If there's one smartwatch that's not short of apps, it's the Apple Watch. Compared to what Google, Samsung and Fitbit's smartwatch app stores have to offer, the Apple Watch apps clearly wins on quantity and quality.
And Apple is set to make it easier to get hold of those apps directly from your Watch when it launches an on-device App Store through the release of watchOS 6 later this year.
With features like GPS, LTE and a waterproof design for swim tracking, there are a lot of reasons for developers to want to make apps for Apple's smartwatch. This has only been further enhanced by the great features of watchOS 5, and the larger display on the Series 4. Apple is also improving that development process to help ramp up the apps available further.
Wareable verdict: Apple Watch Series 4 review
Wareable verdict: Apple Watch Series 4 review
But which Apple Watch apps should you download first? We've scoured the App Store, tested hundreds of apps, and outlined our favourites below – starting with the 10 best.
Still need another Apple Watch app fix? Be sure to also check out our roundup of the best Apple Watch sleep tracker apps, the best Apple Watch apps for running, Apple Watch apps for cycling and Apple Watch golf apps.
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The champion of fitness apps has fully embraced GPS tracked running and cycling on Apple Watch. It took a while to get here, but after testing the app out on the road, results are good: distances are nailed onto dedicated running watches and the experience was stable and reliable. Live pacing is not so strong and we found that aspect a little sluggish, and sadly there's no live Segments data, but for serious runners and cyclists, it's the best on the App Store. It's also a standalone app, so don't be afraid to head out without your iPhone.
Best weather app: CARROT Weather
$4.99 + IAP, iTunes
To help save you from White Walker attacks or being fried to a crisp by the sun, CARROT Weather dishes up a gorgeous Apple Watch app interface, packed with information and snark. The app's 'AI' laughs at your misfortune when it's pouring down, but you can at least customise icon slots to your liking – assuming you subscribe to the app's premium IAP. It's worth every penny.
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You're in the world's longest and most pointless business meeting with no idea about the progress of your favourite team's latest game. Enter, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN, which will keep you updated on the scores from your chosen team in almost any sport. Add in a decent helping of breaking news alerts and complications that can keep you in the know at a glance, and there's no better solution for sports fans.
Best workout app: CARROT Fit
The CARROT series puts a new spin on tired app categories, and this one's all about the 7-minute workout. The malevolent CARROT AI puts you through your paces, doing 'Celebrity Face Punches' and 'Dragon Mating Dances'. Start your workout and your Apple Watch can become a heads-up display, so you know what exercise you should be doing – or can pause things for a bit if your body's about to break. Plus, if you're a CARROT Weather user, you get another weather complication! Yay for working around Apple's complication rules!
Best Apple Watch productivity app: Things 3
We're deep into GTD (Get Things Done) territory with Things, a to-do manager turned up to 11. On iPhone, it fast becomes the hub for organising your entire life, sorting items into Today, Upcoming, and Anytime views. The Apple Watch app is for properly focussing on your current tasks, which can be displayed as a complication, ticked off when complete, and added to when something urgent looms into view.
Best Apple Watch game: Rules!
Rules! gives you a daily mini-game challenge, which is all about memorising rules and tapping relevant cards. Easy! Only it isn't, because several rounds in, you'll be juggling a bunch of rules in your head ("Tap ascending"; "Reds if you see green"; "No animals"), which must be dealt with in reverse order, all the while knowing that a single incorrect tap ends your game. With watchOS 5, the app's far more responsive, boasts more levels, adds haptic feedback, and bundles the cutest complication you're ever likely to see.
Best Apple Watch notes app: Cheatsheet
Free + $2.99 in app purchases,
If you're the kind of person forever forgetting important details – the office Wi-Fi password, a new phone number, your own name – Cheatsheet lets you make a tiny list of quick notes and shove them on your Apple Watch. Each item can have its own icon, making it easier to spot, and you can set items to appear on your watch face as a Complication. Note that the Apple Watch app requires you buy the one-off IAP – but doing so also unlocks iCloud sync and other goodies for the iOS app.
Best Apple Watch wellbeing app: Streaks
For forming habits – in a good way – there's nothing better than Streaks. On your iOS device, you define up to 12 habits (although the interface prefers six). These can be one-off or timed tasks; each can be assigned to a specific day or to be completed a certain number of times per week or month. It's all very flexible, and the Apple Watch app becomes a means to get a brain buzz as you track tasks, run timers, and mark everything complete.
Best Apple Watch audio recording app: Just Press Record
On iPhone, Just Press Record is a very efficient app for making quick recordings: tap the record button, capture some audio, stop the recording, and your audio then syncs to the cloud. This is all now on your wrist too, and you can even record without your iPhone around. Your recordings will transfer into the cloud and there's even a complication that'll launch you into a recording automatically.
And, brilliantly, the iPhone app now offers transcription. So you can talk to your wrist and later get a text file of what you said. It's like living in the future.
Best Apple Watch calculator: PCalc
It's astonishing Apple omitted a calculator from Apple Watch (maybe Tim Cook hates Casio), but we're dead chuffed that PCalc exists to heroically come to our rescue. It has a smart interface, with operators and tip calculation just a button tap away (rather than placing these things behind a Force Touch wall). Everything's super-responsive, and you can use the Digital Crown to adjust tip amounts. (Generously, the free PCalc Lite also includes the Apple Watch app.)
Best of the rest: Travel
Top Apple Watch apps for directions, flight information, translations, conversions, and finding local amenities.
If you're in one of the supported cities (which include Paris, San Francisco Bay Area, New York and London), Citymapper is a must. It zeroes in on public transport and provides precise, clear instructions on getting from place to place. You're informed about times for upcoming buses, trains or trams, and can access an outline of the stops to expect on your journey. Citymapper's complications can put your ETA and directions right on your watch face. The best part? It works with LTE, so if you left your phone back at the hotel you won't have any trouble finding your way around.
You already have your commute figured out, but you need to figure out how long it's going to take to get home so you know when to leave. ETA does that, as the app always keeps you up to date on how long it'll take you to reach home from your current location. It'll also let you know whether there are any delays on your route, and it's got standalone functionality so if you don't have your phone it'll tap into LTE. And oh, it's got an awesome Complication that lets you use Time Travel to see how long your commute home might take.
On iPhone, Babbel is a fully fledged translation teacher, but on Apple Watch it's more like a game. The app figures out what's nearby and provides quick quizzes about relevant words. If you're close to a hotel, tap its name and you might be asked whether 'la llave' means 'the tourist' or 'the key'.
Naturally, this isn't going to make you fluent, but it's a fun way to pass a few minutes; also, a 'word collection' feature further entertains and might get you walking about if you're missing a few key words.
Exploring the nooks and crannies of Rome and left your phone at the AirBnB? iTranslate Conversate will make it easy for you to talk to the locals. You choose the language you want to translate to and tap to begin speaking. The app will automatically pick up who is speaking what language and will translate. Be warned: The more complicated your sentences are, the longer it'll take.
If you love your Apple Watch...
- >Best Apple Watch bandsApple Watch bands for dressing up, going running and everything in between
- >Best Apple Watch accessories to try outThe top charging docks, cases and more for your Apple smartwatch
- >Best Apple Watch and iPhone charging standsSave some space and some wall outlets
- >Best Apple Watch face and complication combosOur top picks for customising your wrist
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