The Best Apps to Use With Your Apple Watch
Our editor reveals her go-to Apple Watch apps, plus the watch capabilities she's only just discovered.
I’ve been an Apple Watch user for almost two years. In that time I’ve reviewed it for runners, I’ve interviewed other Apple Watch users on how they use it for running and its life-saving heart health features, and I’ve even learned from the experts at Apple HQ. Even with this background, I’m still discovering new tricks and things I can do with my watch. It wasn’t until a recent trip to Whistler, B.C. with a group of friends and Apple Watch users that I discovered just how many more capabilities I could tap into (literally, I just need to tap my watch). For example, I just learned about new shortcuts I can create with Siri and I may be a little behind the ball on this one, but I also just learned that through the Workout app I can start multiple workout types during a single session. To explain: If I’m going to the gym to workout on my own, I’ll usually run to warm-up, then do strength training and then hop back on the treadmill to finish off with a longer run. Up until recently, I would start the Workout app and select indoor running, then end that workout and start a new one under strength training. Then I’d end that workout and again start a new indoor running workout. Turns out all I needed to do was select “+” to add a new workout type to my current session. What I’m trying to say here is that there’s isn’t much my watch can’t do, and more and more I’m relying on my Apple Watch as opposed to my iPhone.
Here are 7 other apps I’m loving (plus a few new Apple Watch features). Some of these apps are longtime faves and some are new discoveries, but all of them came in super handy while I was exploring Whistler Village and Blackcomb Mountain.
With GPS+ Cellular connectivity on my Apple Watch (available with Series 4 watches) I don’t need to bring my iPhone with my when I hit the slopes (unless I want to snap a few photos on the mountain, that is) so I can leave it behind in my locker, or at least tuck it safely inside my jacket’s inner pocket. It’s a lot more convenient to glance at my wrist and there’s no risk of dropping it into the powdery snow below as I ride the lift up the hill.
Snoww is a third-party app that tracks everything from your ski/snowboard statistics (think: altitude, speed, etc) to your route on the mountain. It even keeps you connected with friends through GPS. (I’ve heard it described as Strava for skiers and snowboarders but I’m not a Strava user so I can’t confirm the similarities.) When following your friends on the app, you can compare your stats (hello, bragging rights!) and you can zero in on your pals location, whether they are on the mountain or in the chalet. This feature came in really handy when a friend and I got separated from our ski instructor after a quick bathroom and coffee break. Our ski instructor was also using snoww and following us with the app. Fearing we had left and gone back up the hill on our own, he used the app to check our location – there we were, still in the chalet, and reunited shortly.
With snoww my ski session was also saved in the Activity app as a workout and both the exercise minutes and active calories were added to my Exercise and Move rings, respectively. I easily passed all my activity goals that day, logging 1,332 calories, 257 exercise minutes and 15 stand hours.
Also, after a few wipeouts on the mountain (I’m by no means an experienced skier), I can personally attest that Fall Detection really works. One of my falls was a bit harder than the others. As I got to my feet – or my skis, I should say – I noticed my watch was buzzing. I looked at my wrist to see a message: “It looks like you’ve taken a hard fall.” I bypassed the Emergency SOS button and tapped “I fell, but I’m OK.” It’s nice to know this feature exists.
Now if you have an Apple Watch you’ve got to be familiar with the Workout app. It’s native to the Apple Watch and the most recent watchOS 5 update added new exercise options like yoga and hiking. Of course, you can also always select “Open Workout” if you are doing something not currently listed (ie. rock climbing). The Workout app is my go-to whenever I’m logging a workout, with the exception of two apps I mention in more detail below (Nike Run Cub and Fitmanual).
I usually use the Nike Run Club (NRC) app for my running workouts because I’m chasing those app-specific run levels but I love that watchOS 5 has Automatic Workout Detection. So, if I happen to forget to open and start the NRC app (which has happened), my watch will prompt me with the regular Workout app. The best part? The app will essentially back-date my workout, so I’ll still get credit for the the kilometres (and calories) done up until that point.
While I’ve long been a running, I’ve recently become a big fan of boxing. I frequent BOLO and Drop Boxing in Toronto, both of which give me a killer workout. But I haven’t been able to track these workouts on my Apple Watch because I can’t wear it under my boxing gloves. I downloaded the Fitmanual app ($1.99) so I could manually add those workouts in a way that would also add active calories toward my Move goal. That’s pretty much the only time I use this app but it’s worth it to me. (Gotta close those rings!)
My other favourite apps to use with the Apple Watch aren’t necessarily fitness-related but using them with the watch is perfect for an active lifestyle. Using Podcasts, I listen to a podcast on my commute into work each day and thanks to the control I have from my watch, I never have to take my iPhone out of my bag. It’s not a huge deal during my 30 minute commute but I find it much healthier mentally to have my phone out of sight and not start my day by mindlessly scrolling Instagram.
Spotify is another app I frequently use, whether I’m cooking dinner, out for a run, or commuting into the office. Similar to Podcasts I can control what I’m listening to from my watch. Plus, the new second generation AirPods (released in March) provide up 50 percent more talk time and there’s the option of a standard charging case or a new Wireless Charging Case. Also now available is custom engraving for AirPods (it’s free when you purchase AirPods on apple.com or the Apple Store app). I’ve grabbed my husband’s AirPods by mistake more than once. (Oops!)
The last app I’ll mention is one I just recently started using called Relax Melodies. It’s like a combined meditation app and sleep aid I’ve been using to unwind before bed. I’m making an effort to place my phone far enough away from bed that I can’t just roll over and grab it but I will sometimes wear my watch to bed. On those occasions I can connect to my AirPods, open Relax Melodies and select a soothing sound or white noise to fall asleep to.
Next, find out how mindfulness can improve your athletic performance.