It’s been an interesting period for even the best Apple Watch apps. Not too long ago, it seemed as if the Watch had lost its sparkle, with many big-name apps either languishing or being pulled from the Watch altogether - but as a new era approaches, it seems that things are much more vibrant in the Watch app space.
You see, the problem was one of function - app developers spending too much time wondering 'could we make an Apple Watch app?' and not 'should we...?'
When watchOS 6 landed, it brought an App Store to your Apple Watch for the very first time, thereby encouraging app developers to take the Apple Watch more seriously, and with watchOS 7 and the Apple Watch 6 - not to mention the iPhone 12 range - having since landed, there's never been a better time to join the ecosystem.
Our favorite apps - the list of which is ever-growing - 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.
So if you've revently been given a new Apple Watch, or just want to refresh your stock, dive in and start getting the most out of your Apple Watch, and make sure to check this article regularly, as we'll add a new app every couple of weeks, highlighted below.
Best new Apple Watch app: Spotify
- Free / optional subscription
Yes, we know you know about this one. But you might not know that in November 2020 Spotify began to roll out the ability to stream music and podcasts directly to its Apple Watch app, no iPhone required. There’s still no offline playlist support, but hopefully that’s coming in a future update.
To take advantage of the streaming feature you’ll need an Apple Watch 3 or later with a Wi-Fi or cellular network connection and watchOS 6.0 or better, with watchOS 7.1 recommended. The update is a server-side update so if you don’t see it, don’t worry about updating your app: the feature will appear as soon as Spotify decides to make it available to you, and you’ll see a notification asking if you want to stream on your watch. It’s going to be a particular boon to outdoor types who like to listen to music when they run: if their Watch is a cellular model they’ll be able to leave the phone at home.
Streaming or no streaming, the Spotify app is a good companion to the main iPhone app, as you can use it to control your music, send music to other devices via Spotify Connect, skip through the boring bits of podcasts, and so on.
Best Apple Watch apps for fitness and health
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.
StepDog - Watch Face Dog
- StepDog - Watch Face Dog
- Free / IAPs
Apple’s family-friendly features in the latest watchOS make the Apple Watch a much more child-friendly wearable, and apps such as StepDog are ideal for younger users: it’s a kind of fitness Tamagotchi, a virtual pet that also encourages you to exercise.
The app requires the Infographic Modular watch face, and it puts a cute dog in the middle of your Apple Watch screen. Like a real dog, your dog needs to be walked every day; if you hit your daily step goal your four-legged friend will retire to its kennel and go to sleep. The app also provides a widget that does the same thing on your iPhone.
The core app is free but you can unlock additional features via modestly priced in-app purchases. That enables you to choose from a selection of pets including a cat – the full set of pets is $1.99 / £1.99 / AU$2.99 – and it can also show weather information in the background. The app also includes leaderboards where you can compare your step count with your friends or with other local StepDog users.
This probably isn’t an app for grown-ups, but it’s the kind of thing we’d love to see more of: it’s cute, whimsical, and modestly priced. More importantly, it made us smile.
Most of the Apple Watch apps in the health and fitness category are trackers of some kind: step trackers, calorie trackers, cycle trackers and so on. Moodistory is a tracker too, but it’s interested in your mental state rather than your physical performance.
The newly added Apple Watch companion app means it’s one of the fastest ways to record your mood and give it context, and it’s designed for sheer speed of entry: if you want to leave detailed notes that’s best left to the iPhone app. On your Watch you just tap and go.
Mood tracking can be very useful for people whose mental state has its ups and downs, or for people who want to get an understanding of the patterns that may shape their moods.
By recording how you feel over a period of time you can begin to see if there are particular trends, and if you’re also including contextual information that information can help you identify any triggers that might bring you down or lift you up. You can even collate the information and output it in PDF form from the iPhone app, which may be useful if you’d like to share your mood history with a counsellor or other qualified professional.
Vekt - Weight Tracking
Tracking your weight using the Apple Health app can be a little bit irritating. If you use Wi-Fi scales you’ve probably experienced connection problems, and if you manually add your data into the Health app you’ve probably encountered some of its idiosyncrasies. For example, if you prefer to work in stones and pounds you can’t just say that you’re nine stone three, you have to say that you’re 9.21 stone.
Vekt is designed to solve those little irritations. It enables you to enter your weight instantly using proper measurements (metric, imperial or stone), it automatically displays your BMI – useful if you need to hit a certain BMI target, for example to meet eligibility criteria for some surgeries – and it enables you to set a target weight for weight loss or gain.
You can get it to set reminders to help motivate you, and with Siri Shortcuts support you can add data with your voice. It can also access your existing health information from the Health app, if you wish, and it can add its data to Health automatically. But you don’t have to enable the data sharing if you don’t want to.
Vekt doesn’t do much, but what it does do it does very well: it makes weight tracking a little bit simpler and a whole lot faster.
- Heart Analyzer
- Free / IAPs
We featured version 7 of Heart Analyzer back in 2019 and liked it a lot. Version 8 is new for 2020 and it’s a very big update – especially on iPhone, where it has a brand new and very nice user interface.
Unfortunately the Apple Watch’s display is rather limited compared to the phone, but while the Watch component isn’t quite as pretty as the new iPhone app, it’s still very effective and makes good use of the available space.
On your wrist, Heart Analyzer v8 comes with improved, customizable complications for the Infograph faces so that you can have your heart rate chart right there in front of you. The Watch app offers live heart rate monitoring and trend charts, weekly metrics and workout views, and it can also record calories burned and distance traveled. As you’d expect, it integrates well with Apple Health.
Things are even more impressive on iPhone, where you can view personalized metrics such as day/night resting heart rates, average heart rates, and historical data going back years. The new interface makes everything much clearer and achieves the tricky balance of giving you lots and lots of data without being overwhelming.
- Free with in-app purchases
Don’t let the name fool you: although it’s named after a bike race term and is primarily designed to accompany the famously expensive exercise bike, Peloton isn’t just about cycling. It’s a fitness helper for running, yoga and high intensity training too, and it can also help you with meditation through its guided learning sessions.
The Peloton app offers a useful combination of streaming video classes, progress tracking, and music playback to keep you motivated. The latest app introduces a particularly cool feature: you can now use Chromecast to send the video from iPhone or iPad to compatible TVs for that big-screen experience, and you can pre-load the video to make sure you don’t encounter any buffering during a workout.
The Watch component has much less screen space to work with, but it does a lot with what it’s got. It displays pace and distance metrics for runs, heart rate tracking for all kinds of exercises, and all the stats you could want. It also integrates with Apple’s Health app to keep your vital statistics up to date. The app doesn’t just connect to your Apple Watch: if you have Bluetooth-enabled monitors you prefer, you can connect them too.
Strava: Run & Ride Training
- Strava: Run & Ride Training
- Free with in-app purchases
Strava needs no introduction for serious fitness fans: it’s one of the world’s top fitness apps for runners, cyclists and swimmers, as well as gym-goers, kayakers and yoga practitioners. The latest version brings proper support for the Apple Watch, enabling you to sync workouts and activities you’ve recorded with Apple’s Workout app with the Strava app and its online tracking, to build a better overall picture of your fitness activities.
Strava is on a constant update cycle, so just days after the Apple Watch sync was introduced there was another update with improved stroke analysis for swimmers and better cadence analysis for runners; two weeks previously there were new features for skiers and for activity sharing, as well as a bunch of interactive 3D maps.
The big selling point of Strava is its social aspect, which elevates it above other GPS-enabled fitness apps: you can compare your performance not just with yourself but with other users, you can compete to become the king or queen of particular geographical leaderboards, and you can share with friends and followers to get encouraging words and helpful feedback.
The best bits are in the Premium subscription, which is fairly cheap by fitness-app standards: it’s currently $5.99/£5.99/AU$9.99 a month or $59.99/£44.99/AU$89.99 a year.
Hole19 Golf GPS & Scoring
- Hole19 Golf GPS & Scoring
- Free (in-app purchases)
Hole19 claims to be the most-used golf GPS range finder in the UK, with more than 10 million rounds registered, and it claims to be as accurate as a real caddie – although it doesn’t specify which one.
As is usually the case with sports apps the bulk of the work is done by the iPhone app, with the Apple Watch companion providing just the essential features and information you need while you’re on the green.
The main app offers two key tools: GPS range finding so you can see how far you are from your goal as well as any hazards, and a digital scorecard that you can use to track your stats over time.
On your watch, it shows you the distance to the front, center and back of the green; swipe and there’s an input screen where you can track your performance. It’s all very simple and straightforward, enabling you to track your playing without distracting you for too long.
The usefulness of the app depends mainly on whether it knows about the course(s) you want to play. Hole19 knows over 42,000 courses in 201 countries, so yours should be covered, but the app’s free to try so you can make sure it’s right for you before signing up for a subscription.
Designed for people who take their fitness seriously, RocketBody doesn’t just record what you do. It also predicts your recovery, enabling you to make plans to maximize the effectiveness of future workouts or sports sessions. That’s because of its intelligent algorithms, which combine ECG monitoring (from your Watch, if it’s a Series 4 or better) with other inputs such as your calorie expenditure during workouts and your food intake.
The main app has been around for a while but the Apple Watch app is new – and surprising, because RocketBody began with the goal of producing a wearable fitness and nutrition tracker. That project appears to have been abandoned and the firm is now focusing largely on software.
The Watch app enables you to control the app’s workout tracking from your wrist, displaying your total elapsed time, your calorie expenditure and your current heart rate in a simple, easy to read format.
As with most health apps, RocketBody is a freemium app: to benefit from all of its features you need a subscription. But the price of a yearly subscription seems to vary, so if the app appeals it might be wise to time your purchase carefully.
Seven - 7 Minute Workout
- Seven - 7 Minute Workout
What can you do in seven minutes? You could listen to one and a half pop songs. You could watch one-tenth of an episode of Game of Thrones. Or you could change your life. That’s what Seven promises. It’s an app based on the idea that anybody can get much fitter if they can spare just seven minutes a day. No gym memberships, no equipment, just you and your Apple Watch.
We’d recommend starting with the phone, though: it shows you how to do each exercise properly, something the Apple Watch’s screen isn’t big enough for. There’s no point knocking yourself out for your seven minute stretch if you’re doing it wrong and causing more harm than good. Once you know what you need to do though you can rely on your Watch to time your exercises and breaks and to record your activity.
The app is easy to use, packed with useful exercises and provides good visual feedback and motivation. You can compete with your friends or just earn in-app achievements, and if you sign up for the $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99 monthly subscription you get access to over 200 exercises to keep your regime interesting. By enabling you to exercise anytime, anywhere, Seven might just help you get the exercise habit.
Swing Tennis Tracker
- Swing Tennis Tracker
Built for serious tennis players under the guidance of Andy Roddick and James Blake, Swing Tennis Tracker is designed to analyze your swings as well as record your stats. It isn’t just a solo app: it can also sync scores with other Apple Watch users on the court. There’s excellent Siri integration for starting matches and practice, integration with the Activity and Health apps, and excellent visual feedback to show you how hard you’re hitting.
The Watch component concentrates on the recording and feedback, while the phone app takes care of scores, stats and video, as well as providing action advice after each hit. It’s a great app for individual players but it can also be used by parents, coaches and in teams, to track others’ performance too.
There are two subscription plans, the $4.99/£4.49/AU$7.99 per month Premium and the $9.99/£9.49/AU$15.49 Pro. The former unlocks historical statistic graphics, head-to-head records against non-Swing users and unlimited analysis graphs for each session, while the Pro subscription adds video lessons from tennis pros and intelligent analysis of your performance that identifies key areas for improvement after each session.
Start With Yoga
- Start With Yoga
Start With Yoga does exactly what the name suggests: it’s designed to help you get started with Yoga. It was designed partly out of frustration with other yoga apps, which didn’t come with independent Apple Watch apps. As the developer told us: “Most yoga apps need you to look at your phone, which doesn’t really work for yoga.” Hence this yoga app for your Apple Watch, which enables you to stay far away from the distractions of your iPhone.
It’s very simple, and that’s part of its charm. You get five pre-defined routines to begin with, and you can use the iPhone part of the app to create your own custom ones from the clear and cute illustrations. Tell the app how long you want to hold a position for, and it will monitor each stretch, moving on to the next one when it’s time.
The emphasis is very much on yoga beginners here: while the app doesn’t include some of the more advanced positions more experienced practitioners might expect, there’s nothing here that’s likely to put your back out either - although as with any exercise app, always get expert advice if you have any health or fitness issues that might affect your ability to exercise.
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
- 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.