Make the most of your Apple wearable with our selection of apps that are top-notch on an iPhone as well
If you own or are considering buying an Apple Watch, it’s just like every other Apple device in one sense: it’s all about the apps. Although Apple’s wearable acts more like a filter, trying to make you not use it very often, its utility is seriously boosted by installing apps beyond those Apple ships itself.
The tiny snag is that there are at the time of writing no native third-party apps — they’re on the way later in 2015. For now, every Apple Watch app beyond Apple’s own is an extension of an iPhone app. This means if you’re investing time and money on what goes on your wrist, you’re having to first install something on your iPhone. And on that basis, you may as well concentrate on apps that are really great on both devices.
This, then, isn’t a ‘best Apple Watch apps’ round-up in the typical sense, but the ‘best Apple Watch apps that also happen to be really great on the iPhone’. In other words, download/buy any of these, and you’ll be stoked, regardless of what device you use them on. And if you don’t have an Apple Watch at all, these are ten apps we’d recommend you check out anyway — they’re that good!
Price: Free + $4.99/£3.99 ‘pro features’ IAP
Size: 63.3 MB
Developer: AgileBits Inc.
1Password is one of those apps we think everyone should have installed. It enables you to keep passwords secure and safe (in a manner similar to iCloud Keychain), but also easily access and edit the data. In addition to this, the system enables you to add secure notes, multiple identities (for example, a full one for official forms and a limited one for online message boards), and payment cards.
On the iPhone, it’s one of those apps we cannot live without. It supports Touch ID, integrates with Safari and other apps via the Share sheet, has a password generator, and encrypts all your data.
On Apple Watch, 1Password is designed to provide you with fast access to a small selection of your ‘vault’ content. Tap in a passcode, and you’ll see a large button for each item; tap one to view a password, card number or note on your watch’s display.
Note that although 1Password is a free download, you’ll need the ‘pro features’ IAP in order to use it with Apple Watch.
Size: 33.2 MB
Developer: Citymapper Limited
Although there are loads of mapping apps about that deal with public transport, Citymapper’s the one you really want if you live in one of the supported cities. Its sense of focus and providing the information you need at the most opportune moments propels it far beyond rival apps.
On the iPhone, the app has three sections: City, Go and Near. City is for exploring statuses and maps for transportation systems within your selected location. Go enables you to get started on a journey, finding the best route to favorite places or somewhere new. And Near works out where you are before helpfully listing all nearby public transport stops.
On Apple Watch, Citymapper obviously cannot hope to be nearly as comprehensive, but it packs a ton of information into a tiny space. You can access details of a journey sent to your watch from the iPhone app, create a journey plan to any of your saved places (with informative steps that contain mini-maps and line stops), and, as on your iPhone, find nearby stops.
Size: 18.0 MB
Developer: Realmac Software
Clear is a to-do manager that aims to declutter in every possible way. The unfussy interface is based around simple gestures, and lists are straightforward items of a few words each, optionally enabling you to attach an alarm. The app’s visual design foreshadowed iOS 7’s flat nature and sense of playfulness with animation, and as such Clear looks right at home on today’s iOS devices.
On the iPhone, Clear remains our favorite to-do manager, because it’s straightforward, reliable and dead simple. The default theme has items towards the top of the list in a ‘hot’ red color, which adds urgency; subsequent items have ‘cooler’ backgrounds. And if you can’t make do with a single list, you can drag the current one way down to access the list view and create some more.
On Apple Watch, the app naturally provides the means to access all your existing lists, and tasks can be checked off — or snoozed if a time-sensitive one comes in by way of a notification. Force-Touch, though, and you can add new items through Siri, which will then be synced back to your iPhone. With Reminders bafflingly absent from Apple Watch, Clear’s a no-brainer.
Size: 11.6 MB
Developer: Agile Tortoise
Drafts bills itself as the place where text starts on iOS. In practice, this means it’s a beefed-up note-taker. Due to a smart combination of features, it’s suitable for jotting down all sorts of things: ideas for long-form text; drafts for tweets; bits of Markdown; and all other odd thoughts.
On the iPhone, Drafts is a remarkable app for making sense out of the chaos that can happen when you’ve loads of notes. The robust search and archive system keeps you on top of everything, and the huge number of search options quickly gets your text where you want it to go. When writing, there’s help, too, via a live character count, Markdown tools, and a range of themes.
On Apple Watch, we would have expected Drafts to let you browse your notes — and it does, along with allowing some limited archive management. But it also makes it possible to capture new notes with Siri dictation. Said snippets can be appended or prepended to existing drafts, too.
Size: 48.3 MB
Developer: eBay Inc.
Probably because it started on the web, most people think of gargantuan online marketplace eBay as something you visit and interact with on a PC. Really, though, it’s for some time been a significantly more pleasant experience on mobile devices.
On the iPhone, eBay boasts a neatly designed home page that packs plenty into a small space, aiming to give you a peek at your feed and what you’re watching. Search is fast, and it’s simple enough to delve into the bowels of your account. Usefully, instead of just buying other people’s tat, you can sell some of your own; use your device’s camera to get things started, taking photos and scanning barcodes.
On Apple Watch, eBay’s mostly about keeping track of auctions. You can access your account activity, and all of the items you’re watching, buying and selling. You can bid right from your wrist, and should you find yourself becoming quite the entrepreneur, there are graphs for checking out how many items you’re currently selling are being watched, and the cash you’ve made over the past month or so.
Size: 23.9 MB
Developer: Flexibits Inc.
Apple creates highly integrated products, and so to get the most from the company’s ecosystem, full immersion is the way to go. The thing is, some of its own apps aren’t that good. That’s why we’re grateful for products like Fantastical, which happily works with your existing calendar and reminders data in iCloud, but provides a different spin on how to present it.
On the iPhone, Fantastical presents your events as a single scrollable feed that can be combined with a month view. We reckon the layout’s clearer than Apple’s, and Fantastical also has a superior entry system. Through its powerful parser, the app understands plain-English input, and ‘builds’ events as you type, the visual preview helping you avoid errors.
On Apple Watch, Apple’s Calendar app looks OK if you Force-Touch and activate list mode (day mode is horrible), and Fantastical naturally matches this. But it also provides fast access to your reminders and allows you to add new events to your calendar by using dictation.
Size: 20.3 MB
Developer: 3 Minute Games, LLC
Lifeline… is a slice of interactive fiction that has surprising depth and emotional clout, given the bare-bones simplicity of the ‘interactive’ bit. The premise is you’ve somehow received a transmission from a stranded astronaut, who needs some serious reassurance regarding important decisions. You therefore help Taylor, rapidly realizing that every suggestion can have a profound effect.
On the iPhone, this is an atmospheric and engaging game. It lacks the complex narrative mesh found in the likes of 80 Days, but makes up for that with a gripping, compelling storyline. It also cleverly plays with time — if Taylor has to hoof it across a huge crater, the next incoming transmission might not occur for hours.
On Apple Watch, though, this is a masterpiece. Lifeline… has the dubious honour of being the sole game we’d much rather play on Apple’s wearable than on an iPhone. It just seems to make far more sense on the smaller screen, like you’ve suddenly found yourself immersed in a strange retro sci-fi episode, where someone’s fate is in your hands. (Well, on your wrist.)
Size: 11.1 MB
Developer: TLA Systems Ltd.
PCalc rightly has a reputation across Apple kit for being a first-rate calculator. Although it’s suitable for anyone, it’s primarily designed for people wanting a feature-rich calculator, such as engineers and students.
On the iPhone, it boasts an RPN mode and multi-line display, a paper tape, and multiple undo/redo. There are loads of themes and an extensive array of options, along with a huge range of unit conversions and constants. So not only can PCalc oust Apple’s own Calculator from your affections, it can also make any installed conversion apps redundant.
On Apple Watch, Apple oddly omitted a calculator, and most third-party apps of this type are poor. Like its rivals, PCalc still suffers a little from the sluggish response on Apple Watch, but it’s efficient and usable, makes operators easy to get to, and bundles a nicely designed tip calculator.
Note that the free PCalc Lite also has an Apple Watch extension, so if you’re a bit hard-up, give that a go instead.
Price: Free + $2.99/£2.29 notifications IAP
Size: 7.7 MB
Developer: The Iconfactory
Twitterrific is a Twitter client created by people who do great design and, seemingly, know Twitter better than it knows itself.
On the iPhone, the app is an elegant and beautiful way to browse feeds. Mentions and direct messages can be integrated into your timeline, which also boasts large images. Gestural commands make using the app fun and pleasurable, and themes provide a certain amount of customization. We’re especially fond of the optional automatic switch to a dark theme at night — something Apple should roll out system-wide.
On Apple Watch, the official Twitter app rather madly assumes you want to scroll through your feed. On a watch. Just no. By contrast, Twitterrific is probably the only Twitter app we’ve seen that’s not a massive time-sink, because it’s purely about notifications, accessing (and replying to) messages, and checking out your previous day’s stats.
For Apple Watch support beyond stats, you need to grab the Push Notifications IAP, or the ‘Everything’ IAP that adds further features, such as tweet translation and ad removal.
Size: 14.1 MB
Developer: All Star Apps
There are a whole bunch of weather apps available for iOS, but of late we’re quite taken with Weather Nerd, which is very clearly optimized for both iPhone and Apple Watch.
On the iPhone, you pick a location and can get a forecast for the next hour, today, tomorrow, the week, or any arbitrary date. The hourly forecast, available in the USA, UK and Ireland, is primarily about rainfall. In the USA, you also get a rainfall radar. For today/tomorrow, a graph outlines predicted rainfall, temperature and wind-speed, along with other details, such as sunrise/sunset times and humidity. Tap ‘Nerd Out’ to access a slew of further data. Week provides an eight-day forecast, while Calendar attempts to offer forecasts from the far future, usually based on averages.
On Apple Watch, everything’s cut down significantly, to Hour, Today and Week (in fact, six days) views, and only for the current location on your iPhone. For our money, though, Weather Nerd for Apple Watch provides the best mix of data and clarity among the Apple Watch weather apps we’ve tried.
Weather Nerd will eventually require a subscription, renewable annually.