First rumoured all the way back in 2011, speculation was rife around what we might expect from an Apple Watch. Apple, however, kept quiet, and said nothing until they were ready, which turned out to be three years later. After considerable hype from Apple CEO Tim Cook in autumn 2014, Apple’s wearable tech was finally launched in April 2015. Its primary goal was “To free people from their phones”, by bringing them the apps and functions they love without reaching for their iPhone handset. As for how it’s doing – well, that depends on who you listen to. Canalys, an analysis firm, said it was the best selling wearable tech of 2015, while others have pointed out that Apple have not released any definitive sales figures, and that people should draw their own conclusions from that.
The Apple Watch ships with the usual Apple staples of messaging, mail, calendar and call handling, plus Siri voice control and a heart rate monitor, but what about the best rated apps which don’t come as standard? Let’s take a look at some popular choices if you’re looking for applications to add to your Apple Watch.
For fitness fans, there are Watch versions of several favourites. Strava, which integrates with many other apps, takes advantage of the watch’s GPS and monitors your speed, heart rate, and elevation when in use. Runtastic, at £3.99, has received praise for being one of the most comprehensive workout apps available for the Watch, but is probably targeted more at those who take their fitness seriously, as opposed to the casual dog walker. Like to take your workouts more slowly? Pocket Yoga is the instructor on your wrist, giving you yoga positions, timing each position for maximum benefit, and the calories you’ve burned.
If you’re more of a sleeper, Sleep++ may be the perfect app for your Watch. You have to wear the watch at night, which might be a bit of a problem if you prefer to charge the watch overnight, but leaving it on could give you interesting data about your sleep quality, and explain why you wake up tired or unrefreshed. Its data can be shared with Apple’s Health Kit, where it can be shared among other apps. If you like Sleep++, its developer David Smith runs a blog on his app, where he details his thoughts and progress: david-smith.org
BBC News’ app has been well received. If you’ve got the app on your iPhone, you can set your favourite news categories, then check out a short summary and picture on the Watch app. If you want to read more, just use Handoff to read the full article on your iPhone. Best of all, it’s absolutely free.
Radio on the go
Like your radio? Apple Watch has got that covered. Granted, at £7.99 it’s a bit pricey, but TuneIn Radio lets you listen to over 100,000 radio stations from all over the world. There’s bound to be something which takes your fancy, and it’s got to be more interesting than the announcements on the train platform.
Despite being affiliated with Apple’s rival, Android, Google’s Maps app for the Watch has won praise for its limited features. It can give you text based directions (but unfortunately no map – yet) if you’re walking between two places, and force touch switches those to driving directions or public transport routes. As yet, there’s no support for cycling routes, but if you’re cycling, you probably shouldn’t be looking down at your wrist anyway!
Peak, currently being advertised all over UK television stations, is a brain training game app. While the phone version of the app obviously offers larger screen entertainment, there are three games designed specially for the Apple Watch, which are good fun. Targeting your problem solving skills, memory and ability to stay focused, this is a good way to shake up your grey matter on the way in to work. There are in app purchases, but the base app is free.
Recommended by many is Fantastical 2, an alternative to the standard Apple Calendar. It takes up the language you might want to input in up a notch. Want the calendar to remind you that you’ve got to take a tablet every other day at 3pm for six weeks? Tell the phone app and it’ll understand, and set that up for you. You can use the Watch app in a similar way – speak to it, view and create reminders, and colour code your events however you want. It’s £3.99, but once you get used to its great understanding, you’ll wonder how you coped without it.
Whatever you’re planning on using your Apple Watch for, there’s an ever-growing selection of applications out there to make your life easier.