your loyalty cards (and some other cards such as some membership cards; generally speaking if it has a barcode or QR code on it, Stocard can probably digitize it), and then access them from your iPhone or Apple Watch when you’re at the checkout.
Whether it works or not depends on the store infrastructure: until recently the self-scanners in Tesco didn’t like it, but now that they’ve been upgraded they scan happily. The cards are automatically added to your Apple Wallet as well as kept inside the Stocard app.
The main benefit for you is convenience, as not only does Stocard reduce the amount of cards you have to carry without forcing you to miss out on loyalty points, but it also provides you with details of relevant special offers as you shop.
Best Apple Watch apps for email, chat and messaging
Chirp for Twitter
- Chirp for Twitter
- Free + in-app purchases
You’d think Twitter’s brevity and the Apple Watch’s usefulness would be a match made in Heaven, but Twitter isn’t interested in maintaining an official Watch app and our favourite iPhone Twitter app, Tweetbot, is very limited on the Apple Watch. Enter Chirp, which promises to bring all the features you need to your Watch - and unusually, it does so without playing second fiddle to an iPhone app. Chirp was designed purely as a Watch app.
Chirp delivers on its promises: it does an excellent job of bringing Twitter to your wrist, with the ability to see tweets as well as their popularity in terms of likes and retweets. You can browse Twitter trends, see embedded photos, retweet or like other people’s posts, and you can actually interact with others.
You can post your own thoughts or reply to other people’s tweets, and the most recent update added support for sending Direct Messages and for viewing lists. Some of these features are restricted to the paid-for Pro version, but it’s a very cheap in-app purchase and the main app is free to use so you can try it before you decide whether you need the pro features.
- Telegram Messenger
Oh, the drama: Telegram 5 initially dropped its Apple Watch companion app, but now it’s back! Back! BACK!
The reason for this is that Telegram 5 has been rebuilt from the ground up to make it faster and more efficient; the Watch update simply wasn’t ready in time.
Telegram is a secure instant messaging service that works on iPhone, iPad and once again, Apple Watch. It enables you to group chat with up to 30,000 people, which is more than enough for most of us, and unlike other messaging services it’s really good at sharing things like documents, zip files and other useful things.
It’s both free and ad-free, and if you’re worried about privacy you can take part in Secret Chats where messages self-destruct after a specified time. As with all private apps that doesn’t stop somebody taking a screenshot, taking a photo or duplicating content in some other way, but the end-to-end encryption does mean you can be confident that others aren’t listening in.
Telegram’s main selling point is its efficiency. It’s designed to do its job with the minimum amount of data transfer necessary, something that’s important in places with poor network coverage or for people with metered data connections, and it’s also designed to operate with the minimum load on your battery.
- Facebook Messenger
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.
- Tweetbot 4
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 $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99 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.
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.
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.
- Free / In-app purchases for full feature set
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.
- Canary Mail
Canary Mail is a first: it’s the first third-party email app to use the Apple Watch 3’s 4G/LTE connection so you can access your email without lugging your iPhone around.
The feature is officially in beta but if you’re in the market for a new email app it’s a compelling reason to consider Canary over other iPhone email clients. The Watch support delivers short extracts of emails and the ability to quickly reply via scribbling or voice dictation.
The main iPhone app is very good indeed, supporting all the main email providers (including iCloud and, if IMAP’s enabled on the server, Exchange) and enabling you to use PGP, to use natural language search and to bulk-delete irrelevant or spammy emails. It offers email templates for frequently used messages, easy unsubscribing and integration with cloud storage, to-do and calendar services, and the none-more-black interface looks particularly good on the iPhone X’s OLED display.
It’s worth keeping an eye on the price if you’re considering Canary: it’s gone from being offered as a free trial for a few days with in-app purchases to $4.99/£4.99, and then to the current price of $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99.
Best Apple Watch games
- Pokémon Go
- Free (in-app purchases)
Pokémon Go isn’t a new app, and its Apple Watch companion app isn’t exactly brilliant, as it needs the iPhone to be nearby in order to be useful. But that’s about to change with a new future called Adventure Sync. It’s a way of earning candy and hatching eggs in the Pokémon Go app without actually using the iPhone app.
Adventure Sync works by taking the Apple Health data your phone and watch generate and using that in the game. That means if you just go for a walk or a run wearing your Apple Watch, the distance you travel is recorded and then the Pokémon Go app can get that information to hatch more eggs and earn more candy. Nintendo promises a weekly activity summary, rewards for achieving specific milestones and ongoing progress monitoring, and you can opt in at any time.
The Watch app remains a companion app rather than an alternative to the iPhone app – it’s more of an information app than something you play – but it’s good to see a bit of lateral thinking when it comes to smartwatches. Using their data is much more interesting than trying to cram an entire iPhone app into a watch.
- Tamagotchi Classic
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.
Best Apple Watch apps for education and learning
- Daily Dictionary
- Free (in-app purchases)
Daily Dictionary is a great example of the kind of apps that really work on your wrist: rather than blast you with notifications or try to cram tons of things into that relatively tiny screen, it delivers a little nugget of information that you might otherwise miss.
That nugget, of course, is a word. Every day, Daily Dictionary comes up with a new word. That can appear in your Apple Watch face’s complication, or as a push notification, or you can call the app directly. The complication is well designed, as it also includes today’s date, so you don’t need to have as separate date complication, enabling you to use your limited complication space for something else.
The word selection is practical rather than esoteric. The aim is to provide you with words you’ll actually use, so there’s no jargon or scientific terms you’re unlikely to use in your everyday conversations or writing. And the app enables you to see recent updates to catch up on any words you might have missed.
The core app is free, although a small purchase of just £2.99/$2.99/AU$4.49 a year unlocks the ability to customize the Apple Watch display.
- 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.
- Rosetta Stone
- Free (in-app purchases)
Rosetta Stone is one of the big brands in language learning, and its various apps have won shelves full of awards for its combination of effective teaching and user-friendly app design. The Apple Watch counterpart to its main iPhone app is a good example of how the Watch can be used to supplement more fully featured apps: it’s tailored to the kinds of environments where the Apple Watch is the perfect device for a quick practice.
Rosetta Stone is all about real-life situations: ordering in restaurants, choosing things in shops, saying hello to people and so on. The Watch is ideally placed to practice that, and it’s set out with sensible categories and simple and fast navigation to get you to the bit you need, with audio examples of how to do it.
The main thing to watch out for here is the price: while the app itself is free, it’s useless without a language subscription. There are 24 languages to choose from and they start at $109.99/£93.99/AU$159.99 per year per language, with bundles for languages such as Spanish and French offering 5 levels for $199.99/£199.99/AU$319.99. Think of the app as a demo for the Rosetta Stone service rather than a stand-alone app.
Best Apple Watch apps for news and sports
- BBC News
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.
- Free (in-app purchases)
NHL isn’t just for American hockey fans, its app is one of the few legal ways to watch NHL games in the rest of the world.
The official NHL app has been given an extensive update for the 2018/2019 season, including the addition of Apple Watch support to display scoreboards and summaries and to notify you of the most exciting happenings. Sensibly there’s also an option to turn off notifications if you can’t tune in live and don’t want to spoil your viewing later.
The main iPhone/iPad app is very comprehensive, offering highlights, radio broadcasts and video streams as well as tons of in-game information. For US fans actually visiting the games, it even shows you where to get food and drink in the arena. In a nice touch you can also customize the app to reflect your favorite team’s colors.
High quality sports apps don’t tend to come cheap, and NHL is no exception: if you want to access the NHL.tv video you’ll pay £17.99/AU$27.49 per month to access the content from outside the US or $24.99 if you’re a US customer. We’re hoping the latest update crushes some of the bugs that seem to have plagued earlier versions of the app. There’s nothing worse than an app that freezes just before something really exciting happens.
Best Apple Watch apps for math and money
- Calzy 3
We’ve raved about the excellent PCalc calculator app, but Calzy is a worthy rival. The latest version, version 3, is a significant redesign that’s been optimized for iOS 11.
The most obvious difference is that the operators – plus, minus and so on – are on the same screen as the numbers, and that means it’s much faster to carry out multiple calculations, provided your fingers are fairly accurate: more buttons means a smaller tap area for each one.
It also shows you the running total as you go along, so for example if you’re doing a calculation where it’s this plus that times whatever you’ll see the results as you tap. It’s not as comprehensive as PCalc, but if all you need is a straightforward calculator on your wrist it’s a good bit cheaper.
The main iPhone app, as you might expect, does a lot more than the Watch app. It has light and dark themes, a customizable keypad, Handoff support and even a searchable history of every calculation you’ve made. It also offers currency rounding to keep numbers to two decimal places, and you can tap and hold to edit part of a formula if you realize you’ve made a mistake halfway through.
The apps we tend to love the most are the ones that solve real-world problems, and PCalc 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.
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.
- XE Currency
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.
Best Apple Watch apps for travel, weather and going out
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 rentable 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.
Transit is mainly for American users, but its city coverage extends to more than 50 non-US cities including London and Paris too. It’s a public transport app, and it works on a simple and largely accurate assumption: when you use the app, you’re in a hurry.
That means instant information for departures on nearby routes and a Take Me Home button that tells you how to get home as quickly and simply as possible. In a single screen it offers directions, details of the station, the next three departures and the number of the service.
Public transport tends to bring out the best in designers - think the simple genius of the London Underground map or the colorful signage on the New York subway - and that’s definitely the case here.
Transit makes excellent use of color and typography to provide all the information you need in a very effective way.
It may only shave a few seconds off your travel time, but if you’ve ever harbored dark thoughts when someone at the gate in front of you is wasting time you’ll know that for commuters, every single second counts. If you spend a lot of time traveling, you’ll save a lot of time with Transit.
- Microsoft Translator
You know you’re living in interesting times when one of the best apps for an Apple device comes from Microsoft. But Translator is superb.
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.
- Night Sky
Night Sky is one of those gee-whiz apps that you use to show off your iPhone, and the introduction of a complication to let you know if the International Space Station was overhead was cute in a geeky way.
But the arrival of watchOS 4 has given the developers plenty of new toys to play with, and that means Night Sky is now one of those gee-whiz apps you use to show off your Apple Watch.
With this version of the app, your Watch now gets the same Sky Tracking features as the iPhone app has: you can now raise your wrist and identify the stars, planets and constellations around you.
There’s a time travel feature too, so you can track how the various heavenly bodies will move. It’s enormously clever and very impressive, and the main iPhone app isn’t bad either, as its Sky View knows of 115,000 celestial objects and enables you to increase or decrease light pollution, explore animated 3D models and customize notifications.
If you sign up for the $1.99/£1.99/AU$2.99 monthly premium subscription you get access to worldwide sky tours that you can save for future use - for example if you’re planning to visit a particular location in the near future.
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. Foursquare City Guide’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, Foursquare Swarm).
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.
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).
ETA - Arrive on time
- ETA - Arrive on time
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.
This powerful translation app works in 90 languages. It's free but for full Watch use you'll need the $6.99/£6.99/AU$10.99 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.
Dark Sky Weather
- Dark Sky Weather
Dark Sky is the first app we put on any new Apple device, and the Apple Watch is no exception. In fact, we think Dark Sky is at its most useful when you’re wearing it on your wrist.
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.
- Yahoo Weather
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.
It’s not a surprise that the Apple Watch attracts a lot of apps built around the idea of time, but few of them are as simple and as useful as Circa. It’s designed for global travellers or people whose life involves communicating with people around the world, and answers a simple and important question: is this a good time?
It may be a simple question, but it’s often a tough question to answer. If you’ve ever tried to find a time for a virtual meeting that works not just for you and your local colleagues but for colleagues halfway across the world you’ll know how much of a pain in the neck it can be.
Are they EST or PST? Are they behind us or ahead of us? Circa remembers these things so you don’t have to, offering crystal clear guides to when people are going to be available and when they should be in their bed.
It’s a niche app, but many of the very best Apple Watch apps are: it’s simple, beautifully designed and does exactly what it sets out to do. If you need this kind of thing, this is exactly what you need.
TripIt - Travel Organizer
- Free / in-app purchases
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.
- CARROT Weather
We’ve mentioned CARROT Weather before: it’s our go-to app when we want the weather forecast delivered by a hyper-intelligent artificial entity that wishes we were dead. In this massive update the app becomes even more horrible, and we mean that in a good way.
There are complications for your Apple Watch face as well as a completely misanthropic Watch app with all the weather information you could possibly need, displayed silently or spoken aloud depending on your preferences.
We particularly like the way you can specify just how horrible CARROT is to you, along with its political leanings. And on the accompanying iPhone app there’s a really fun feature that uses Apple’s ARKit to bring the forecast into augmented reality.
The developers are upfront about their pricing: if you want to use Weather Underground data instead of the default Dark Sky and take advantage of its radar pictures too, those features cost the devs extra money so you’ll need to pay another $9.99/£8.99/AU$14.49 per year for the Ultrapremium Club in-app purchase.
There’s also a cheaper Premium Club ($3.99/£3.49/AU$5.49pa) that enables you to customize the complications, to receive weather alerts and to have background data updates. It’s worth it.
Best Apple Watch apps for food and drink
- Just Eat
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.
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.
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.
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