There are thousands of apps for Apple Watch. The tiny snag is that most of them aren’t much cop.
Some misunderstand how a wearable is best used, and demand you spend too long with your wrist in front of your face, while others only briefly impress. That’s not good enough for us. We want apps that are clever and well-designed – but also that we return to on a regular basis.
That, then, is what this list is all about: the best Apple Watch apps we’re actively using. On this page, you’ll find all-important health and exercise apps. Our other pages cover travel and essentials, productivity apps, and entertainment and games.
The best Apple Watch exercise and health apps
Get fitter through Apple’s little helper having you work out, run, and sleep more soundly.
Streaks Workout (£3.99)
This app broke a couple of the Stuff team, but we nonetheless heartedly recommend it for a quick calorie burn. All you need is your Apple Watch – Streaks Workout functions independently of the iOS app – and the will to work up a bit of a sweat.
You choose from four workout lengths (30 entirely suitably being dubbed ‘pain’), and the app strings together simple exercises. When you’re done with a set of reps, you tap the screen. Easy. Except when your entire body is screaming at you for not initially going for the six-minute option.
There are loads of workout apps for Apple Watch, but WorkOutDoors does something the others don’t: maps. On your wrist, you get a vector-based map that can be zoomed, panned or rotated. It’s like someone stuck a tiny iPhone in an Apple Watch case.
And its ambition doesn’t stop there. There are loads of features that show what can be done when you’re aiming to make more than an iPhone app’s sidekick: breadcrumb trails; multi-coloured speed/elevation/heart-rate trails; and POIs to help you navigate your way to the nearest pub. (Well, you need a reward after all that exercise, right?)
Strava (free + IAP)
Rather simpler in scope than WorkOutDoors, Strava goes for a more traditional companion app. You get a giant ‘start’ button, and then stats (time/distance/heart-rate) as you blaze about the place on your bike or on foot.
Given that Strava’s been able to work without an Apple Watch for some time now, it’s one of the more reliable efforts on the platform. The tiny snag is that it gives your battery a bit of a kicking. Still, all the more reason for you to pick up the pace a bit.
Runkeeper (£free + IAP)
A long-time favourite of healthy folks, Runkeeper also happens to have a snazzy Apple Watch app. If you have an older Apple Watch, Runkeeper will happily communicate with your iPhone, providing updates on your current progress as you wheeze your way around a circuit that suddenly appears to be a million miles in length.
Got an Apple Watch Series 2 or newer? Turn off Run With Phone and the Runkeeper app will use your wearable’s GPS to build a map of your journey. Great for checking out routes of successful runs. Not so much if your old route involved a sneaky bakery pit-stop that you were dead set on no-one ever discovering.
Most Apple Watch apps are designed to feed you information while you’re awake. Sleep++ is almost the opposite – grabbing information while you’re snoozing. Broadly speaking, it’s designed to track motion, thereby figuring out how restless you are – and when. If it turns out you’re always rolling about at 3am, it might be worth seeing if your neighbour’s performing impromptu guitar solos around that time.
As of watchOS 3, Background Refresh enables Sleep++ to be more responsive when you wake, enabling you to immediately analyse last night’s sleep. And although you might wonder when you can charge your Apple Watch if you wear it overnight, the developer notes that shouldn’t be a concern.
Standland (free + IAP)
If you feel your Apple Watch telling you to get off your behind once every hour isn’t sufficient motivation, you might enjoy Standland. The app has similar intent to Apple’s nagging, but rewards your heroic activity by dishing out adorable collectable creatures.
Any activity lasting at least one minute during an hour is counted, maxing out at 24 per day. Before long, you’ll have a tiny owl or little bunny to gawp at, which can romp around 3D AR environments back on your iPhone. Just take care to not die of a cute overdose.
Gymaholic (free + IAP)
While we wait for Apple's GymKit to roll out beyond central London, this app will continue to be our go-to way to track our gym workouts.
In fact, it'll continue to be our gym buddy even when GymKit goes mainstream, because it's focused largely on weights machines and resistance training – something GymKit won't initially cover.
You can manually log workouts on the Watch, while the companion iOS app's signature little green man will show you how to use those intimidating machines too.
Gymatic (£free + IAP)
The dream for gym addicts is a smartwatch app that automatically logs weight machine reps as easily as Strava tracks bike rides.
Gymatic is still some way off that, but its exercise auto-detection is still a handy ally, particularly if you like freestyle workouts that mainly involve movements of your arms (the Watch's accelerometer can't really see what's going on with your legs).
The $4.99 p/month Premium subscription is a bit steep, but this does unlock unlimited exercise detection (you're otherwise restricted to eight different exercises) and you can teach it new ones by repeating a movement a few times. This one's called 'dropping a dumbbell on your foot', Gymatic.