The Apple Watch is great right out of the box, but you’ll want to add a few apps to really make it sing. Apple’s wearable is a true marvel, especially the Series 4, but you’ll never know just how useful it can be if you don’t expand your horizons a bit.
When we think about the Apple Watch apps we just can’t live without, these are at the top of the list. Some are free, some are not, but every single one is worth your while.
Updated 1/18/2019: Thanks to a big update with a new interface, AutoSleep now edges out Pillow as our favorite sleep tracking app. Also added video.
If there’s one major feature missing from the Apple Watch, it’s automatic sleep tracking. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to add with an app like AutoSleep or Pillow. Of those two, we think AutoSleep’s new simpler interface gives it the edge over Pillow.
Pillow is a little more full-featured (it can do some sleep tracking stuff using just your phone), but you need to buy the $4.99 in-app purchase to really make use of it. If all you care about is using your watch for sleep tracking, AutoSleep is the cheaper option, and gives you data that’s easier to parse.
With either app, you’ll have to do a bit of setup and calibration to get good results, but it’s worth it. Just charge your watch in the evening and wear it to sleep—your battery will probably still last through the whole next day.
There are plenty of good weather apps out there, many of which support Apple Watch, but Carrot Weather may be our favorite. It combines excellent weather forecasting (with data from Weather Underground or Dark Sky), lots of customization, a funky Augmented Reality mode, and even achievements. The snarky evil robot voice helps make weather fun.
Apple Watch support is especially robust, with several different complications available and the ability to customize them in the app. Carrot Weather was one of the first third-party apps to make use of the new corner complications on Apple Watch Series 4, and it gives you a card on the Siri watch face, too.
The only downside is that the app costs $4.99, and then for certain features you have subscribe to a Premium Club membership for $0.49 a month or $3.99 a year. The cost is to cover the increased API usage of its data sources for features like precipitation warnings.
Carrot Weather($4.99, in-app purchases)
Shazam is the number one name in identifying music. I mean, it’s so associated with being able to “name that tune” that there’s even a game show with Jamie Foxx.
Apple bought Shazam in September and didn’t do anything other than remove ads from the app, which just makes it better. We figure the company has big plans for the Shazam technology, but in the meantime, it’s an excellent app for your Apple Watch. Just tap that Shazam complication and the app immediately loads up and starts listening. You can use the iPhone app to go through the history of songs you’ve found and add them to Apple Music or Spotify.
Having the ability to identify songs on your wrist makes you use it a lot more than having to pull your phone out.
It’s almost weird that there’s no calculator app built in to the Apple Watch. Your iPhone has one, and calculator watches were sort of the first “smart watches.”
PCalc is our favorite advanced calculator app for iOS, and it comes with a great Apple Watch app. It costs $10, but if all you want is to add a simple calculator to your wrist, we suggest the free PCalc Lite. The advanced features and customization of the paid version mostly just benefit iPhone and iPad users.
PCalc Lite (free, in-app purchases)
If you’re a sports fan, the Apple Watch is a great device for keeping up-to-date on the latest news and scores. And theScore app is our favorite way to do it. Totally free and completely customizable, the app will keep you up to date with news and score for all of your favorite teams, whether you follow the pros or amateurs.
You can see in-game action, plays, and of course, score updates as games are going on, as well as check out upcoming games right on your wrist. if you can’t be in front of the TV, it’s the next best thing.
Things is one of the most well-received task managers around, and it’s easy to see why. It’s attractive, simple, clear, and easy to use. It does what any good task manager should: make it easy to jot down a new task, clear what it is you have to do today, and it stays out of your way the rest of the time. It’s an Apple Design Award winner, and it shows.
Things on the Apple Watch is great. Quickly add a to-do item to organize later on your iPhone. Look at today’s tasks, check off items as you do them, or postpone them for later with just a couple taps. It supports the Siri watch face, which is the perfect place to get daily task reminders.
Things isn’t cheap. At $9.99, it’s one of the more expensive iPhone apps of its type. But a really good task manager will save you time and help you get more done, without feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. That’s worth the price of a couple cups of coffee.
Things 3 ($9.99)
Just Press Record
It’s an app where you press a button and it starts recording, press it again and it stops. And for this you’ll pay $4.99?
Yes, yes you will, because Just Press Record is awesome. It’s lightweight, fast, reliable, and powerful. It’ll transcribe speech to text in over 30 languages. It syncs to iCloud. You can record super high quality from external microphones.
And Apple Watch makes it even better. Tap its complication and it launches and starts recording immediately, so you never miss a beat. It can record directly to the watch even when your phone isn’t around (it’ll sync up later). Adjust volume with the digital crown. Start recordings with Siri. Playback recordings through AirPods or your watch speaker.
You just don’t realize how useful a really well made one-touch recording feature is until you have it.
Just Press Record ($4.99)
Citymapper is an absolutely amazing transit app. It gives you bus and subway times, alerts you to service outages, helps you plot trips, and so much more. It works by grabbing public data feeds from dozens of city transit agencies. It’s won all kinds of App of the Year awards, and for good reason.
On Apple Watch it’s even better. With a glance at your wrist you can see where to go next, which bus or train to get on, and when it’s coming. It can be hard to fiddle with your phone on crowded transit, but a glance at your wrist can show you what stop you’re supposed to get off at.
The downside to Citymapper is that, since it relies on public transit data, its only available in a couple dozen cities. It’s perfect if you live in, or are traveling to, a huge metropolitan area, but not of much use to anyone else.
You certainly don’t need to download an extra app to enjoy streaming music or podcasts, though iHeartRadio does a fine job with both of those. The real benefit of the app is its library of thousands of global FM and AM radio streams, including sports stations like ESPN Radio and Fox Sports.
Of course, iHeartRadio offers a lot more. There are tons of popular podcasts, artist and genre stations, and scores of playlists. It’s all free and ad-supported, but you can subscribe to iHeartRadio Plus or iHeartRadio All Access to get an ad-free experience with unlimited skips and the ability to save local tracks for offline playback.
iHeartRadio (free, in-app purchases)
Night Sky is one of our favorite iPhone and iPad apps. If you’ve ever looked up and wondered “what star or planet is that?” then Night Sky is for you. It does so much more, too. There are several slick AR modes, notifications for watching the international space station fly overhead, Siri Shortcuts… you don’t have to be an astronomy fan to fall in love with this app.
You might not think a sky chart on your watch would be useful, but you’d be wrong. Just raise your wrist to the sky and move it around to quickly find and identify objects in the sky. When your watch is down, it turns into a sort of “sky compass” that points you in the direction of stuff worth looking at. It’s almost like magic.
Night Sky (free, in-app purchases)