If there’s one smartwatch that’s big for apps, it’s the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch app store clearly wins on quantity and quality – and now Apple has now made it even easier, with the on-watch App Store launching through the watchOS 6 update.
Looking for a specific kind of Apple Watch app? Be sure to also catch our dedicated guides for Apple Watch sleep tracker apps, the best Apple Watch apps for running, Apple Watch apps for cycling and Apple Watch golf apps.
Update: This article was originally published back in 2014 and updated in December 2019. We update it every few months with new favorites, and remove any apps that are out of date.
10 best Apple Watch apps:
Pressed for time? Then check out our top 10 must-have Apple Watch apps, covering a broad range of categories.
1. Best app for workouts: Strava
The champion of fitness apps has fully embraced GPS tracked running and cycling on Apple Watch. It took a while to get here, but after testing the app out on the road, results are good: distances are nailed onto dedicated running watches and the experience was stable and reliable.
Live pacing is not as strong, and we found that aspect a little sluggish, and sadly there’s no live Segments data. For serious runners and cyclists, though, it’s the best on the App Store. It’s also a standalone app, so don’t be afraid to head out without your iPhone.
2. Best weather app: Carrot Weather
$4.99 + in-app purchases, iTunes
To help save you from White Walker attacks or being fried to a crisp by the sun, Carrot Weather dishes up a gorgeous Apple Watch app interface, packed with information and snark.
The app’s ‘AI’ laughs at your misfortune when it’s pouring down, but you can at least customise Complication slots to your liking – assuming you subscribe to the app’s premium in-app purchases. It’s worth every penny.
3. Best app for sports scores: ESPN
You’re in the world’s longest and most pointless business meeting with no idea about the progress of your favourite team’s latest game.
Enter, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN, which will keep you updated on the scores from your chosen team in almost any sport. Add in a decent helping of breaking news alerts and complications that can keep you in the know at a glance, and there’s no better solution for sports fans.
4. Best app for the gym: Carrot Fit
The Carrot series puts a new spin on tired app categories, and this one’s all about the 7-minute workout. The malevolent Carrot AI puts you through your paces, doing ‘Celebrity Face Punches’ and ‘Dragon Mating Dances’.
Start your workout and your Apple Watch can become a heads-up display, so you know what exercise you should be doing – or can pause things for a bit, if your body’s about to break.
5. Best app for to-do lists: Things 3
We’re deep into GTD (Get Things Done) territory with Things, a to-do manager turned up to 11.
On iPhone, it fast becomes the hub for organising your entire life, sorting items into Today, Upcoming, and Anytime views. The Apple Watch app is for properly focusing on your current tasks, which can be displayed as a complication, ticked off when complete, and added to when something urgent looms into view.
6. Best Apple Watch game: Rules!
Rules! gives you a daily mini-game challenge, which is all about memorising rules and tapping relevant cards.
Easy enough, right? Not exactly. After several rounds, you’ll be juggling a bunch of rules in your head (“Tap ascending”; “Reds if you see green”; “No animals”), all the while knowing that a single incorrect tap ends your game.
With watchOS 5 and later, the app’s far more responsive, boasts more levels, adds haptic feedback and bundles the cutest complication you’re ever likely to see.
7. Best app for notes: Cheatsheet Notes
Free + $3.99 in-app purchases, iTunes
On the iPhone, Cheatsheet Notes shoves vital nuggets of info into Today view. But it’s a better fit for Apple Watch – with Complications you can get at up to three vital digital scribbles with a flick of the wrist.
It’s an excellent app for details you regularly need but might forget – the office’s new Wi-Fi password; your boss’s extension; your own name – and although your list can be created on iPhone, you can also dictate entries and assign icons on Apple Watch.
8. Best wellbeing app: Streaks
For forming habits – in a good way – there’s nothing better than Streaks. On your iOS device, you define up to 12 habits (although the interface prefers six).
These can be one-off or timed tasks; each can be assigned to a specific day or to be completed a certain number of times per week or month.
It’s all very flexible, and the Apple Watch app becomes a means to get a brain buzz as you track tasks, run timers, and mark everything complete.
9. Best audio recording app: Just Press Record
On iPhone, Just Press Record is a very efficient app for making quick recordings: tap the record button, capture some audio, stop the recording, and your audio then syncs to the cloud.
This is all now on your wrist too, and you can even record without your iPhone around. Your recordings will transfer into the cloud and there’s even a complication that’ll launch you into a recording automatically.
And, brilliantly, the iPhone app offers transcription. So you can talk to your wrist and later get a text file of what you said. It’s like living in the future.
10. Best Apple Watch calculator app: PCalc
It’s astonishing Apple omitted a calculator from Apple Watch until watchOS 6 (maybe Tim Cook hates Casio), but we’re comforted by the fact that PCalc existed to heroically come to our aid. In fact, it’s still a solid alternative to Apple’s own app, with an excellent interface and built-in conversions.
Everything’s super-responsive, and you can use the Digital Crown to adjust conversion values. (Generously, the free PCalc Lite version also includes an Apple Watch app.)
If you love your Apple Watch…
Best of the rest: Apple Watch travel apps
Top Apple Watch apps for directions, flight information, translations, conversions and finding local amenities.
If you’re in one of the supported cities (which include Paris, San Francisco Bay Area, New York and London), Citymapper is a must. It zeroes in on public transport and provides clear, precise instructions on getting from place to place.
You’re informed about times for upcoming buses, trains or trams, and can access an outline of the stops to expect on your journey. Citymapper’s complications can put your ETA and directions right on your watch face.
The best part? It works with LTE, so if you left your phone back at the hotel you won’t have any trouble finding your way around.
You already have your commute figured out, but you need to figure out how long it’s going to take to get home so you know when to leave.
ETA does that, as the app always keeps you up to date on how long it’ll take you to reach home from your current location. It’ll also let you know whether there are any delays on your route, and it’s got standalone functionality so if you don’t have your phone it’ll tap into LTE.
And oh, it’s got an awesome Complication that lets you use Time Travel to see how long your commute home might take.
On iPhone, Babbel is a fully fledged translation teacher, but on Apple Watch it’s more like a game. The app figures out what’s nearby and provides quick quizzes about relevant words. If you’re close to a hotel, tap its name and you might be asked whether ‘la llave’ means ‘the tourist’ or ‘the key’.
Naturally, this isn’t going to make you fluent, but it’s a fun way to pass a few minutes; also, a ‘word collection’ feature further entertains and might get you walking about if you’re missing a few key words.
Exploring the nooks and crannies of Rome and left your phone at the AirBnB? iTranslate Converse will make it easy for you to talk to the locals.
You choose the language you want to translate to and tap to begin speaking. The app will automatically pick up who is speaking what language and will translate. Be warned: The more complicated your sentences are, the longer it’ll take.
In a new area and need some help finding things to eat or drink? You’d normally turn to something like Yelp for that, and with its Apple Watch app you can now do that on your wrist. It’s extremely simple.
All you do is boot up the app and choose the category you’re looking for, and then you’ll get a list of recommendations close to your location. All it’s missing is some standalone LTE action, but hopefully that’ll come along soon.
App in the Air
Free + in-app purchases, iTunes
Self-described ‘personal flying assistant’ App in the Air now does an awful lot on your wrist. The Apple Watch app tracks your flight, gives you in-flight ‘courses’ to stop your neck seizing up, and provides gate and security wait times.
Complications and Time Travel support, respectively, give you relevant and timely information on your watch face, and enable you to zip through your journey virtually by way of the Digital Crown.
Free + $3.99 in-app purchases, iTunes
This currency conversion app has a very usable, human approach. It knows where you are and sets the currency for you. Upon picking what you want to convert to, the entire interface becomes a space for conversion. Swipe to the left and your base value increases by ten times. Swipe the other way and it reverts.
Each digit is an editable box. Tap it and twiddle the Digital Crown to update the number within. The conversion below will instantly update. Elk’s smart, bold, and nicer to use than calculator-like conversion tools.
If you fancy something a bit more traditional than Elk, try Currency. The no-nonsense moniker is echoed in the app’s design, which is straightforward – and extremely usable.
On adding your currencies, rates are clearly displayed. At any point, you can tap a currency and enter a bespoke value, to see how much that’d get you when converted to everything else in the list. Easy.
Fitness and sport
The best Apple Watch apps for helping you get fit, whether on your bike, on foot or in the comfort of your own home.
Free + in-app purchases, iTunes
Pear is a personal fitness service – which you can use with or without your phone – that includes all kinds of workouts, from HIIT to yoga to spin and more. There are a variety of levels, too, so you can just take on something to lose some weight, or you can train for a marathon.
What makes Pear special is that you’ll get interactive coaching from athletes while you’re doing your workouts. So instead of a generic robot yelling in your ear, it’ll be an Olympian who will use their personal stories to motivate you. Fresh.
To be fair, Apple does a pretty good job in its own Activity app for breaking down all the exercise you’ve been doing.
But if steps are your thing, ActivityTracker Pedometer zeros in on steps, calories burned and distance travelled. Scroll down a bit and you can also peruse when during the day your steps occurred, and how today’s efforts compare with those from the past week. Handy to ensure you don’t rest on your laurels.
In the future, little wrist-based computers might beam mapping information directly into your brain. But today, Apple Watch can barely deal with maps when you’re hiking, biking, or merely ambling.
Fortunately, WorkOutDoors provides zoomable, scrollable vector mapping on your wrist. Bold colours, auto-rotate, breadcrumb trails and live stats showcase an app very much designed for the wrist first, rather than Apple Watch being an afterthought.
The Apple Watch’s own swimming app is pretty impressive, but if you’re looking for a bit more post-swim analysis and want to have your pool workouts tracked in one place, Swim.com is your friend. It can track stroke type and count and features drills and live feedback while you’re in the pool – spitting data out into a dedicated iPhone app.
Free + In app purchases, iTunes
This is one you’ll want to take on your hikes with your brand new LTE-enabled Apple Watch Series 4. ViewRanger gives you live turn-by-turn navigation and trip stats for hundreds of hiking and cycling trails worldwide. You can also download (and pay) for additional topographic maps.
There’s no messing about with Streaks Workout, a fitness app that leaves you with no excuses. Define on your iPhone which exercises you’re happy to do, and then pick a duration on the Apple Watch.
Only got minutes to spare? Go for the six-minute ‘Quick’ option. A bit of a masochist? Try the half-hour ‘Pain’ mode, which you’ll find is aptly named as the app flings semi-randomised rep sets at you for 30 agonising minutes.
A comprehensive tool for golfers, Hole19 provides you with hole routing, course stats and a simple interface for logging your score. Once you’ve started a round on your iPhone, your Apple Watch hones the data down to what you need at any given moment: key distances; score input; and putt tracking.
Zones for Training with Exercise Intensity
Getting full marks for both the length of the name and practicality, ZTEI (as it will now be known as) is the perfect app for those who train by heart rate.
It has modes for walking, running, cycling and gym workouts, and will display your live heart rate zones, as well as reporting the time spent in each zone, and spitting the data out into the Health app. You’ll also be able to use it sans iPhone. It adds functionality that the Apple Watch doesn’t provide, which is the beauty of a good third-party app.
Runkeeper’s a great iPhone app, but there’s a lot going on. On the Apple Watch, it’s focused on key info: you start an activity, swipe between screens that show stats, cardio info and split times, and can have haptics give you a buzz when you hit set distances.
When home, open Runkeeper on your iPhone and stats and a map (if you’ve a Series 2 or newer) are pushed across.
Free + in-app purchases, iTunes
Having detailed speed, altitude and distance stats to hand when careening down a mountain on skis or a snowboard is all very well, but an iPhone’s not the best of devices to access during such occasions.
Slopes therefore enables you to start recording data right from your Apple Watch, giving you important stats on your wrist, such as how much time you’ve spent zooming along on snow compared to riding boring lifts, and how high up you happen to be at any given moment.
Health and wellbeing
The best Apple Watch apps to keep you in good health, from remembering to take medication to getting a good night’s sleep.
If you’re diabetic, then keeping track of your glucose and everything around it can be difficult. One Drop wants to make that easier, allowing you to log glucose, meds, food and activity directly from your wrist. It can also integrate into HealthKit. All of this together will help you manage your diabetes better than ever before.
This one is true to its name. There’s nothing you need to do with AutoSleep, just make sure the app is installed and you’re wearing your Watch to bed. It’ll automatically track your sleep. In the morning, it’ll send you a notification with your sleep analysis, including how you restless you were or how long you were in deep sleep.
There’s even a mode for if you don’t wear your Watch to bed, as long as you sleep right after you charge your Watch and put it on when you wake up. Although we’d argue that feature is a little pointless when you could just as easily hit a stopwatch.
You can track weight using Apple’s Health app on your iPhone, but Vekt makes inputting your details a mite easier. Launch the app, twiddle the Digital Crown, tap Save Weight, and you’re done.
The app will outline how far you are from any target set in the iPhone app; and over on your phone, you can see how you’re doing, checking out your recent progress by way of a wiggly graph.
Start With Yoga
Often cited as a great way to relax and become more mindful, yoga can nonetheless be tricky to get started with. But this app removes distractions, presenting routines as a simple series of static images.
You can define how long each position should be held for – although add 30 seconds, since there’s no pause between them. And if you want to concentrate on specific positions, you can define your own routines on your iPhone.
Those apps you can’t do without: calendars, timers, money management and Wikipedia on your wrist.
When Do – A Complication
As evidenced elsewhere on this list, there’s a lot of ambition on Apple Watch, but the fact remains you primarily want to interact with it briefly. That means simple apps often appeal – and you don’t get much simpler than When Do.
In effect, it’s a little like Cheatsheet, but rather than offering a static reminder, this one gives you a countdown. Plug in the details of your important event, and it’ll be right there on your home screen, ready to make you smile.
Our lives are dictated by bills, and there’s no app better at helping you keep track of bills than Mint. The Apple Watch app, like its older iPhone brother, is a simple way to see which bills you’ve got to pay soon, how much money you have flowing in and out of your accounts and how good (or bad) your credit score is.
All of this essential financial information is huddled into three separate screens, so you can quickly slide between them to get everything you need at a glance. Best of all, everything is neat and colour-coded, so you don’t have to squint your eyes trying to figure out maths.
For reasons best known to Apple’s developers, Reminders didn’t originally make it to Apple Watch. (Perhaps they forgot to set a reminder to make the app.) Although it’s there now, we reckon Reminders Nano may still be worth paying for.
First, it handily displays your lists in alphabetical order, rather than whatever arbitrary order Apple’s app goes for. Secondly, you can use the app to add new items and even entirely new lists, which means less fishing around for your iPhone when you’re already peering at your wrist.
Apple’s Calendar app is fine for reading appointments, but Fantastical 2 saves you fishing out your iPhone to add events. Force Touch to access the relevant command, and then dictate. The app’s natural-language input means it usually successfully interprets the likes of “lunch on Friday at 2pm for an hour”, making you feel like you’re living in the future. A bit.
Free or $5.99, iTunes
Apple’s own Timer app is straightforward but limited to just one countdown timer. It’s no good if you need to time several things simultaneously, unless you buy loads of Apple Watches and strap them to your arm.
MultiTimer is a far more sensible choice, and even in its free incarnation provides six timers. These are defined on iPhone (colour, icon, default length) and show up in the Apple Watch app, where you can view a single timer or several at once. Pay for the in-app purchase and you can have unlimited timers – although you should perhaps ask yourself at that point if you’re getting a bit obsessed.
If you need to keep track of your money after blowing a huge amount of it on, say, a new Apple Watch, Pennies can help. The app enables you to set up multiple lists, to which you can add and remove funds as and when you need.
On Apple Watch, the app’s stripped back compared to its iPhone counterpart, but you can still discover what you have left to spend (even using a Complication as a constant reminder), and quickly deduct cash from your budget when you rashly splash out on a new Apple Watch strap you totally didn’t need.
Deliveries is pretty great on every platform, tracking goodies that are winging their way to you, and ensuring you’re not out when a courier is about to hurl that new laptop over your fence. On Apple Watch, you get the same list, location maps of where your things currently are, and handy notifications when a delivery is imminent.
Chirp for Twitter
Free + in-app purchases, iTunes
In all honesty, we question the need to have your entire Twitter timeline on your wrist; still, Chirp provides the means to delve into an endless stream of tiny messages on your tiny Apple device.
Its utility becomes clearer when you grab the in-app purchases and unlock the full feature set, enabling you to reply to tweets, delve into direct messages, perform quick searches and keep track of news (or gossip) by browsing what’s currently trending.
We assume you’re using two-factor authentication – at least for your vitally important internet accounts. The snag with this level of security is friction – having to fish around for your iPhone authentication app in order to access the likes of Google or PayPal. Not when you’ve got the Authy app on your Apple Watch, which gets you those magic digits by way of a couple of taps.
The thought of full-fat Facebook on your wrist might bring you out in a cold sweat. Messenger, though, is a different prospect, not least if your friends have all but abandoned email, the phone, and actually talking to each-other in real life. This app lets you delve into your message threads, and then reply with sparkling wit – or, when that’s in short supply, some vaguely relevant stickers.
Free + $3.99 in-app purchases, iTunes
Apple’s Timer app offers custom timers, but they lack context – it’s no good having loads of timers if you don’t know what they’re for. Tidur offers labels and colours, and you can have multiple timers run at once. You can optionally use iCloud to sync timers across devices, too, making this app a good bet to ensure your boiled eggs aren’t too hard while simultaneously roasting a chicken and brewing fancy tea.
Although CARROT Weather sits in our best-of list, Dark Sky’s swish redesign makes it a photo finish for best Apple Watch weather app. There’s no in-app purchases subscription here, yet you still get a great glanceable forecast on your wrist, including an imminent rainfall graph so you know you won’t get drenched when walking the dog. Twiddle the Digital Crown to see forecasts for the day and week ahead, and elsewhere revel in the fancy complications for Apple’s latest watch faces.
V for Wikipedia
The idea of Wikipedia on your wrist is probably a bit weird, but we like V for Wikipedia a lot. The interface is smart and to the point, letting you search all of Wikipedia or just find things that are nearby.
The cut-down articles it presents are short enough not to make your eyes glaze over, but give you enough detail to make them worth loading. And the app happily works without your iPhone being on, yet enables you to bookmark whatever you’d like to read later on a bigger screen.
Make your Apple Watch earn its keep by saving you time and helping you work with our pick of the best apps for productivity.
Free + in-app purchases, iTunes
There are loads of voice memo apps for Apple Watch, but Noted grabs a place on our list for one specific feature: #TimeTags. During a recording, you can prod the hash button to add an embedded tag. On Apple Watch, these act as visual bookmarks; on iPhone, they can be tappable shortcuts within a written note that jump to specific spots in your recording. Handy for quickly getting at important bits from recorded lectures and meetings.
If you’re easily distracted, it’s useful to have an app that carves the day up into work and break sprints. Focus has you define session lengths on your phone, which can be triggered in the watch app. By default, you work 25 minutes for every five minutes off – with a longer break every four cycles. And you should be less likely to fire up Twitter when your wrist’s screaming there’s ten minutes of the current focus session to go.
Hours Time Tracking
Free + in-app purchases, iTunes
If you’re sitting there at half-past five wondering where the day went, start using Hours to track your time. The app can nag you to start and stop timers (defined on your iPhone) – which can be done right from your wrist. A complication means you can glance at your watch face to see which timer’s currently running, too. Unfortunately, the app won’t do your actual work as well.
Differentiating itself from standard to-do apps, Productive is all about creating and tracking habits. You create lists on your iPhone, concentrating on repeating tasks that improve your life but are easy to let fall through the cracks. These are assigned to morning, afternoon or evening on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, or specific days.
Using the Apple Watch app, you can quickly get at your lists, the interface smartly starting by displaying the most relevant set. Tap on a task to mark it as done (or skip it), without ever bothering with your iPhone – thereby making yourself that little bit more productive. An aptly named app, then.
Free + in-app purchases, iTunes
Free + $3.49 per month, iTunes
The 1Password app provides the means to bring across some of your passwords or secure notes to Apple Watch. These are accessed via big, friendly buttons, and you can lock everything behind a four-digit PIN. (If you’re feeling especially paranoid, force-quit the app after use: hold the side button until the power screen appears, then press-hold the button until 1Password closes.) Note that 1Password is free to download, but you’ll need a subscription to use the Apple Watch app.
On iPhone, Drafts bills itself as the place where text starts. This is fair enough, since it’s a speedy and dependable note-taking app with comprehensive sharing options. Now, text can start on your wrist, through Siri dictation. Captured text is sent to your inbox, and any selected item can be appended/prepended to another, archived, deleted, or have tags added. It’ll work when your iPhone’s gone walkabout, too, and sync your new content when your devices are reunited.
Ambition’s all very well, but sometimes it’s the simpler apps that grab hold – and Clicker is certainly very simple. Post launch, you tap to increment a number on the screen. Force Touch and you can subtract or start from scratch. That’s it. Complication support leaves your number front and centre, so you can keep tabs on group numbers, days since an event or exercise laps – at least up until the maximum supported number (2,147,483,647 – which is a lot of laps).
Entertainment and games
Podcasts, stargazing, games and more – your Apple Watch can be a boon when you want to have fun.
Get started with Mindkeeper, and you’ll be amazed someone’s got a game like Doom running on Apple Watch. Well, sort of. Ish. It *is* a 3D game packed full of horrors, though, albeit one where you typically spend your time armed with a torch rather than violently powerful weaponry.
Still, the bite-sized levels fit into odd moments as you use the Digital Crown to direct your auto-running protagonist, discovering secrets, finding keys, flinging open doors, and avoiding massive spike traps some idiot’s left lying around.
Given the relative simplicity of many arcade classics, you’d think some would be a good fit for Apple Watch. As you can probably tell from the name, this shooter riffs off of Asteroids.
You twiddle the Digital Crown to rotate your ship that handily automatically blasts anything in your path. The aim is to grab power-ups, blow rocks to smithereens, and avoid cramp when you realise with a start you’ve been playing the thing for rather longer than you’d realised.
You know those smartphone apps where you hold your device to the sky, and discover the stars you’re looking at? Night Sky is the same – but on your Apple Watch.
Sure, it’s a mite simpler, but configure the thing by aligning the moon on your wrist with the one overhead, and you’ll become a digital Brian Cox, illuminating anyone nearby with facts about the heavens.
We reckon Overcast is the best iPhone podcast player, in part down to its excellent built-in effects for boosting voices and smartly removing silences.
On Apple Watch, Overcast can be used as a remote for the iPhone app, giving you fast access to play/pause and seek buttons, and showing what’s up next. But you can also load episodes directly on to your Apple Watch – ideal when out for a run and your iPhone’s been left behind.
There’s still that sense of living in the future when it comes to Shazam. Waggle your phone about while a song plays in the background, and the app will reveal what it is. Now, you don’t even have to have your phone if you’ve got a Series 3 or Series 4 – just wave your arm around to reveal a song’s title, as well as lyrics, just in case you want to leap on to the table and wow your friends with your vocal prowess.
On iPhone Sky Guide is the most beautiful and accurate star and constellation guide, so this is money well spent. On Apple Watch, the companion app gives you a calendar of upcoming events, and optional notifications regarding what’s about to occur in your location, so for example you can catch the International Space Station zooming overhead. Recent software updates also boosted performance and added a complication that supports Time Travel and offers a very accurate Moon phase.
The conceit behind Lifeline… is you’ve somehow received a communication from a stranded astronaut, and Taylor needs your help in order to survive. The story plays out in real-time, with you making decisions on Taylor’s behalf.
In short, it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure – and many games have since ‘borrowed’ Lifeline‘s basic structure. But for our money, this title’s smart writing still elevates it beyond the competition. Once you’re done with that, Lifeline 2 has a story that’s twice as long as the original, about a woman named Arika on a quest to avenge her parents. There’s also Lifeline: Silent Night to try.
Free + in-app purchases, iTunes
More or less a stripped-down asynchronous Trivial Pursuit, Trivia Crack has you clash brains with someone online, choosing from six categories of questions, and collecting little characters as you go. Sounds have also been added, plus you no longer have to start games on your iPhone. Note that this doesn’t mean you can then use your iPhone to cheat and look up answers. (Well, you can, but you definitely shouldn’t.)
An Apple Watch game with ambition, Tiny Armies is turn-based strategy on your wrist. If you’re expecting a Civilization (or even a Polytopia), you might be disappointed. But there’s surprising depth here as little armies respond to your swipes, carving their way through a ‘fog of war’ in randomised single-screen arenas, and wiping out opponents. Perfect when you fancy a spot of conquest, but only have a minute to spare.