Want more from your Apple Watch? You've come to the right place with our definitive list of apps that actually do something
When the Apple Watch was first released, few apps could run directly on the watch, instead relying on the connection to your iPhone. This could make them a little limited in functionality or slow to load and run. Fortunately, this has largely been sorted with the introduction of WatchOS 2, which added native apps and fixed the few niggles that I had with the original release. Even so, the app store is still stuffed with some apps that do little more than display data, so here’s my list of the best Apple Watch apps that actually do something.
How to manage apps on your Apple Watch
Before I get into the best list, it’s worth going through the various ways that you can manage apps on your Watch. First, if you want to remove an app directly from your Watch, go to the home screen (press the Digital Crown) and tap and hold the screen until the icons start shaking. Tap the ‘X’ icon next to the app that you want to remove and it will be deleted immediately.
You can’t add apps from your Watch, but can add and remove them from the Watch app on your iPhone. To do this go to the My Watch screen and scroll down until you see a list of apps: these are the apps installed on your iPhone that have a Watch app available. Tap an app and you can use the Show App on Apple Watch toggle switch to choose if the app appears on your phone. If the app also has a Glance (you access these by swiping up from the bottom of the screen on any watch face), you can enable and disable this from this screen, too.
If you want a new app that’s not on the list, you have to install the matching iPhone app first. This is because Apple Watch apps are bundled with iPhone apps and don’t exist as their own entities. While you can do this by searching the regular App store, it’s easier to use the Featured or Search function in the Watch app, as this will only show you apps that have a Watch version available. Once you’ve installed the app, the Watch version should install automatically, but you can manually choose what to install using the technique above.
Weather and news
Dark Sky, Free
Dark Sky is one of my favourite weather apps, with some of the best information and animations of any Watch weather app. Its best feature is that it’ll tell you how long before it’s due to rain or snow, which is perfect for anyone living in the UK that wants to go out without getting soaked. As well as the app and Glance, Dark Sky also has a third-party complication, so you can see its weather report directly on your watch face.
BBC News, Free
If you’ve got a bit of time to kill and want to keep up with the latest news, the BBC News app is for you. It’s an incredibly simple app: its home screen gives you a list of Top Stories, My News (as dictated by topics you select on the iPhone app) and Most Read. Tap any story and you get a quick paragraph overview of what’s going on, so you can find out what’s going on in the world quickly in an easily-digestible way.
The Calculator Free, Free
A calculator has to be the most obvious thing to use with the Apple Watch, but there’s not one included. Fortunately, there are a few good ones to choose from in the App Store, although The Calculator Free does everything that you really need. The first screen shows all of the numbers and common operators, but you can slide to the right to view more advanced operators, such as square and square-root. It works quickly and gives you a quick way of performing calculations without having to reach for your iPhone.
Although you can ask Siri ‘What’s that song?’ to get it to listen and tell you what song’s playing, when you do the same from the Apple Watch it says that you have to carry on from your iPhone. The best alternative is to use the Shazam app on your Apple Watch. You just tap the Shazam button and it turns your phone’s microphone on, so it can listen to the background music. Your Watch will show you the match on-screen and you can tap the result to view lyrics or to buy the track, using Handoff to complete the process on your iPhone.
Post Office Currency Converter, Free
When you’re on holiday and are trying to work out how much everything costs, it’s much easier to turn to your Watch. Of all of the currency converter apps that I’ve used, the Post Office Currency Converter is the best, not to mention very quick and simple. To use it, tap a flag to change one of the two displayed currencies; tap a number to enter a new value; tap the arrows to reverse the conversion. Best of all, the app stores conversion rates offline, so you can use this app when you don’t have a data connection.
Google Maps, Free
Google has certainly taken its time moving its app onto the Watch and, to be honest, the first app isn’t quite as good as it could be. In fact, it only gives you shortcuts to start directions to your Home and Work addresses, while you can Force Touch to switch your mode of transport. So, what is it doing on this list then? Well, when you fire up the iPhone Google Maps app and plug in some directions, you can view the text instructions on your wrist. For anyone that prefers the directions that Google Maps gives, this app is essential, but I’m looking forward to it getting better.
Getting around a new city can be slightly confusing, but with Citymapper on your Watch, you won’t have a problem. Covering the major cities in Europe and the US. It gives you the clear walking and public transport directions, right on your wrist, so you can get where you want without looking like a tourist. From your Watch you can get directions to your Home, Work and Favourite places as set on your phone; you can start a completely new journey from your phone and view the trip on your Watch, too.
London Tube Tracker, £2.29
If all you want is a handy way to view London Tube updates, the London Tube Tracker app is for you. It can give you live updates on all of the Tube lines, plus you can view live departure boards for your favourite stations, so you can keep an eye on when your next train is due. If you’ve set your home address, the app can even tell you when your last train home is.
Microsoft Translator, Free
If you can’t always make yourself understood when you go abroad, the Microsoft Translator app may make your life easier. Via its Apple Watch app you can select the language to convert to using Force Touch, and then use the microphone to dictate your phrase or question. You’ll see the translation onscreen and can hit the playback button to hear how it’s pronounced or, if you’re being really lazy, to play back to someone else.