It’s worth noting that while you can access the below apps in the App Store through your phone, the Apple Watch also features its own version – although the smaller screen makes it slightly tougher to sift through.
If you’re new to watchOS, ‘Complications’ are what Apple labels widgets for the watch face.
Some apps are free but offer in-app purchases (IAP) to get more out of them.
If you’ve just unboxed your first Apple Watch, congratulations – you're at the start of a fun journey. Apple's wearable may have run into some patent-related issues lately, but it remains a fantastic smartwatch – whether you’ve got the SE, the Series 9, the Ultra 2, or any of the older versions.
Once you’ve paired the Apple Watch with your iPhone – which should simply be a case of turning it on and holding it near your phone – it's time to get it properly set up. But where do you start?
Well, like your iPhone, the Apple Watch is a blank canvas built for apps from the App Store. In fact, many of your iPhone’s applications will make the jump automatically, but there are plenty more to be found.
The list of the best Apple Watch apps is long, but there are a select few that we'd recommend installing right away in order to see the range of your new smartwatch's talents. Here are our favorite apps to install on a new Apple Watch.
If you want to get a head start on any hydration-related fitness goals in 2024, Waterful is a good place to start.
This app is simple, letting you log your water intake (and other fluids like coffee, soda, and more) with just a couple of taps. That’s much easier than pulling out your phone every time you have a sip and it means you can stay focused on whatever you’re doing.
Your water intake data is written to Health and Siri Shortcuts, and you can add the Complication to your watch face for easier access, taking the hassle out of the process and making it as frictionless as possible, while letting you keep tabs on your daily intake at a glance.
It’s also only $9.99 / £8.99 / AU$14.99 for a lifetime subscription or $0.99 / £0.99 / AU$1.49 per month, so not bad at all considering the health benefits you'll likely get from it.
The fun of Streaks is that it gamifies just about any habit that you put into the app. On the iPhone, it has a beautiful interface that can let you track when you last walked the dog, ate a healthy meal, or had a cigarette.
It’s a ‘habit forming to-do list’, and while there’s a workout variant, too, this base version of Streaks is a delightful app that can track just about anything. While it has a huge number of presets, it’s very customizable, meaning you can track the more specific parts of your life, like the last time you emailed a certain client, or did your taxes.
It’s also available as a one-off purchase for just $4.99 / £4.99 / AU$7.99, meaning it’s very affordable and great value.
3. Things 3
There are a ton of to-do list apps in the Apple ecosystem, ranging from the complex Omnifocus to the simple, yet effective Reminders app that Apple builds right into its platforms.
Things 3 sits somewhere in the middle, and I find it difficult to live without. Melodramatic as it sounds, it’s a beautifully designed app on all platforms, with a slick design and a context-specific button for creating tasks, sections, subtasks, and much more.
It’s also a fantastic watch app, letting you check off items or edit them on the fly. That’s particularly useful if you need to amend a deadline while it’s fresh in your mind but your phone is in another room. You can add also notes via dictation.
You can buy the iPhone version, which includes the Apple Watch app too, for $9.99 /£9.99 / AU$9.99. If you like it, the Mac and iPad versions are also available separately.
If you’re a keen cyclist or runner, Strava likely needs no introduction – though you may still be surprised at just how good it is on Apple Watch.
The exercise-tracking app is, alongside AllTrails, one of the most popular in its field. The orange-hued service can track your runs, cycles, and just about anything else that the iOS version can. It works really well and works even when you've left your phone at home too, making it ideal for runners who don’t want to lug their smartphone around.
Once you get home, the app syncs with the iPhone app to publish the activity to your feed, letting you earn that sweet, sweet kudos. For $5.99 / £5.99 / AU$9.99 you can unlock extra features with Strava Premium, but it’s a fantastic service even without it.
Sure, Apple Music users can skip this one, but Spotify is remarkably well integrated into watchOS. The streaming service can play from your phone, letting you select playlists, albums, and control the currently playing song with a tap or two, but it also supports local downloads.
That means you can get your Apple Watch to download a series of playlists or songs for your next run, letting you leave the phone indoors.
We will admit, the download menu can be a little frustrating at times, but once they’re on there, it’s a great way to go truly wireless with your next workout.
6. Pocket Casts
On a similar note to Spotify, Pocket Casts (and other podcast apps like Overcast) feels right at home on the Apple Watch. We're particularly big fans of this app because it syncs so nicely across multiple devices.
The app lets you skip through podcasts while your phone is in your pocket, and you can also queue up a number of downloads in your ‘Up Next’ queue. If you want to listen to episodes on the Watch without having your phone around, you'll need a Pocket Casts Plus subscription ($39.99 / £38.76 / AU$65 a year).
While this price has gone up over the years, having a Plus subscription means your watch will always have something for you to listen to, even when you've left your phone at home.
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Lloyd Coombes is a freelance tech and fitness writer for TechRadar. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as Computer and Gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, and Live Science. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games at Dexerto.