Best Apple Watch apps: The 20 best free and paid-for Apple Watch apps

apple watch

For a company that is not listed as a watchmaker, they sure make a mean timepiece. The Apple Watch is now outselling the likes of Rolex, which is an amazing feat for a product that's only been available for three years.

This is partly due to the fact it's not really a watch. It's a wearable, a mini smartphone on your wrist and touchscreen devices are Apple's speciality. And hey, come on, if you are going to spend a large chunk of your monthly pay packet on some fancy wrist accessory, you may as well get something that does more than tell the time (your smartphone does that anyway!).

Much like the iPhone, the Apple Watch has a vast array of third-party games and apps that turn the wearable into an indispensable part of your wardrobe. However, it's not a case of downloading anything and everything - you need to pick what is best for you.

It can be a bit of minefield and quite stressful to go searching through the App Store trying to tailor your wearable, so we've done it for you. Read on and see the 21 essential apps we've selected to get the best from your Apple Watch.

Best Apple Watch apps 2018: Essential apps

From helping you improve your running to checking the weather, these games and apps will help you get the most out of your Apple Watch.

1. Peak (free; with in-app purchases)

Featuring vibrant and often addictive tasks, Peak is already one of the best brain-training apps on the iPhone, and is now available on the Apple Watch too. The games are simple and quick to complete, meaning they’re well suited to a smartwatch – and offer a great way of keeping your thinking sharp. What’s more, Peak was created by a small team of neuroscientists and designers, so it’s likely to have some real benefits. Get playing!

2. Lifeline 2 (£1.99)

Lifeline was one of the best games on the Apple Watch, but Lifeline 2 somehow improves on it. Like the first game, Lifeline 2 puts the fate of a fictional character in your hands, and lets you interact with them via your Apple Watch or iPhone. Although it’s only a text based game, Lineline 2 is able to weave a magical, engaging storyline - and is one of the most creative, rewarding experiences on Apple Watch. A must-have app for any Apple Watch owner into games.

3. Runkeeper (free; with in-app purchases)

If you’re interested in running and improving your fitness, Runkeeper is an essential download for your Apple Watch. Superior to the Apple Watch’s own Activity app in every way, Runkeeper gives you all the information you’ll need in an easy to use interface. Alongside basic information such as pace and distance, Runkeeper also offers a range of running interval programs. After your workout, you'll get a detailed statistical breakdown of your progress via Runkeeper's iPhone app.

4. iTranslate (free; with in-app purchases)

One of the most useful apps available for the Apple Watch, iTranslate gives users the ability to translate phrases and words in more than 90 languages. What’s more, it’s also one of the first apps to benefit from watchOS 4 optimisation. iTranslate can play translated phrases back using the Apple Watch’s built-in speaker. Users can launch the app directly from the watch face, and the app can detect the user’s location to determine which language to translate to. A larger complication displays useful phrases depending on the time of day – and it’s compatible with Time Travel.

5. Dark Sky (£3.99)

Dark Sky is already one of the best weather apps on the iPhone, and uses a stunning UI and precise information to keep you one step ahead come rain or shine. Now available on the Apple Watch, Dark Sky is more useful than ever. Significantly better than Apple’s own bundled weather app, Dark Sky beams up-to-date weather info straight to your wrist – and, because it’s watchOS 4 optimised, it even features its own Complication and Time Travel compatibility.

6. Just Eat (free)

Just Eat is one of the most popular takeaway apps in the UK, and a quick look at its statistics makes it easy to see why. With over 20,000 restaurants already signed up, Just Eat provides a quick and painless way to order takeaway food using your phone or tablet – and even Apple Pay.

Just Eat’s Watch app adds an extra topping of convenience with real-time alerts, the ability to check your order status and even an expected delivery time. If you’re collecting your food, the app will even send directions to your wrist. Friday nights will ever be the same again.

7. Microsoft Translator (free)

Microsoft has released some of the best apps for the Apple Watch, and Microsoft Translator continues the trend. The app is already available on the iPhone, but it really shines on the Apple Watch. With Translator, users can speak to their Apple Watch and instantly receive translations for 50 different languages. Translations are then synced between your iPhone and Apple Watch, and the app even allows you to favourite key phrases for quicker access. A must-have app for any traveller.

8. Dashlane (free; with in-app purchases)

We already love the iPhone and desktop version of Dashlane, but the inclusion of a sophisticated Apple Watch app sweetens the deal. Great for power users, or those with multiple accounts, Dashlane lets users change passwords for over 200 separate sites with a single tap.

The password manager app also connects with desktop and iPhone notifications, meaning it will alert you in the event of a security breach. After that, a tap of your Apple Watch will allow you to change the password to a more secure one.

9. Forza Football (free; with in-app purchases)

Football crazy? Forza is a brilliant game if you're a footie fan, keeping you in the loop on the latest scores in your favourite leagues via Watch notifications. Instead of pinging you constantly though, Forza Football focuses on simplicity, sending you the key events in a match rather than a blow-by-blow account of the game.

When something happens that you want more information on - a goal, a foul, a red card - Forza's Watch app connects with its iPhone app so you can bring up more details on your smartphone. Afraid of finding out the score when you've recorded the match for later? Easy, just mute the app - sadly, it can't mute pub conversations though, so watch out...

10. Microsoft Outlook (free)

We're long past the days when Microsoft and Apple wouldn't get along. These days, both companies are pretty co-operative across their platforms, because they see the opportunity to sell to users of each other's hardware. That means Microsoft was an early developer for the Apple Watch, and its Outlook email app remains one of the most useful productivity tools around. The Watch version of that app lets you preview messages from your inbox, as well as archiving read emails and scheduling your replies. If you're short on time, it even has a list of pre-written replies you can send, and the option to dictate your own.

Outlook also has its own Glance screen, giving you a quick summary of your inbox and upcoming events, making it easy to check your schedule quickly.

11. Uber (free)

Uber for Apple Watch lets you request rides with a single tap and monitor the progress of your drive without needing to reach for your iPhone.

While it’s rather basic, it provides you with all the information you need about your booked Uber. In one snapshot you’ll see the estimated arrival time of your driver, as well as a photo of him/her, their rating, and the number plate of the vehicle.

12. Twitter (free)

Twitter, like Facebook, is omnipresent. You can access it from almost any device with a screen and an internet connection, and now you can get it on your wrist as well.

You can set to be notified whenever a new tweet hits your timeline, or when you get a mention. And, if you just have to send out a tweet, you can do so without the need for your iPhone, using the Apple Watch's dictation features instead.

13. Evernote (free)

Evernote is, quite possibly, the best notation app around.

With Apple Watch you can see your Evernote notifications, dictate a quick note and set reminders for events. You can also bring up old notes using the app’s voice-search feature – great for recalling stored information on the go.

14. Lifeline (£1.99)

A branching text-based story that you can play on your Apple Watch, Lifeline sees you communicating with Taylor, the only surviving member of a spaceship that has crash-landed on an alien moon.

Cleverly, the game plays out in real-time – meaning you'll receive messages from Taylor throughout the day. Far from being an annoying intrusion, this slow-burn gameplay does a good job of keeping you immersed.

15. Citymapper (free)

Citymapper has knocked Google Maps off the top spot for any city dweller lucky enough to live in a city that’s supported by the app. So it's with open arms, or bare wrists, we accept Citymapper into our Apple Watch apps collection.

While this version isn’t as fully featured as its iPhone counterpart, it will show you the fastest route to where you want to go. You'll even receive step-by-step instructions from where to catch the bus, alongside nudges to let you know when to get off.

16. Expedia (free)

Letting you check itineraries for upcoming trips, as well as detailed flight and hotel information, Expedia could end up being the only flight-travel app you want on your Apple Watch.

One of its more useful aspects are the notifications. Not only do they offer reminders of your flight and hotel booking, they can also tip you off about gate changes and delays.

17. Strava (free; with in-app purchases)

While you'll need the iPhone app running to make use of it, Strava for Apple Watch gives you real-time stats on your workout activity.

You can view segment-by-segment updates and details of your workout, including heart-rate information, to help improve your routine. The app will even award you a little trophy if you set a personal record, which is genuinely quite satisfying.

18. Slack (free)

Slack has become one of the most popular team communication tools out there, and is a useful addition to your wrist arsenal.

The streamlined app strips down Slack to direct mentions and messages, so there’s no need to scroll through your entire feed. You can reply with predefined answers through Siri or using emojis.

19. Shazam (free; with in-app purchases)

If you’ve never used Shazam before, it’s a cool programme that listens out for music then tells you what the song is. Now all you need to do is wave your wrist when you hear something you can’t identify to get Shazam to do its work.

As well as details on the song and artist, it also pulls down the lyrics for you – all in a matter of seconds. You can also use the app to purchase songs you hear via iTunes.

20. Microsoft OneNote (free)

OneNote is already a great note-taking app on the desktop and iOS, so it’s an obvious decision for Microsoft to port it to the Apple Watch. Like many other Apple Watch apps, OneNote is limited in scope, but it packs in just enough functions to make it a useful addition to your wrist.

Users are able to use the Digital Crown to flick through recently used notes, and there’s also an option to dictate notes using Apple Watch’s microphone – although there’s no control as to where they’re filed.

Apps we'd like to see on the Apple Watch

Skype (updated)

Skype is already hugely popular on mobile devices and desktops alike, so its presence on the Apple Watch makes sense. However, the Skype app for Apple Watch only supports text messaging, meaning users need to switch to their phone or desktop for voice calls.

In its current form, Skype for Apple Watch represents a missed opportunity for Microsoft – but it’s likely the missing functionality is more to do with Apple than anything else. Apple has initially been reluctant to allow third-party apps access to many of the Apple Watch’s features, but this should change over time.

Reps and Sets

Reps and Sets is easily one of the best apps currently available on iOS. Thanks to its intuitive interface, users are able to log their workouts with the minimum of fuss, and the ability to produce graphs of your gym sessions means it’s easy to track your progress. Better yet, an integrated timer function means you don’t have to switch apps when calculating your rest times.

However, the need to continually reach for your iPhone means that using Reps and Sets – and many other gym apps – isn’t entirely seamless. What’s needed is a companion app for the Apple Watch that lets you track workouts without ever reaching for your phone. Luckily, the developer of Reps and Sets is already working on one.

BBC Sport

BBC Sport is great for receiving sport news on your iPhone but, surprisingly, it doesn’t yet have an app on the Apple Watch. BBC Sport and the Apple Watch would make a perfect fit; I’d love to be updated on the F1 news, Arsenal transfer rumours and everything else sporting from my wrist.

The BBC have already made an impressive BBC News app for the Apple Watch, so hopefully a BBC Sport version will be here soon.

If you have any apps that you think deserve a place in our chart, get in touch using the comments section below or via our Twitter: @alphrdotcom

This article originally appeared on Alphr

Bobby Hellard

Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognize him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.