While it’s true that I’ve used some Apple Watch apps only once before forgetting them, there are others I use on a daily basis. Whether they’re for working out, navigating the city or finding some calm, I consider many of these apps absolutely essential.
My favorite Apple Watch apps might change with the seasons, but there are some I know I simply could not live without. You might be familiar with a few I’ve listed below; if not, consider this my official recommendation to check them out. They all work with Apple Watch Series 8, Apple Watch SE (2022), Apple Watch Ultra and even older Apple Watch models.
The popular meditation app Headspace puts guided breathing and meditation sessions on my wrist. Better yet, headspace makes meditation accessible and painless. I found it’s extremely welcoming to those who don’t have previous meditation experience. With the Apple Watch app, meditations are saved for easy-access. There are even meditations curated for walking, which can be tracked as part of my Apple Watch’s activity.
Whether it’s a quick 1-minute meditation or a full 10-minute session to get my day started, Headspace is responsible for my positive relationship with meditation. When I signed up for Headspace, I set certain objectives and have since been provided with guided meditation courses to further my practice. At this point, I feel my profile is truly personalized to my progress. While there are free relaxation apps, Headspace does require a membership ($69.99/year) to use all the features. Luckily, there’s a trial period to see how you like it first.
While the Apple Watch is ideal for Apple Music users, the smartwatch also plays nice with a number of third-party music and audio apps. This means I can use Spotify, my music streaming service of choice, on my Apple Watch.
I use the Spotify app on my wrist primarily to control playback, whether music is being played through my AirPods Pro (2nd Gen) while I’m on the go or a smart speaker at home. I can also download music for offline playback, which comes in handy for when I don’t have cellular service. That said, with cellular enabled, I can even stream music when my iPhone is out of reach. This especially came in handy when I replaced my iPhone with the Apple Watch Ultra.
3. Lululemon Studio
Currently, my favorite piece of home gym equipment is the Lululemon Studio Mirror. The workout mirror is a great way to stay at-active at home with a large library of classes ranging across more than a dozen modalities. But one of the biggest reasons I enjoy the Lululemon Studio Mirror experience is its Apple Watch integration.
My Apple Watch is a compatible heart rate monitor for Studio Mirror classes, so I can see my heart rate zones on-screen during classes. What’s more, I can use the app on my wrist to control class playback, see a countdown for certain exercises and even send emojis to the coaches when I take live classes. Using my Apple Watch instead of my phone throughout class helps keep me focused so I can close my Apple Watch rings.
4. Google Maps
Without Google Maps, I would have a difficult time getting around the city. No matter my mode of transportation, Google Maps provides the best possible routes to get wherever I need to go. Having the app on my iPhone lets me save locations, search train times and more, but having it on my Apple Watch adds some useful functionality.
The biggest benefit of having Google Maps on my Apple Watch is turn-by-turn directions. When I’m navigating lots of alleyways and streets, seeing exactly where to turn with a glance down at my wrist is extremely convenient. The app also sends haptics to my Apple Watch, giving me a reminder of upcoming directions in case I’m distracted.
Pedometer++ is one of the only Apple Watch apps that I exclusively use on my Apple Watch — I never open it on my iPhone. That’s because I downloaded it for the sole purpose of seeing my step count on my Apple Watch face.
There’s no native step-count complication offered for the Apple Watch, but a third-party app like Pedometer++ makes it possible to track step count progress for the day. I like being able to keep an eye on how many steps I’ve banked toward my daily goal. It’s a simple solution for a feature that’s not natively available for Apple Watch.
Traveling and eating are two of my favorite things to do. When I’m exploring someplace new and don’t know where to get good food, I use Yelp to discover top-rated establishments nearby. It wasn’t all that long ago that I realized there is a useful version of the Yelp app for Apple Watch.
While Yelp on Apple Watch doesn’t offer as much information as is available on the iPhone app, it’s a quick and convenient way to find local restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Yelp populates a swipe-able list of venues with their star rating, price range, cuisine and distance from my location. It’ll even show a couple of review highlights, so I can see what other users think of the establishment.
Tennis is one of my favorite pastimes, but I’m not very good at the sport. I’ve been trying to up my game with the help of SwingVision, the smartest app for tracking practice. A paid version of the app has benefits for coaches and competitors, but the free version has plenty of features for casual players like me.
The SwingVision app on my wrist monitors my heart rate, calories, distance moved and number of shots. And after each individual shot, I can see specific details about my swing. Based on the movement of my wrist, SwingVision identifies what kind of shot we made, how fast I hit the ball and the rotational speed of the ball.
For more information on all the things you can do with an Apple Watch, check out my complete Apple Watch guide. Note that apps work best when you're running the latest watchOS 9 software. See how to update your Apple Watch if you need tips.
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Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.