I was among the lucky ones to get my Apple Watch Sport 42mm delivered on day one, April 24, 2015. During the setup process you are given the option of installing all of your existing 3rd party iPhone Apps that have Apple Watch apps embedded in them. For example, if you have 30 iPhone apps and 10 of them have Apple Watch apps in them then those 10 apps would get installed on your Apple Watch by default. Of course you can choose to manually install just the ones you want or remove the ones you don’t want. I choose to install all of mine so that I can try them out. In total of my over 495 iPhone Apps on my iPhone 6 Plus I had 84 that included Apple Watch Apps. Of those 84 I ended up keeping 71 of them installed. It still boggles my mind that there are 71 3rd party apps on my wrist and just like the 3rd party apps on my iPhone, there are some that I use all the time on my watch and some that are just OK. Apple already installs a bunch of built-in apps that may be all you need. Those apps coupled with push notifications from your iPhone apps to your Watch make a nice combination, yet there will always be 3rd party apps that give you more and I will be the 1st to admit that when the rumors of an Apple Watch first started to circulate that I didn’t imagine that there would be so many functions built-in and let alone extended by 3rd party Watch Apps.
What makes a “Best Apple Watch App”?
When it comes to Apple Watch I actually have a different set of rules that determine whether or not it will be considered a “Best App” or not. Since the Apple Watch is a 1.0 device you would expect that some of the apps will hit the mark and be really useful or not. What I consider first and foremost in my criteria is that the app has to offer enough functionality on my wrist to make me not want to pull my iPhone out of my pocket. The minute the app on my Apple Watch asks me to “sign in” on my iPhone, it’s an immediate failure to me at that point. If I have to pull out my iPhone to make the Watch app work then why not just use my iPhone? Next the App has to be able to perform a task (usually a simple task) that is well suited for the smaller display of the Watch AND one that I would rather do on my wrist than have to go in my pocket. Lastly the app can’t take forever to load. Many of the 1st round of Apple Watch Apps took way too long just to open. Apple has helped with the 1.0.1 firmware update. Now I don’t see the lag in many of the apps that I was seeing before. If a developer can meet the above three criteria then they’ve got a good shot of not only making it to my wrist but staying there. One thing you’ll have to get used to is that since there is no keyboard on Apple Watch (thank God) that any App requiring input will most likely rely on voice dictation/translation. So far the Siri features of Apple Watch have worked really well for me. I would say the success rate for me has been above 95%. Now that you know what I’m looking for, here are my current picks for the Best Apple Watch Apps:
1Password is the App I used to manage all of my passwords from my Mac to my iPhone to my iPad. I was wondering what the use case would be for the Watch version and it has come in hand a couple of times. The idea is that you go into 1Password on your iPhone and simply choose which of your logins/passwords you want to be able to call up on your Apple Watch. So if there’s a password, access code, serial number, etc that you’re always have to bring up on screen, now you can do it from your Watch. For me I’m always needing my Hilton Honors password to login to their WiFi and the OS level login screen doesn’t support 1Password directly. This way I can be on any computer or device and quickly bring up the password on my Watch.
3 Hour Diet
One of the best ways to lose weight is to eat smaller meals more often throughout the day. When I’m sticking to this I can’t live without the 3 Hour Diet timer which contrary to its name, can remind me to eat every 2 hours. Being able to respond to these alerts on my Watch is way more convenient then having to pull out my iPhone each time.
Adobe Color CC
I love capturing color themes with Adobe Color CC on my iPhone so that I can use them in future designs. The Watch version shows me popular color themes based on my current location. From my Watch I can see the 10 most popular themes and add any of them or all of them to my Creative Cloud Library right from my Watch. The next time I’m on my computer in Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc. these themes will be there for me to use.
I shop from Amazon on a regular basis and sometimes I think of something that I want before I’m actually ready to place the order. The Amazon App is a nice way to simply speak the search term that you’re looking for, find what you want and then add it to your wishlist or buy it with 1-Click on the spot.
The Apple Store Watch App does three things. It shows you your nearest Apple Retail Store based on your current location, it shows you nearest workshops and events and it shows you the current status of any online orders you’ve placed. The 1st and the 3rd function are the most useful to me.
AroundMe has always been one of my favorite iPhone apps for travel. Having it on my Watch is very cool. Based on my location I can quickly find the nearest restaurants, bars, coffee shops, banks/ATM, hotels, supermarkets, gas stations, hospitals, parking, pharmacies, pubs, taxis, and theaters right from my wrist. If I find a spot that I want to hit I can tap to get directions and navigation on my Apple Watch.
B&H Photo and Video is arguably the world’s largest photo equipment retailer and they are always running sales. It’s cool to be able to glance at their deal zone whenever I have an extra minute or two to see what’s on special in that moment. See something you want and add it to your cart or wishlist. You can also do a handoff and view it in the iPhone app if you want more info.
One of the main things that the first round of larger digital watches offered over traditional watches were the ability to have a calculator on your watch. How cool was that? Yes the keys were very very tiny and some needed a stylus, but nonetheless you had a calculator on your wrist. Calcbot offers a calculator, unit conversion utility and tip calculator right on your wrist. Hands down the best Apple Watch calculator I’ve seen to date. It implements force touch to switch between conversions.
Many people carry around a notepad and pen. I stopped doing that once smartwatches hit the scene. The Apple Notes app is on iPhone, but oddly missing from Apple Watch. No need to worry because Evernote is here to allow you to dictate new notes on the fly. You can view recent notes or search for ones by voice.
If you’re a movie goer then you’ll like the Fandango iPhone and Apple Watch app. This is one of those cases where I’ll bend my criteria a bit. The Watch app doesn’t really do much unless you’ve purchased a ticket with the iPhone App. However, once you have purchased a ticket then you can get some pretty cool stuff on your Watch. You’ll get your upcoming movie info including the theater. If your theater supports electronic passes you’ll also get your movie ticket on your Watch via Passbook.
I fly Delta most of the time and while Delta does have a Watch App, it’s pretty useless to me in its current state (which is a huge disappointment). What I want on my Watch is to know what Terminal I’m leaving from, reminder of the flight time and the gate number. FlightTrack 5 is a great iPhone App and does a fantastic job on Apple Watch displaying the info you need.
Anytime I need to give a slide presentation then chances are I’m going to deliver it in Apple’s Keynote App. The iPhone App allows me to remote control it wirelessly from my phone, but being able to advance my slides from my wrist means that I can talk more with my hands 🙂 Once you pair your iPhone with Keynote on your Mac then you can use either your iPhone or Apple Watch as wireless remote on stage.
There are times when I want to know how to spell a word or the definition of one. The Merriam Webster Apple Watch app is a perfect example of a great Watch App. Just fire it up, say the word in question and get the spelling and definition.
Office Depot tries to stay on top of tech things. They accept Apple Pay at their registers and recently they just came out with a Watch App. Like the other shopping apps you can voice search for items you want. You can also find the closest store and see the daily deal.
Answer the question: “what song is that playing?” has always been a cool feature of SoundHound on your iPhone. Now you can answer the question from your wrist. Fire up the SoundHound App and tap the big listen button. Yes I know that you’re probably thinking doesn’t Shazam do this and isn’t it now integrated into Siri in iOS 8? The answer is yes, but side-by-side testing on Apple Watch revealed that SoundHound is a better Watch App. Shazam took forever to launch and seems to only work well if the iPhone app is running nearby. My pick in this category is SoundHound.
Speak & Translate
I do wish that I spoke more than one language but sadly that is not yet the case. I rely on translation Apps to help me understand and more importantly speak a few words in the native tongue when I travel. Speak & Translate raises the bar in this category on iPhone and even does quite well on Apple Watch. Need a quick translation. Just bring up the app and speak into your Watch. The translation will be displayed in a few seconds.
I’m a Hilton and Marriott guy mostly, but I have to give the nod to Starwood for the best hotel Watch App. Not only does it give you details about your stay, but you can even use it unlock your door in participating hotels. It takes more taps than it should to bring up the unlock at this point, but you can start the process in the elevator so that the unlock is ready by the time you get to your door.
Do you ever see someone walking around or standing near a door with those hand clicker/counters? The digital version has been on your iPhone for a while with the TallyCounter app and now you can do it from your wrist. The latest update offers nice big buttons and a force touch reset.
This was the category that I thought would be a no brainer. How hard is it to do a tip calculator on Apple Watch? There dozens of tip calculators on iPhone and several of them have made it to Apple Watch and I have to tell you that I tried just about all of them in search of the best one. The shock here was that all but a couple really sucked! Either they lacked features or had bad UIs (user interfaces) or both. The hardest thing to find was one that allowed quick entry of your bill total, calculated the tip before the tax, let you quickly choose a level of service ie. 20% good, 25% great, 10-15% not so great and rounding of the total. Tipity had it all when I first looked except the rounding feature. I went on to Let Me Tip and while it had all the features the UI wasn’t good. Too many taps to make entries. To my pleasant surprise the most recent update to Tipity added the rounding preference that I asked for. It’s FAST and it works! It’s what I wanted in a tip calculator for my Watch. Calcbot had promise, but like many of the others is missing one or more of the features above.
Uber is my default ride-share service and having the Watch app means I don’t have to always have my iPhone out when traveling. This is important to me especially when I’m also dragging my luggage behind me too. With Uber on my Watch I can summon a car and track the ETA. I can see the driver/car info as well while my iPhone is in my pocket.