If you’re still figuring out what your Apple smartwatch is really for, these great apps will help you find out.
There are thousands of apps for Apple Watch. The tiny snag is that most of them aren’t much cop. Some misunderstand how a wearable is best used, and demand you spend too long with your wrist in front of your face, while others only briefly impress. And some apps have arrived on Apple Watch to great fanfare, only for them to meekly disappear after a while.
That’s not good enough for us. We want apps that are clever and well-designed – and also that we return to on a regular basis. That, then, is what this list is all about: the best Apple Watch apps we’re actively using.
The best new Apple Watch apps
Get an instant fix with the Apple Watch apps tickling our fancy right now.
Clicker – Count Anything (Free)
The original Clicker was an app with a big number on the screen that incremented when prodded. Then it gained – horrors! – complexity. Fortunately Clicker’s by The Iconfactory – and those guys know what they’re doing. (In short, all the options are hidden behind a little cog button.)
The first add-on was a goal setting. Reach it and you then see how far beyond it you are. More recently, the app gained new colour options, data sync, and inclement by a custom value. Just the thing for working on your 173 times table, thereby working up the skills to be the next ‘numbers game’ host on Countdown.
Hit The Island (Free)
On iPhone, Hit The Island amusingly makes a game out of Dynamic Island. Apple Watch doesn’t have one of those, so the game bungs a fake one at the top of the screen and have you move a bat left and right to deflect a ball at the lozenge.
In short, then, it’s Pong. And if you’re of a certain vintage, you’ll enjoy twiddling the Digital Crown to play, as if you were a giant manipulating an old-school paddle. Well, at least until your own incompetence lands you with a single-figure score for the umpteenth time. (Gnash.)
The best Apple Watch exercise and health apps
Get fitter through Apple’s little helper having you work out, run, and sleep more soundly.
Streaks Workout ($3.99/£3.99)
This app broke a couple of the Stuff team, but we nonetheless heartedly recommend it for a quick calorie burn. All you need is your Apple Watch – loo Workout functions independently of the iOS app – and the will to work up a bit of a sweat.
You choose from four workout lengths (30 entirely suitably being dubbed ‘extreme’), and the app strings together simple exercises. When you’re done with a set of reps, you tap the screen. Easy. Except when your entire body is screaming at you for not initially going for the six-minute option.
You might question an indie taking on the terrifying might of the RunKeepers of this world, but Runance deserves a slot on your Apple Watch – at least if you prize privacy and don’t care about leaderboards and the like.
Kick off a workout on your watch and you can gawp at live metrics as you huff and puff, switch between rolling and average tempos, and control music. Back on iPhone, you can dig into your workout history and maps. There’s no login – and no data is shared with third parties.
There are loads of workout apps for Apple Watch, but WorkOutDoors does something the others don’t: maps. On your wrist, you get a vector-based map that can be zoomed, panned or rotated. It’s like someone stuck a tiny iPhone in an Apple Watch case.
And its ambition doesn’t stop there. There are loads of features that show what can be done when you’re aiming to make more than an iPhone app’s sidekick: breadcrumb trails; multi-coloured speed/elevation/heart-rate trails; alternate layouts and zones; compass support; tons of data options; and POIs to help you navigate your way to the nearest pub. (Well, you need a reward after all that exercise, right?)
Take a breath: Air Matters
Getting outdoors to exercise is great – unless the air has it in for you. Air Matters (free) surfaces air quality data in a manner beyond any weather app. We particularly like the complication that displays risk ratings for a specific allergen, to help you avoid becoming a sneeze monster.
Strava (Free + IAP)
Rather simpler in scope than WorkOutDoors, Strava goes for a more traditional companion app. You get a giant ‘start’ button, and then stats (time/distance/heart-rate) as you blaze about the place on your bike or on foot.
Given that Strava’s been able to work without an Apple Watch for some time now, it’s one of the more reliable efforts on the platform. The tiny snag is that it gives your battery a bit of a kicking. Still, all the more reason for you to pick up the pace a bit.
Getting your bum off the sofa is one thing. Being able to jog 5K without your knees collapsing is another. WatchTo5K eases you towards that goal. You do three runs a week, gradually building up how long sessions are and reducing how much walking time’s involved. In the end, you’ll be able to run 5km in under half an hour. All the number crunching happens right on your Apple Watch, meaning you don’t have to lug your iPhone around or figure out how to shove it inside your day-glo lycra running gear.
Jog on: RunKeeper
Once off the couch and 5King, Runkeeper (£free + IAP) will keep you honest. Your watch’s GPS will build a map of your runs too – so beware of sneaky bakery pit-stops you don’t want anyone to discover.
Your Apple Watch encourages you to track and protect your health — steps; stands; hearing. But Moodistory tries something different, inviting you to keep tabs on your mood.
Naturally, this is quite subjective, but the app keeps things simple, asking you to rate how you’re feeling, thereby gradually building up a picture of your mood over time.
It’s possible, even on Apple Watch, to add basic notes to entries, and check how your mood’s changed during the past two weeks. On iPhone, you can dig deeper into your data.
Standland (Free + IAP)
If you feel your Apple Watch telling you to get off your behind once every hour isn’t sufficient motivation, you might enjoy Standland. The app has similar intent to Apple’s nagging, but rewards your heroic activity by dishing out adorable collectable creatures.
Any activity lasting at least one minute during an hour is counted, maxing out at 24 per day. Before long, you’ll have a tiny owl or little bunny to gawp at, which can romp around 3D AR environments back on your iPhone. Just take care to not die of a cute overdose.
Heart Analyzer (Free + IAP)
There’s a Heart Rate app built right into your Apple Watch, but Heart Analyzer allows you to dig deeper into your thumpiest of organs.
After you’ve performed a bout of exercise, you can peruse wiggly lines, showing how your heart rate changed over time. The app logs averages over the past week, and you can even set a massive graph as a complication.
Overkill? For some. But if you’re sporty, Heart Analyzer seems a good bet for keeping track of what your ticker’s up to.
Wakeout ($4.99/£4.99 per month)
You’re at your desk and feel achy. But there’s no way you can exercise, right? Wrong! Wakeout’s cunning plan is to inject tiny bouts of physical activity into your day. On iPhone, you’ll get a schedule. But on Apple Watch, it’s more a question of selecting a context, watching a brief animation of a randomly selected relevant exercise, and then performing it for a short period until your wrist buzzes and tells you to stop. At a fiver a month (albeit for the whole family), the Apple Watch app alone might not convince you to subscribe; but as a complete package, it’s a solid deal – and you get a seven-day trial to make up your mind.
The best Apple Watch essentials and travel apps
Everyday essentials you need to install, along with apps that ensure you won’t get lost at home or abroad.
Reward Card Wallet – Barcodes (Free + IAP)
Be rid of that awkward moment where you fish about every pocket on your person to find the barcode of joy that’ll let you into a gym/take out books from a library/earn you a very small bonus on your groceries. With this app, you can get at it right from your wrist.
You use the iPhone app to scan in all your barcodes – up to ten can be stored for free. They’re then accessed on your watch by way of suitably chunky buttons. And if you ever have need of each code’s ludicrously lengthy account number, that’s accessible too.
CARROT Weather (Free + IAP)
Apple’s weather app places forecast data around a dial. It doesn’t scan well. CARROT does a lot better, with a minimalist take on its superb iPhone app, delivering data-dense forecasts with a dollop of snark. You’ll helpfully be told it “sucks to be you” if it’s about to chuck it down – or that it’s “a bit moony” on a cold, clear night.
The big plus of CARROT Weather, though, is its customisation capabilities. On iPhone, this means you can rework the interface however you see fit. On Apple Watch, its power is in complications, with you being able to have it take over a face, like a wrist-based combination of Siân Lloyd and HAL-9000. You’ll need subscription IAP for a bunch of the Apple Watch features, note – but it’s well worth splashing out.
Designed for people who look forward to brighter days, Solstice keeps tabs on daylight levels. Along with providing sunrise and sunset times, it outlines how much more (or less) daylight there is on any given day compared to the previous one.
There are complication options, including a large one with a graph and sunrise/sunset times. And you can also set up notifications on your iPhone that’ll appear on your Apple Watch, which for SAD sufferers can be limited to days when daylight’s increasing.
On the iPhone, Citymapper is fantastic, giving you point-to-point directions for a range of supported cities, and location-based public transport details and alerts. The Apple Watch app is equally good, offering rapid access to favourite places, and information about nearby trains, buses, ferries and more.
Journey steps are clearly outlined, providing all the assistance you need, such as times of upcoming trains, stops on your route, and tiny maps that link through to Apple’s Maps app. We just wish it could somehow magically work for every town and city in the world rather than just the handful of (mainly) capitals it’s currently set up for.
The Foursquare mobile app long ago pivoted from telling the entire world where you were to finding out great places to go – far more useful. But when you’re hungry and in a strange city, you probably don’t want to be waggling your expensive smartphone about.
Fortunately, Foursquare for Apple Watch does the business. You can quickly get at the best tips for your current location, search for other options, and get at salient details regarding whatever you’re currently looking at. And if you don’t want to miss somewhere special, have the app ping you a notification when you’re passing by.
Phone Buddy Lost Phone Alert for Watch ($4.99/£4.99)
Apple’s Find My is great, but a better bet would be to avoid losing your gadgets in the first place. With PB (‘Phone Buddy’), you can define alerts that have your iPhone shriek for its life should you wander off and abandon it – and the same for your Apple Watch.
Fortunately, there are plenty of set-up options, meaning you can define how far you must go before everything starts blaring, and turn off alerts when on home Wi-Fi, so your iPhone doesn’t deafen everyone nearby when you head to the kitchen for a biscuit.
iTranslate (Free + IAP)
Although it’s not quite like having a tiny translator taped to your wrist, iTranslate can quickly find translations for whatever you utter (or scribble) into it; and it can also speak (through your Apple Watch) to help with pronunciation.
Go ‘pro’ (a month costs £4.99) and you can use an offline mode on your phone. The app also has a clever Complication, which shows a greeting for the current time of day, and displays previous translations when you twiddle the Digital Crown to use the watchOS Time Travel feature.
Elk (Free + IAP)
When you’re overseas, it’s never good when you get currency conversions wrong and later discover you spent a month’s wages on a pair of socks. Elk puts conversions right on your wrist, reducing the likelihood of expensive mistakes.
Even better: this app’s properly thought about how you interact with Apple Watch. There’s no fiddly keypad for entering data – instead, you twiddle the Digital Crown to adjust numbers, and swipe to increment available digits.
All change: Currency
If you fancy something a bit more traditional than Elk, check out Currency (Free). Set up a currencies list on your iPhone, and it’ll appear on your Watch. You can then use a simple calculator to adjust values, and instantly get conversions.
Although Apple’s Timer has a moniker in the singular, it does in fact store multiple timers – including custom ones. However, they’re devoid of context, and you can only run one at once. Not so with MultiTimer.
Set up your timers in the iPhone app, and each is then displayed on your Apple Watch with a colour, label and icon. You can run as many timers as you like, and their progress is seamlessly synced across devices.
Countdowns (Free + IAP)
Calendars and reminder apps are fine, but Countdowns gives you a bespoke space to house important dates – and how long away they are (for things like anniversaries) or how long it’s been since they happened (such as if you’re trying to quit smoking).
You edit the list on your iPhone, and there are loads of customisation options. Those vital dates can then be in your face forever, by way of Apple Watch complications. You’ll never miss a date again – unless you forget to add it to the app. So… don’t do that.
The best Apple Watch productivity apps
You won’t be firing up Office on your wrist any time soon, but your Apple Watch can still help you work.
Cloud Battery (Free or IAP)
On your iPhone, iPad or Mac, Cloud Battery lets you add devices to the app’s ongoing list, along with accessories like trackpads and Apple Pencil. On iPhone/iPad, you can define when you get charge alerts, such as when battery levels fall below 25%.
The Apple Watch app is a mere monitor, but that still proves useful. You can at a glance – either in the app or by way of a complication – see which of your devices needs plugging in, rather than rocking up to it later and finding only a black screen.
Cheatsheet Notes (Free + $5.99/£5.99 IAP)
If you don’t need the security of 1Password but still fancy quick access to bite-sized notes (such as Wi-Fi passwords and door combinations), Cheatsheet Notes is an excellent download. Each tiny information nugget comprises a piece of text and custom icon, and cheats can be synced from the iPhone app (assuming you buy the one-off ‘unlock everything’ IAP).
You can also edit, create and organise (into folders) new cheats directly on Apple Watch (by way of dictation), along with using one of these notes as a complication. Just don’t make it your credit card PIN, eh?
Weirdly, Notes has yet to make its way across to Apple Watch, but fortunately Drafts ably fills that particular void. The app enables you to capture new notes by dictation, which are then hurled into your Drafts inbox. Alternatively, you can append or prepend whatever you input to an existing note – for example, to update a diary or shopping list.
If you don’t fancy talking at your Apple Watch, you can use the watchOS Scribble feature to write notes instead. Also, your inbox is browsable and your notes are readable on you Apple Watch, saving you from having to keep heading to your iPhone.
Word up: LookUp
On iPhone, LookUp ($9.99/£9.99) is a dictionary that’s friendly, colourful and fun – not words you’d expect to find in the same sentence, granted. The Apple Watch app is similarly impressive, enabling you to get countless definitions right on your wrist, and access a word of the day, thereby expeditiously ameliorating your vocabulary.
Halide Mark II ($2.99/£2.49 per month or $59.99/£59.99)
If you’re a serious iPhone photographer, you’ve probably already got Halide installed. If not, you should have – it’s a superb, premium, feature-rich app that unlocks the full potential of your Apple smartphone’s snapper.
Naturally, the Apple Watch app can’t magic up an Apple Watch camera. But it can provide a live preview of what your iPhone’s camera can see – useful when taking a photo with your arm stretched aloft, or when using the main camera for a selfie. Prod the shutter button to take a snap, or set off the timer to give everyone a few seconds to get their best smile on.
Remote control: Filmic Pro
Much like Halide, Filmic Pro ($13.99/£13.99) gives you a live preview of what your iPhone can see – only this time you’re shooting video. You get one remote-control button, to start and stop recording – in stark contrast to the dizzying array of iPhone app controls!
Like Productive, Streaks wants to infuse habits into your daily routine. However, this is a pay-once app – not a subscription – and has a kind of ruthless efficiency that Productive lacks.
Here, you’re encouraged to limit yourself to just six habits (although up to 12 are supported). The interface is restricted to icons depicting your habits, which you prod when a task is completed – unless it’s a timer, in which case a tap sets it going. Reminders can also be sent your way as relevant.
It might seem reductive at first, but the app’s blunt nature works, keeping you focused on your tasks.
BFT – Bear Focus Timer ($1.99/£1.99)
On iPhone, Bear Focus Timer is superb for keeping focused on tasks by breaking the day into work and break sprints. The Apple Watch app puts a similar system right on your wrist.
By default, you get 25 minutes to work and five to rest, whereupon a motivational bear picture is shown. Every four sprint pairs, you get a longer break, and all these values can be defined in-app. To further aid concentration you can also have noise loops piped into your lugholes — assuming you’ve connected some wireless headphones.
Break it up: Focus
If you want a full-on time-logging system rather than just a timer, try Focus (Free + $8.49/£8.99 per month). It’ll keep you honest while totting up the time you spend working, providing insight into where your time goes.
If you’ve fond memories of calculator watches, you’re probably a) quite old and b) not going to be convinced about using a calculator app on Apple Watch. Because frankly, doing so is a mite fiddly.
Still, PCalc is the best of them. The buttons are chunky, and operators can be got at with a long tap or prodded on a second screen. The app also includes a handy third screen for conversions. It defaults to tips, but you can spin the Digital Crown to get at units for all kinds of things, including functions.
Note that freebie PCalc Lite offers similar functionality to massive cheapskates.
Morpho Converter (Free)
On iPhone, this conversions app is all about efficiency and speed. You define a bunch of conversions, tap out a number and then see all of the answers at once. On Apple Watch, you cannot add any new conversions to your favourites, but you do get your existing iPhone list right on your wrist. A calculator interface lets you punch in new figures, colours usefully differentiate unit types, a ‘reverse’ button enables you to instantly swap converted units around, and there’s a complication to put a specific conversion on your favourite watch face. For free, you’re limited to a handful of custom list items. That restriction can be removed with a 49p per month or one-time £12.99 payment.
The best Apple Watch entertainment apps and games
When it’s time to unwind, make use of that thing on your wrist. Some Apple Watch games are surprisingly good, too.
On mobile, Onefootball is a a one-stop-shop for all things footie, offering news, telly, scores, results, and enough stats to choke the entire Match of the Day research team. On Apple Watch, it’s mostly a wrist-based companion to fill you with anticipation and terror when it goes ‘ding’.
This is because goal alerts are fed to your Apple Watch, meaning if you’re not able to sit in front of the telly when your favourite team’s playing, you can at least keep up with how well – or badly – things are going.
Sundial (Free + $9.99/£9.99)
Many apps advise when the sun and moon are due to make an appearance. Sundial gives you the finer details by way of multiple pages (‘widgets’) you swipe between. You get solar dials, pages that focus on the sun or moon, and an events page that manages to be an info dump and yet retain total clarity.
Everything’s customisable. You can add/remove widgets and rearrange their order, along with tweaking what information’s shown. And for when you don’t fancy delving into the app, Sundial provides a bunch of great-looking complications for your watch face.
Heavens above: Night Sky
We’re in tech demo territory with Night Sky (Free), but can’t fault its ambitions. Align your watch with the moon, prod said moon to confirm and you get a live map of the heavens, with constellations auto-selected as you move your arm around.
Apple’s Podcasts is on Apple Watch, enabling iPhone-free podcast bliss. But if you prefer using the iPhone’s best podcast app, Overcast, you’ll love its own Apple Watch app. It can act as a remote for whatever’s playing on your iPhone, but there’s a standalone mode as well, for podcasts Overcast syncs to your watch based on criteria you define.
The app’s design is refined and minimal, packing a lot into a small space. The main view provides fast access to settings and your podcasts list. When playing something, you can also use the Apple Watch app to adjust speed and skip chapters, thereby blazing past any boring bits. Bonus!
This app bravely bridges the gap between ambitious and ridiculous by attempting to put a music studio right on your wrist. It’s not exactly GarageBand, but four quid gets you a dinky one-octave keyboard for smashing out riffs during dull moments.
Buttons let you change the octave you’re playing, and if the default piano sound doesn’t suit, you can switch to seven alternatives, including a synth and a trumpet. Should you be more rhythmically inclined, a final option is a six-pad drum kit.
WatchFunk isn’t going to make you the next Daft Punk, but it’s fun, usable and a better use of your time than trying to work through your emails on the Apple Watch’s tiny display.
Name that tune: Shazam
Much like the phone version, Shazam (Free) for Apple Watch identifies any tune within earshot. Captured info can be fired to your iPhone via Handoff, or you can view lyrics on the screen – thrilling friends when you’ve had one too many but can still focus as far as your wrist and murder a classic.
Deep Golf (Free or $1.99/£1.99)
If you’re of the opinion golf would be much better if only you didn’t have to deal with all those other people on the course, Deep Golf might be the solution. First, it’s right there on your watch – no need for expensive clubs. Also, it’s set deep underground.
So as you thwack balls about the side-on 2D view, it’ll ricochet off cave walls, stick to terrifying purple goop, smash up bones, and bounce off of giant subterranean mushrooms. There’s little sound to speak of, but that merely aids with the solitude.
Tiny Armies ($0.99/99p)
Turn-based strategy on a PC with a big display makes sense. Your eyes might narrow a bit at the prospect of such games on a phone. But on an Apple Watch? Hang on a minute.
But Tiny Armies has a go anyway, and it’s surprisingly great with its stripped-back, lightning-fast battles on little chequerboard arenas enveloped in a fog of war.
The AI’s not exactly like a savage Civilization, but for some quickfire turn-based larks on your wrist, Tiny Armies does the job admirably.
Star Duster ($1.99/£1.99)
Calling Star Duster our favourite Apple Watch game isn’t huge praise, given the competition. But what makes Star Duster properly stand out is it’s a good game, full stop. It echoes old-school LCD titles, with you twiddling the Digital Crown to have your servicebot zoom around the display, collecting space junk.
It looks and sounds lovely, like you’ve accidentally invoked a time travel app and been zapped back to 1982. But Star Duster isn’t done, because it does a lot with a little, providing real challenge as it ramps up the difficulty level with blocking walls and other service bot-worrying hazards. Games are swift, but – unlike most Apple Watch fare – you’ll when defeated immediately want another blast.
Asteroid Commando ($1.99/£1.99)
A classic arcade cabinet on your wrist? Not quite, but Asteroid Commandoisn’t far off. It takes the classic Asteroids (obliterate space rocks; shoot deadly alien ships) and fashions something around the Digital Crown.
Twiddle that dial and your auto-firing ship spins. Power-ups occasionally appear, giving you a fighting chance of getting to the next level. One hit and you’re dead — and even ancient arcade games weren’t that harsh! Still, you do get two themes (classic and modern) and punchy sound effects when you fancy another go.
Dice by PCalc ($1.99/£1.99)
Instead of playing a game on your watch, Dice by PCalc helps you play games in the real-world, by way of lobbing virtual dice across a virtual table. From a visual standpoint, this is impressive stuff on Apple Watch, but flexibility is the real win.
In the options screen, you choose from a wide range of dice types – or complete sets to roll with a single tap. Your table can be cleared at any point, or you can gradually throw additional dice, while the app tots up what you’ve thrown and the overall score. Cheats can’t prosper here.
Also don’t forget to check out our guide to the best iPhone and iPad apps