Got an Apple Watch? Got an iPhone or iPad? These apps are fantastic on both
Skepticism surrounded the Apple Watch’s early days, but Apple’s wearable has since grown to dominate the industry. Some modern iterations even work as independent devices, enabling you to make calls without your iPhone. Truly, Apple Watch is evolving into its own thing – a tiny standalone computer you wear on your wrist.
The device is primarily designed for occasional, infrequent use. Even so, apps can boost its utility. But with many thousands to choose from, which should you install first? And which of those will give you more for your investment, by also being an excellent addition to your iPhone?
That’s what this round-up is all about. It’s not your typical ‘best Apple Watch app’ list, but instead covers apps that are superb on both devices. Which means even if you don’t own an Apple Watch, every one of these apps comes recommended anyway.
$4/£3.49 monthly • 93.1 MB • v7.0.6 • By AgileBits Inc.
1Password is a service for managing and storing personal information, such as website passwords, payment details, identities, and software licenses. Unlike Apple’s iCloud Keychain, 1Password also supports Android and Windows.
On the iPhone, 1Password is – unlike iCloud Keychain – a standalone app, making it a cinch to browse your information, and also to create new passwords. The app includes its own browser, but also integrates with Safari – the seamlessness of which improves under iOS 12.
On Apple Watch, 1Password is designed to provide you with fast access to a small user-defined selection of your ‘vault’ content – and also keep that secure. Fire up the app and you tap in a passcode. Select an item and its details are provided right on your wrist.
$5/£5 + IAP • 150.4 MB • v4.7.1 • By Grailr LLC
This weather app values snark almost as much as detailed forecasts. You get all the usual info, housed in a gorgeous interface, but also a human-hating ‘AI’ offering colorful and sometimes surreal commentary.
On the iPhone, CARROT Weather has a bright, vibrant interface, packed with detail that’s very easy to scan through. But also, it’s fun (including a secret location game) and plenty of personality (mostly sarcasm) – and so you’ll actually enjoy using it.
On Apple Watch, all this detail and taunting is crammed into a single scrolling pane. Again, beautiful design makes info easy to peruse, and taps let you delve into a forecast’s finer details. Note that complication customization requires a Premium IAP subscription, however.
Free or $3/£3 • 44.6 MB • v3.0.1 • By Christopher Adam Overholtzer
Roughly the digital equivalent of things you’d scrawl on your hand in pen, Cheatsheet Widget is designed to house all those little items you need to remember – but often don’t.
On the iPhone, you use the app to create your list. Each item comprises a short note (such as a hotel room or luggage lock combination), and can have an associated icon, making it easier to spot. The list can be accessed as a Today view widget or custom keyboard.
On Apple Watch, you get all of this information right on your wrist – ideal for things like new Wi-Fi passwords. You can also use dictation to add new items, and your most-used one can be assigned as a complication.
Free • 209.2 MB • v7.10 • By Citymapper Limited
Plenty of mapping apps deal with public transport, but Citymapper’s the best if you live in a supported city. Its sense of focus and how it provides information at opportune moments propels it beyond all rivals.
On the iPhone, Citymapper figures out where you are, asks where you want to go, and then outlines all the options for doing so. You’ll get everything from a walking time (including how many calories that will burn) through to bus routes with real-time locations of the vehicles.
On Apple Watch, Citymapper is primarily designed to provide details of your current journey – and relevant alerts as it happens. The complications can put your ETA and directions on your watch face, too, ensuring you’re up to date the instant your Apple Watch display wakes.
Free + $2/£1.79 monthly • 43.4 MB • v5.3.0 • By Agile Tortoise
Billed as the place where text starts on iOS, Drafts combines note-taking, text editing, and automation. It’s about quickly capturing ideas – and then doing something with them.
On the iPhone, Drafts makes sense from the chaos of notes. A robust search and archiving system keeps you on top of everything. When writing, you get a live word count and Markdown formatting. Take out a monthly subscription and you can create powerful custom actions too.
On Apple Watch, you can of course browse your notes, and perform some archive management. But the app also enables you to capture new notes by way of dictation, which can be appended or prepended to existing ones.
Elk Travel Currency Converter
$4/£4 • 45 MB • v1.3 • By Clean Shaven Apps
This currency converter has an interface that’s been carefully optimized for whatever device you’re using it on, thereby boosting efficiency and usability. There’s a 14-day free trial, too, which may be enough for an entire holiday.
On the iPhone, Elk doesn’t have you type in favors, but instead loads up an at-a-glance currency conversion table. Zeroes can be added and removed with swipes. It’s location-aware, too, and will default to helping you convert to and from the local currency to your own.
On Apple Watch, Elk is a mite more traditional, but also very smartly designed. Once you’ve selected your currencies, you rotate the Digital Crown to adjust values, and swipe to add or remove digits. It’s really sleek stuff.
Fantastical 2 for iPhone
$5/£5 • 47 MB • v2.9.9 • By Flexibits Inc.
This app acts as a replacement for Apple’s own Calendar, and also provides access to what you’ve stored in Reminders. It uses your existing iCloud data, but provides a very different spin on how to present it.
On the iPhone, events appear as a scrollable field, making browsing them much quicker. It also has a superb event entry system, based around a powerful parser. The app understands plain-English input, and ‘builds’ events as you type, a visual preview helping you avoid errors.
On Apple Watch, you get access to all your calendar events, but it also saves you getting your iPhone out to add new ones. Fantastical’s natural-language input works great when dictating, too, making you feel like you’re in an episode of Star Trek.
Just Press Record
$5/£5 • 4.7 MB • v3.2.4 • By Open Planet Software
A mobile dictaphone of sorts, Just Press Record has some additional smarts over merely recording: your memos are synced across iCloud, and their contents can be quickly transcribed.
On the iPhone, the app has a lot in common with Voice Memos (not least the iOS 12 revision), in that you can quickly record audio and have it sync between devices. But Just Press Record is superior for management, and allows you to transcribe a recording with a single tap.
On Apple Watch, Just Press Record is simplified to a recorder, but one that can record in the background, and also without requiring your iPhone. The next time your devices are together, your memos are sent across – and then synced to iCloud.
$2/£2 • 29.9 MB • v1.10.1 • By 3 Minute Games, LLC
This slice of interactive fiction offers surprising depth and emotional clout as you attempt to help stranded astronaut Taylor, realizing that every decision you make can have a profound effect on their well-being.
On the iPhone, this is an atmospheric, engaging game. It lacks the complex narrative mesh found in the likes of 80 Days, but has a gripping, compelling storyline that cleverly plays with time — if Taylor has to walk across a huge crater, the next incoming transmission might not occur for hours.
On Apple Watch, Lifeline… is a masterpiece. It makes more sense on the smaller screen, like you’ve suddenly found yourself in a strange retro sci-fi episode, where someone’s fate is in your hands. (Well, on your wrist.)
$10/£10 • 89.3 MB • v3.7.6 • By TLA Systems Ltd.
The finest and most feature-packed traditional calculator on iOS, PCalc is aimed at anyone who wants a great calculator. It’s an ideal choice whether you’re a student, engineer, or just tap out the odd sum.
On the iPhone, you get an RPN mode, multi-line display, a paper tape, and multiple undo/redo. There are unit conversions and constants, and the app can be themed and its key layout fully customized. Also, there’s a hidden AR game with 3D bananas. No, really.
On Apple Watch, there’s no first-party calculator app, so PCalc fills that void. The feature-set is wisely slimmed down; but the app’s efficient and usable – operators sit behind their own button – and there’s a built-in tip calculator too.
$3/£3 • 63.4 MB • v4.1.2 • By TheCodingMonkeys
This game is designed to give your memory a serious workout. You must remember rules across a series of rounds, and tap relevant tiles to proceed. It looks cute, but is every inch the brain-smasher.
On the iPhone, you get the full Rules! experience. For every round you complete, another rule is added – but they’re never displayed again. You must nonetheless clear tiles by obeying all rules you’ve been given, in reverse order. Easy in round five – not so much by round 50.
On Apple Watch, the game becomes a simpler daily mini-game. The basic rules are the same, but the grid is smaller (two-by-two rather than four-by-four). Ideal fodder when waiting in a queue. Just don’t wail when you erroneously tap a unicorn when you should have gone for a fox.
Free • 157.8 MB • v9.0 • By FitnessKeeper, Inc.
This fitness app arrived at the dawn of the App Store, and has subsequently evolved into a feature-rich and complete exercise-tracking suite.
On the iPhone, the app tracks runs, walks and bike rides. The ongoing data readout is clear as day, and when you’re done you can delve into all kinds of facts, figures, and maps. Pay a subscription and you get premium training plans and workouts too.
On Apple Watch, Runkeeper is a mini-me to its iPhone incarnation. You still get all the important stats on your wrist, and you don’t even need your phone to be with you. Assuming you’ve a Series 2 Apple Watch or newer, you’ll even get mapping and pace information.
Free • 107.7 MB • v11.10.1 • By Shazam Entertainment Ltd.
A little slice of app magic that anyone can understand, Shazam listens to music that’s playing and can name almost any song in seconds, thereby defusing millions of arguments across the globe.
On the iPhone, Shazam starts life as a blue circle, pulsating to a song’s beat, and then becomes a combination of Wikipedia and advert. You can browse lyrics and artist info, grab the song on Apple Music, or open it in a range of streaming services.
On Apple Watch, things are stripped right back to the blue circle, and the cover art of the song that’s playing. Results are shared with your iPhone, if you want more info, and aren’t still busy marveling at your wrist-based device playing Name That Tune.
$4/£4 • 92 MB • v3.0.2 • By Crunchy Bagel
This workout app wants to simplify the process of you getting fitter. It offers a streamlined interface, a range of exercises, and options that range from a six-minute ‘quick’ session to the aptly named 30-minute ‘pain’.
On the iPhone, Streaks Workout is fast and refined. You choose exercises you’re happy to do, a workout length, and you then get started. If you fancy customizing things, that’s available too. Stats and timers are built in, and workouts are saved to Health.
On Apple Watch, you kick off a six-, 12-, 18-, or 30-minute exercise right from your wrist. When you’re done with each set, you tap the screen to continue – or curl up in a heap on regretting going for that half-hour option.
$10/£10 • 78.2 MB • v3.6.1 • By Cultured Code GmbH & Co. KG
This full-fledged GTD (Get Things Done) tool wants you to be hugely organized. It balances simplicity and power, making it a cinch to juggle hundreds of to-dos.
On the iPhone, you get something not unlike an email client, which stashes to-dos in an inbox. These can then be refined and expanded. The Today view helps you zero in on the day’s tasks, while Upcoming lets you look ahead.
On Apple Watch, Things 3 focusses on what you’re trying to get done today, and you can check off tasks when they’re completed. Thought of something new you must deal with? Add it to your inbox by dictating it to your Apple Watch.