Best Apple Watch apps for 2016
Update: The best Apple Watch apps list is one we're constantly updating. Here's what's been making our iPhone smartwatch tick.
The Apple Watch has now been superseded by the Apple Watch 2, and yet these much-hyped iPhone smartwatches are just now seeing their true potential through apps and games in 2017 following the Watch OS 3 launch.
The number one question we hear from new Apple Watch owners is "Well, what apps should I download first?" To make answering that query easier, we devised a thorough best Apple Watch apps list.
New this week: Foursquare City Guide
Foursquare’s mission has changed somewhat over the years: what started off based around location check-ins and “king of the castle” bragging had to change when Facebook promptly copied the idea.
Robbed of its raison d’être, these days Foursquare has separated the check-ins from the venue recommendations. ’s job is to find decent bars and restaurants wherever you are in the world (if you still want to be the mayor of wherever, that’s the companion app, ).
The main interface of City Guide has five tappable areas: Search, Favorites, Food, Coffee and Nightlife.
Tapping on the appropriate option takes you to a list of venues, but instead of just filtering by distance the app also filters by Foursquare user ratings - so a rating of 9.5 that’s 500m away will appear below a 9.7 that’s 100m further.
The list gives you the name, price bracket, average rating and distance for each venue, and if you tap on a venue you’ll see reviews, photos, maps and other key information. The big selling point here is Foursquare’s global reach: it’s a really good app for travellers who don’t want to spend their time in the hotel bar or eating in faceless chain restaurants.
New this week: UK Bus Checker
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What makes a good watch app? We think it’s one that tells you exactly what you need to know, when you need to know it, without fuss or fluster.
Open up the apps and you’ll be staring at four icons and your location, with Favorites showing your saved stops, Nearby the stops around you, Journeys enabling you to plan a trip, and Get Home finding the best way to get you there from here.
We use the Favorites one a lot, because it offers real-time data so you know if the number 60A is running late again or if you’ll need to sprint to the bus stop. It includes mapping and points of interest too, so you can use it to find a coffee shop when you’re on foot.
The only real downside to UK Bus Checker is that it’s only as good as the data supplied to it, and unfortunately if - like us - you live in an area where the buses are operated by the devil himself and driven by his henchmen, that data isn’t always accurate.
But you can say the same about the signs on the bus shelters - that’s the bus company’s fault, not the technology.
Do your colleagues do much thinking outside the box? Do they talk about "going forward" with projects or "surfacing" information? Is the oldest person in the building still in their mid-30s? Then you're probably all too aware of , the corporate communications system that's replaced email and instant messaging for more than a 1.7 million daily users.
We're kidding, but only a little bit: Slack has become the go-to communication platform for tech and media businesses and start-ups. The iOS app provides a fully-featured Slack experience with file sharing, social media integration and powerful search and archiving features, while the Apple Watch app doesn't.
That's entirely deliberate, because if your Watch app tried to cover all the different interactions in a typical Slack team it'd be pinging away so often your Watch would run out of power before your second cup of coffee (and do be careful - Slack on the wrist does munch the battery of your smartwatch in our tests).
What the developers have done instead is focus on what you want a watch to do, which is to notify you only of the things you really need to know about. That means the same push notifications you've set for your iPhone, direct messaging and incorporating Handoff so you can move from watch to iOS without losing your train of thought.
If you aren’t already familiar with Tweetbot 4, it’s the best Mac and iOS Twitter client bar none. This is why it can charge $9.99/£7.99/AU$14.99 for an iOS app and people gladly pay it, and it’s worth checking out on the Apple Watch too.
Tweetbot doesn’t unleash the Twitter firehose onto your wrist - we can’t think of anything guaranteed to kill your battery more quickly - but it does give you exactly the information you need when you aren’t looking at your phone.
The developers have rightly assumed that if you have your phone to hand you won’t be using the watch instead, so they’ve concentrated on making an app for when you can’t or don’t want to pull your phone out of your pocket or purse. And that’s clever.
Its Activity pane shows you what’s happening in your feed, so if somebody’s followed you or replied to you or tweeted you then you’ll see it in Activity. Tapping on the item opens the appropriate tweet or user page, and with tweets you’ll see icons for a quick reply, a retweet or a like.
If you push into the screen using Force Touch you get an offer to create a new tweet, and both it and the reply option use Siri for dictation, because on-watch typing would be frankly horrible - and you can dictate a direct message or follow/unfollow accounts from the app too.
If you've tried Twitter or Facebook on the Apple Watch you may well think that social networking doesn't really work on such a small device, but begs to differ. The Facebook-owned photo sharing service concentrates on the basics and does them very well.
Like most Watch versions of iPhone/iPad apps the Instagram app is limited compared to its bigger sibling; for example you can't use it to take photos with your phone camera and upload them from the Watch, with snapping and uploading remaining a job for your iPhone.
What the app does do is show a shortened version of your Instagram feed, offering the most recent posts from people you've chosen to receive notifications about. (You can change that list in the iPhone app).
Instagram works surprisingly well on your wrist. You can swipe through photos to view or like them, see recent comments and likes on your own photos, and send emoji replies to people's posts.
It's great for a bit of time-wasting when you're out and about, and it's compatible with Handoff so you can effortlessly switch from Watch to iPhone when you want to use a feature the Watch app doesn't have.
The apps we tend to love the most are the ones that solve real-world problems, and falls into that category. Yes, it's a fantastically useful calculator and scientific calculator, but much more importantly it prevents fisticuffs in restaurants.
That's because of its handy bill splitter. Simply tell it how much the bill comes to, how many people are paying and how big a tip you want to leave, and the Watch app calculates how much each person should hand over. It supports watchOS 3's Scribble feature too, so you don't need to dictate or tap on a tiny keypad if you've downed that second bottle of wine. Alternatively you can use the Digital Crown to enter the figure in the tip calculator.
That's not all the Watch app can do, though. It includes a converter for distances and other measurements, and if you Force Touch the app you'll see a Send To iPhone icon as well as the clear and undo buttons.
And on the iPhone the main app is a great tool for serious calculating (and quick sums: there's a mini-calculator if you Force Touch the app icon). It's not the cheapest calculator app, but it's worth the money.
One of the Apple Watch's most impressive features is the remote camera option, which enables you to use the Watch's display as a viewfinder and shutter button for your iPhone.
It's as useful for looking in awkward places as it is for snapping selfies, but that usefulness only applies if you stick with the default Camera app - or if you use a Camera replacement such as , which has its own remote shutter app for the Apple Watch.
The ProCamera Watch app offers more options than the standard Apple one, with easy selection of photo, lowlight mode, HDR or video and the option to set a timer too. But the real draw here is the main iPhone app, which offers a range of image formats, RAW and UHD shooting, filters and effects and easy social media sharing.
Some of its best features require in-app purchases - Lowlight Plus and vividHDR are $2.99/£2.49/AU$4.99 each - but that's still not much when you consider the kind of money you'd spend on real camera kit.
The app has just been updated for the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus too, with a clever option to switch between the iPhone 7 Plus's two lenses and Wide Color Capture on both models.
- Free or $6.99/£4.99/AU$10.99 for ad-free version
was a genuine gee-whizz app when it debuted on the iPhone, and it's even more impressive when it's on your wrist. It does one thing and does it brilliantly: it listens to the music around you and lets you know what it is.
Its recognition algorithms are superb, and having it on your Watch means you can probably win pop quizzes without getting caught. Not that we'd recommend such behaviour, of course.
The experience on the Watch is very well thought out: instead of staring at a progress icon while the song is being recognised, you simply tap the app and then drop your wrist. It'll then notify you when the song has been identified, at which point you can raise your wrist, see the song and then tap on the lyrics if you want to know the words too. The lyrics even scroll along with the music.
The Watch app uses Handoff, so you can pick up the iPhone to see more about the track, watch videos or buy the download, plus the iOS app also boasts Rdio and Spotify integration and artist recommendations. Jfriel1995scotland reckons it's "lol best free app ever", and he or she might have a point.
Now Watch users have a choice of transport apps on their Watch. The built-in Maps app from Apple is still the most versatile thanks to excellent maps, directions and now public transport options in some cities like London. But Google's answer is straightforward and attractive.
Google Maps gives directions (though not maps) for two destinations, home and work, but will also show routes recently followed on your phone. A Force Press on the Watch screen lets you switch between walking, driving and public transport modes.
The cycle routing that the phone app offers isn't here, perhaps because you shouldn't be taking your hand off the handlebars to read your Watch screen as you ride.
You may have missed the built-in Camera Remote feature since the Apple Watch doesn't have a camera, but you should use it to your advantage every time you take an awkwardly framed photo. It let's your frame a shot remotely with your Apple Watch by seeing a preview of what's in the phone viewfinder via the Watch screen.
It also has a shutter button and initiates a countdown. It works with both the front and back cameras and is free. Use this tool wisely to achieve less awkward selfies at a distance.
I sometimes wear my messy Chipotle burritos while scarfing down the healthy-ish Mexican platters, but I'm also purposely wearing Chipotle on my wrist to send order to the store via my Apple Watch.
While it's not the most groundbreak app, I can create a one-tap order with the Chipotle Apple Watch app and have my meal ready to go while I'm on the treadmill at the gym next door. It's as efficient as it is calorie rich. The best part is, I get the skip the always massive line.
Facebook Messenger on Apple Watch got a late start, but it finally lets you respond to those pressing messages to friends and family without opening up the sioled-off app on your phone or website on a computer.
You can initiate and reply with a thumbs up (which I see as kind of curt and rude) or dictate a reply. Sending Facebook's ugly smiley face or your current location can be done with the press of one or two taps too. No, there's still no WhatsApps for Apple Watch, but this is the next best thing from Facebook.
What's better than controlling the lights throughout your entire household with your iPhone? Doing it with a flick your your wrist with an Apple Watch. That's what the Philips Hue app does - if you have the WiFi-enabled lightbulbs popular among early adopters.
Calling an Uber isn't too difficult, unless of course your hands are full or running down last-second tasks. That's me right before I leave for a flight.
Often times, I'm packing my suitcase with last second gadgets and taking out the trash so it doesn't take on another lifeform by sitting there for a week. The Apple Watch makes it easier to hail the 21st century taxi.
The Uber Apple Watch app is not only simple to use, it lets you see vital information, like the time the driver will take to get there and the car he or she drives, complete with a picture (when they have one).
This sleep monitor app works when you keep the Watch on at night. This may mean some users have to switch the recharging cycle to first thing in the morning, though as the Watch charges quickly this may not be a problem. Then, when you're going to sleep tell the app that you're doing so and then when you wake up, tell it that.
Sleep++ suggests putting your Watch into inflight mode to save battery. Although it's no match for a dedicated health band like the Jawbone UP3, the sleep data it collects is interesting and useful.
It divides sleep into light and deep, and also tells you how much of the night you were restless for. The data can be included in Apple's Healthkit so you can share it with other apps. A Watch complication is also available.
Lose It! is a weight loss program and calorie counter. It's sophisticated and has advanced features. So you can set different kinds of goals such as weight loss or the steps you want to take. If you have aims that involve body fat, sleep or blood pressure, the app can help.
The Watch reminds you to log your food which can be done by tapping in details on the Watch or using a barcode scanner in the iPhone app.
There are also insights related to calories and nutrients and the app integrates with other devices and apps such as the Withings Body scale or RunKeeper. Clear, simple and accessible.
Like Citymapper, ETA will help you get somewhere. The title refers to its front-and-centre information. You add a location on the iPhone and save it. Then it'll give you timings for driving, walking or taking public transport.
Some watch faces allow it as a complication, where it'll show the time it'll take to your top saved route. It knows what traffic is like so allows extra time for a drive in rush hour, say. On the Watch app you tap the chosen saved destination and it'll take you through to Maps for directions.
Similarly, for public transport directions in select cities Maps will provide the directions. Like Dark Sky this is a paid-for app: £2.29/$2.99.
From a team of developers, psychologists and neuroscientists, Peak is a great app for keeping your brain active. The Watch version offers three games, ideal for the smaller screen. Some of these seem simple at first, but they quickly become more challenging.
There are workouts to test memory, focus and problem solving – all of them fun, engaging, and the ideal to while away the daily commute.
Currency converters abound on the iPhone and XE Currency is one of the best. While the Watch version doesn't have the calculator feature found on the phone, it's a clear chart of how many euros, Argentine pesos or Australian dollars a British pound buys.
You can add more currencies on the phone version – whatever's there is replicated on the Watch. A button at the base of the screen lets the iPhone app control the refresh rates, so you can avoid roaming charges.
Headspace is a meditation app with lessons as short as two minutes or as long as an hour. It's free to learn the basics in 10 beginner sessions, then £9.99 if you want to go further, with sessions divided into packs titled Creativity, Focus or Happiness.
It's a great app, and becomes increasingly rewarding thanks to its down-to-earth approach and decent design.
On the Watch there's only one function, but it's a neat one. Opening the app reveals the SOS button. If you're feeling stressed, tap this and it plays a two-minute session designed to help with what Headspace calls "meltdown moments."
If you're frustrated by trying to remember all the passwords you need, 1Password means you only have to recall one, which guards all the others safely. It also works with the iPhone's Touch ID. It's free, but for Watch functionality, you need the Pro version (£7.99).
Secure notes and logins have an option marked "Add to Apple Watch." When you launch the Watch app, added items are viewable on your wrist. They're still safe because as soon as you take the Watch off, it locks, so someone else can only read them if they enter your Watch passcode.
This powerful translation app works in 90 languages. It's free but for full Watch use you'll need the £3.99/$4.99 in-app purchase which offers voice recognition and unlimited translations.
A Watch complication means you can tap on the screen to start translating straight away and if you'll let it, iTranslate will use your location to figure out what language it should be translating to or from.
It also responds to Time Travel so by winding the Digital Crown you can see phrases which change such as "Good afternoon" which is replaced by "Good evening" as you scroll forward.
Fantastical 2 is a great alternative to the Apple Calendar. It has strong natural language understanding, so on the iPhone you can type "lunch with John on Monday at 12" and it'll know you mean noon and next Monday. It also understands more complex details like "every third Thursday until September".
On the Watch you can view reminders and events or create new ones by speaking the details. It looks good, too, with events colour-coded to match your calendars. £3.99 – and worth it.
App in the Air
This is the app that aims to give you up-to-date information on upcoming flights. Set up your App in the Air account, enter the flight dates on your iPhone (or your booking reference, though this feature is still in beta) and in the Glances screen on your Watch it'll show the flight number and time until check-in closes.
Tap through to the app itself and there are more details, including gate number when known.
There's also a packing list to remind you to check travel insurance and roaming settings on your phone. Added features include gate change and status updates which can be sent by SMS to avoid data charges overseas. That's £3.99/$4.99 for five flights. Boarding time, departure and gate can be displayed as a complication on the Watch face.
If you use the Boris Bikes, as London's Santander Cycles bike hire scheme is affectionately called, this is handy. Since Transport for London releases bike and dock data every three minutes, apps are the best way to check availability. And unlike the official app, Cycle Hire has Watch compatibility.
In the Watch's Glances screen it shows you how many bikes and spaces are available nearby. Then with a tap it'll reveal more detail either on a map or in list form. The iPhone app offers expanded features such as routes and reminders to return your bike when the 30-minute free hire period is running out.
London Tube Tracker
This is a comprehensive London Tube app, with a journey planner, live departure boards and more. On the Watch, London Tube Tracker shows details for stations you've picked as favourites on the iPhone, down to what trains will be arriving when. Meanwhile, on the Glances screen it'll tell you how long it is until your next or last train home and how long that journey should take.
The cool live Tube map, showing trains shuffling round London is restricted to the iPhone version, sadly. Still, the route planning and line statuses on the Watch are useful.
What are the tasks you really want to achieve? Pick six from the hundreds of icons on the iPhone and they'll appear in the Watch app or the Streaks complication on the Watch face. So whether you want to read more, practise a musical instrument or walk the dog, there are icons you can invoke and reminders it can offer.
You can even choose to brush your teeth as a goal, though, frankly, I'd have thought that was a given. It works with the Health app to nudge you towards fitness goals and the name refers to the fact that you should aim to hit the targets for a streak of consecutive days.
Of course, bigger screens such as phones and, you know, TVs are best for expansive looks at the news, so the Watch's little face is reserved for headlines and photos with BBC News. These appear in Glances and tapping on one takes you to a very slightly fuller version, and lets you access the other headlines.
You can create a personalised news list on the iPhone and these show up in the Watch app, too. Ideal for snacking on headlines and letting you follow up with the main story elsewhere.
Runtastic Six Pack Abs
If you've been meaning to get that six-pack tummy but just don't have time to go to the gym, this iPhone app has high-quality videos of avatars performing crunches, situps, stretches and core twists that you can do in your own time on your bedroom floor, say.
Initial workouts with Runtastic are free, more come as in-app purchases. And if squinting at your precariously perched iPhone isn't doing it for you, the Watch app means you can see an animation on your watch, with vibrations on your wrist to start and end a set. It's easy to use and works well. Now you'll have to find another excuse not to work out.
UK Bus Checker
Live journey planning and scheduled bus times for over 40 UK cities are the heart of this app, and once you've planned a journey on the phone, you can track it on the Watch. It uses the iPhone's GPS and displays your location at the bottom of the screen.
Touch Nearby and UK Bus Checker will show you the Departure Board for the nearest bus stop. There are also helpful messages to help you plan your journey – for example, warning of train strikes that will make buses busier. Slick and efficient.
Clear is a beautifully designed to-do list app that uses gestures and colour to make for a really enjoyable experience – though whether that makes you actually do more of what's on the list is another matter.
Still, confirming you've completed a task is satisfying and you can do that on the Watch as well as the iPhone. You can add tasks to the list on the Watch, thanks to Siri, or set reminders for when you need a nudge. Clear is an exceptional app and the Watch app is neatly realised.
7 Minute Workout Challenge
There are plenty of seven-minute workout apps (consisting of 12 30-second exercises with 10-second rests in between) but 7 Minute Workout Challenge appeals because it's comprehensive and well-designed.
The Watch element includes a simple timer or animations to remind you how to know your lunges from your jumping jacks, and you can choose your workout from the selection available. The pause and restart buttons are also useful.
This app makes working out accessible, attainable, and (importantly) fast.
Organise your life better with Evernote, the brilliant note-taking app which saves photos, text, recipes, bookmarks, voice notes and more. On Apple Watch you can set reminders and check off tasks easily enough.
You can dictate new notes for those brilliant ideas you mustn't forget just by tapping the Plus button or Force Touching the screen. The Watch app can search existing notes using voice – though this wasn't as reliable as I'd have liked. Even so, if you're an Evernote fan it brings an extra level of convenience.
Lark Personal Weight Loss Coach
You can use Lark to lose weight or just for general fitness. It mines the information in your iPhone's Health app to understand how active you've been, and you tell it what you've eaten in text message conversations. Eat too much bacon and it'll tell you to find protein elsewhere, for instance.
On the Watch it offers quick pep talks and you can log a meal by dictating what you've eaten. Lark can be a bit naggy so won't suit everyone, but if you like it, the Watch offers simple extra functions that work well.
National Rail Enquiries
National Rail Enquiries is a brilliant app that if you're a regular train user is quickly essential. It's full of data like live departure boards and notifications if there are service disruptions, all colour-coded (green is on time, red means it's late).
On the Watch it works in three ways: to show the nearest stations, your favourites (which usually includes your home station) and recent enquiries. A useful adjunct to the great iPhone version.
Check out the Easyjet app on the Glances screens and you'll see that even if you don't have a flight booked it's kind enough to tell you the temperature in Tenerife, Palma or some other warm place!
When you have upcoming bookings, it gives you a countdown to your flight date, and shows you weather for the week ahead at your destination. It even provides you the latest exchange rate.
There's also flight status info in Glances and more features are arriving, airport by airport to show gate notifications and reminders of when to head from duty-free to the plane.
Strava Running and Cycling
Strava is perfect if you're competitive, even if it's just against yourself. It's great for tracking your training on foot or bicycle. On the iPhone it shows your outdoor runs and rides on maps, records your progress and more. It's also plenty social if you want to share details with friends.
The Watch app is very simple: a sneaker or cycle in an orange circle, and you press this to start or end a ride or run. Force Press lets you change from one sport to the other. Then it shows the timing, speed and distance accurately – handier than pulling your phone out of your pocket.
Practising yoga is easier with clear instructions and guidance, which FitStar Yoga provides alongside high-res video. That's not on the Watch, though there are useful features for when you're more familiar with the poses.
You can start and pause sessions and the Watch reminds you what's up next. And you can let the app know if that last exercise was too hard, just right, or too easy. It integrates with Apple's Health app so calories burnt are noted in the app.
Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker by MyFitnessPal
Information is power and if you're trying to lose weight, calorie tracking is a good way to stay focused. MyFitnessPal works out a daily calorie allowance based on how much weight you want to shed. Eat a meal and your allowance is spent, take exercise and you earn credit.
The Watch gives you a running total of remaining calories and how that breaks down into protein, carbohydrates and more. It can integrate with your steps total so you don't have to add those manually. It's simple but convenient and helpful.
Walkmeter GPS Pedometer
If walking's your thing, Walkmeter helps track your every step, showing your perambulations on a map and generating detailed graphs. The Watch app has clear data reporting and you can start and stop a walk from your wrist using the Watch's Force Touch actions.
Apple's own Workout app does a lot, but this app has more detail and the mapping detail on the iPhone is great. The app is free but for full Watch performance you need to upgrade to the Elite version for £3.99. There's a lot here, including training plans and announcements as you hit targets or distances.
Withings makes a series of devices to help measure health including bathroom scales and a blood pressure monitor which connect wirelessly to the Withings site or the iPhone to store data.
The Health Mate Watch app shows some of this data including latest weight on the Glances screen plus in the app itself recent changes, BMI and how much of your weight is fat (I know, I know, but it can be important). The iPhone app can be used to track heart rate and count steps, too.
With the right Withings gadgets, this can lead to comprehensive and effective health monitoring.
The British Airways app doesn't do a great deal until you're close to travelling, but as soon as you're within a week of wheels up, everything changes.
The Glance screen shows flight details with departure time and countdown to takeoff with more details in the Watch app itself. There's also info on the weather at your destination, which obviously becomes more accurate and useful as you get nearer to flight day.
It tells you when to check in and which gate you're flying from (once that information is available). And of course, once you've checked in, Passbook means you can use your Watch as a boarding pass at security and the gate.
Oh my, this is good. It's a weather app, but it's mighty specific. The iPhone Dark Sky Weather app lists your exact address moment by moment. So it'll tell you when it's going to rain where you are, with surprising accuracy.
The Watch app gives you a detailed forecast of the next hour on one screen, the day ahead on the next, and then the week on the third. The latest version works as a complication on compatible Watch faces so you don't have to even touch the Watch to see that today is "13 degrees, mostly cloudy" or whatever.
The Weather Channel
The Weather Channel is the world's most downloaded weather app, apparently. As well as instant weather descriptions for right now and forecasts for the next 15 hours or more, the Watch app shows details of how long until sunset, temperature and cloud cover now.
There's also the current outlook, wind speed and chance of rain. Most of these details also appear in the app's Glances screen. Since the arrival of watchOS 2, The Weather Channel is also available as a complication, appearing on some Watch faces as an icon, such as an umbrella when rain is expected. It's free, or you can remove ads for £2.99/$3.99.
The Watch Hailo app makes it exceptionally easy to order a cab. You need to set up an account in the iPhone app first, but then the location features on the phone mean the app knows where you are so the cab can find you.
This means it takes just one click to order a Hailo – which also makes it easy to call one by accident, so thank goodness there's a swift Cancel option using Force Touch.
Just Press Record
No, pressing the record button on an iPhone isn't a giant hassle, but as a journalist, capturing what's being said - often impromptuly - at a moment's notice is of the utmost importance sometimes. That's why we're a fan of the appropriately named Just Press Record Apple Watch app.
It's more than a handy off-site button, though. It also syncs records across all devices big (like an iMac) to small (like the iPhone SE), making the recording and listening back process a tad easier.
Citymapper is the pre-eminent public transport app, so no wonder it's an Apple Watch essential. It tells you how to get around selected cities including London, Manchester, Paris, Barcelona and New York.
As well as bus, train and subway times and directions, the Watch app even offers cycling routes and bike hire details such as London's Boris Bikes. Once you've set up the journey on the phone, step-by-step notifications will appear on the Watch screen.
You can start journeys to home or previously saved destinations right from the Watch, and it will even help you find your way to nearby bus stops and train stations. Brilliant, just brilliant.
Dave Phelan also contributed to this feature
- Next: Here's our Apple Watch review