The best Apple Watch apps keep changing, as new apps keep launching and old ones are updated or improved, and this is testament to how rich the Apple Watch app scene is.
It wasn't always like that. 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 now 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...?'
But Apple has pushed to improve the situation, with a big step coming with the arrival of an App Store directly on the Apple Watch with watchOS 6. In the years since then, the quality of Apple Watch apps has only improved, and while the selection isn't as rich as for the iPhone, it's the healthiest app ecosystem for a wearable.
So whether you've recently strapped on an Apple Watch 7 or are rocking an older Apple Watch, apps can help you get more out of it, and there are plenty to choose from.
We've made making that choice easier, as we've highlighted the very best Apple Watch options. 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 whether you're new to watchOS 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: NapBot
While Apple now includes sleep tracking as part of watchOS, there’s still room for improvement, and plenty of third-party apps are offering more sleep tracking features than Apple provides.
The latest version of the popular NapBot sleep tracking app includes a particularly interesting feature: sleep apnea detection. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that means your breathing pauses or becomes very shallow more frequently than other people, and it can seriously disrupt your sleep – which means you’ll be more tired the next day.
NapBot can detect apnea via the respiratory rate measurement on your watch, which is enabled whenever the sleep focus mode is on. It also monitors environmental audio so you can see if external factors are contributing to poor sleep, and as you’d expect it provides the usual analysis of your sleep states.
The core app is free but you can also unlock a Pro subscription for $0.99 / £0.99 a month or $9.99 / £9.99 annually. That gives you two extra features: Sleep History and Sleep Trends, both of which enable you to see the big picture of your sleep habits and the effects of any lifestyle changes.
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.
Water tracker - Waterful
- Water tracker - Waterful
- Free / IAPs
One of the things the Apple Watch is really good for is tracking little things, the kind of things you probably wouldn’t reach for your phone to record. For example, its automated workout detection means we record fitness data we wouldn’t otherwise think about. It’s the same with things like hydration: we really can’t be bothered picking up our phone to track every single bottle of water or cup of coffee, but we’re happy to quickly tap our Apple Watch while we sip.
Waterful isn’t the only hydration tracker on the App Store, but it’s one of the friendliest: we particularly like the main display, which uses a nice design to show you exactly what you’ve been filling yourself up with and how well you’re doing against your daily hydration target.
It integrates with the Health app and Siri Shortcuts, and it’s also available as complications for compatible Watch faces, so for example you can have a circular dial in the center or a percentage and total in a larger complication.
The core app is free to try and subscription-based if you decide to stick with it; you can pay monthly at $0.99 / £0.99 / AU$1.49 per month, but a lifetime subscription is only $9.99 / £8.99 / AU$14.99.
Thirstic: Smart Water Tracker
- $7.99 / £7.49 / AU$12.49 per year
There are many water intake trackers on the App Store, but Thirstic – ahem – drinks differently. That’s because it learns the patterns of your life and monitors the weather conditions to calculate a daily dynamic water intake goal.
So if you go to the gym on a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Thirstic will learn that and adjust your hydration targets and notification frequency accordingly; if the days get hotter, Thirstic will take that into account too.
It’s a clever idea, and there’s some more good thinking on show here: the app doesn’t send your data to remote servers, but uses your Watch’s integration with the Health app on your phone instead. You can also fine tune the parameters to suit your own preferences, so for example you can disable the weather forecast integration or make the activity sensing more or less sensitive.
There are no ads, and the interface is simple, straightforward, and most importantly of all, fast and easy to use. There’s also a good selection of charts and data when you open up the iPhone app. Thirstic is free to try and then you can choose between a monthly, annual or lifetime subscription. At the time of writing, an annual subscription is $7.99 / £7.49 / AU$12.49.
Tempo: Run & Walk Fitness Log
- Tempo: Run & Walk Fitness Log
- Free / IAPs
Tempo is popular with runners and walkers thanks to its intelligent analysis and excellent Apple Watch integration: it can get data from any fitness tracking app that logs data to Apple’s Health app, and then provide analysis of your performance. We’re pleased to see that the app also works for wheelchair users.
Earlier this year the app added Personal Bests to show you your fastest times, and in the latest update Tempo has added Goals. Goals enable you to set a distance goal, and that goal can be for a single workout or for multiple ones.
So for example if you’d like to follow the lead of The Proclaimers to walk 500 miles and then walk 500 more, you can set that goal in Tempo and it’ll track your progress even if you use other apps to monitor your walk or run in real time.
The app enables you to tag your workouts in all kinds of ways: you can even see if a particular pair of running shoes have affected your performance. You can also add Tempo calculations to many of your Apple Watch faces so you can see your progress.
Like most fitness tracking apps Tempo is subscription-based, but unlike many there isn’t a confusing range of options: there’s a single subscription plan of $9.99 / £9.49 / AU$15.99 per month.
Arm Speed Analyzer
- Arm Speed Analyzer
- Free / in-app purchases
How fast is your arm? If you play ball or racket sports, if you’re a golfer, a frisbee fan or a hockey player, Arm Speed Analyzer can tell you how fast you can move and how quickly you accelerate. That means you can use it for golf swings and tennis serves, baseball or cricket pitching, frisbee throwing, hockey stick swinging, or anything else that involves speedy throwing, swinging, sweeping or hitting.
Arm Speed Analyzer claims to be the most accurate speed tracking app that uses your Apple Watch’s accelerometer to track speed and acceleration.
Using the app is fast and simple. It shows you four key pieces of information: your real time speed and acceleration, your most recent speed and acceleration, your personal best top speed and your previous session’s top speed. The app also records your history so you can go back and see how much you’ve improved over time and how consistent your speeds have become.
Although the app is called Arm Speed Analyzer, it can also analyse your kicks – although we wouldn’t recommend doing it publicly in case someone thinks the Apple Watch strapped to your ankle is an electronic tag for offenders.
Watch to 5K
- Watch to 5K
- $2.99 / £2.99 / AU$4.49
If lockdown has got you thinking about fitness, Couch to 5K is a great way to get into shape – and if you’re thinking about Couch to 5K, then Watch to 5K is a great way of tracking it. The app is designed for absolute beginners who want to work towards running a 5K over a period of 9 weeks, and it creates a training plan of three runs per week for nine weeks.
The schedule will be different for every week, and if you complete all nine weeks you should be able to achieve 5K in under 30 minutes.
The app can work on its own, which is one of the reasons its creator made it: he was fed up with 5K training apps that needed you to lug your iPhone along for the run. So he wrote one that didn’t. It provides key metrics such as your distance traveled, your average pace, your calories burnt, and your heart rate, and all the details of your workouts are stored in Apple’s Health app.
As you’d expect your runs are tracked and count towards your goals in the Fitness app, and you can record your route to review it later. We like this app a lot: it’s a simple, useful, and effective app from an independent developer who spotted a problem and wrote an app to solve it.
Time to Walk
- Free with Apple Fitness Plus
Time to Walk is a new and really rather inspired idea for Apple Fitness Plus subscribers: it enables you to go for a long walk while listening to a notable figure tell their story. As Apple puts it:
“Each Time to Walk episode is shaped by the guest’s personal, life-shaping moments and includes lessons learned, meaningful memories, thoughts on purpose and gratitude, moments of levity, and other thought-provoking topics, recorded while walking outside or in locations that are meaningful to them. The narrative comes to life through photos that appear on Apple Watch, perfectly timed to amplify a corresponding moment the guest shares.”
If you’re a wheelchair user, Time to Walk will become Time to Push and will automatically start an Outdoor Wheelchair Walk Pace workout.
There are four guests at the time of writing: the legendary Dolly Parton, NBA star Draymond Green, musician Shawn Mendes and Orange Is The New Black star Uzo Aduba.
There will be new episodes every Monday until the end of April 2021, and they will be downloaded automatically if you have a Fitness Plus subscription, appearing automatically in the Workout tab on your Apple Watch Fitness app. Each episode will be 25 to 40 minutes long and will come with a music playlist to keep you walking or pushing afterwards.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
How we test Apple Watch apps
We go through hundreds of apps every year looking for the best to recommend you pick up for your Apple Watch. We use the Apple App Store, developers, online resources and more to find the top choices that we should trial.
Then we take those apps, and use them in our everyday lives to see how they work and whether they're worthy of a place on this list. Our writer who handles this list is always trying out brand new Apple Watch apps almost every day.
What apps can you put on your Apple Watch?
That's more limited than your iPhone, iPad or Mac as there aren't as many services designed for the Apple Watch's smaller screen. There are still thousands to choose from, and hopefully our rankings here should help you pick out the best services for you.
How many Apple Watch apps are there?
That figure is always changing, but there are over 20,000 with more developers putting services onto the App Store every day. You'll have over 40 apps downloaded to your Apple Watch immediately, too.