The 5 Best 3rd Party Apple Watch Apps

Posted by Matt Birchler
β€” 5 min read

The Apple Watch gets a lot of flack for not having good apps, and a lot of that criticism is fair. Watch apps are generally not as great as they were originally advertised, but there are some developers out there who have made incredibly useful watchOS apps that make the Apple Watch a very compelling product.

I think there is a marketing deficiency at Apple in attempting to advertise features like these to customers. I've won more people over in my day-to-day life on the Apple Watch by showing them what it can do rather than how cool it looks. Today, I've collected my 5 favorite third party apps for the Apple Watch, partially to give you non-Apple Watch owners a better idea for why I love mine, and partially just to recognize these great development teams for their fantastic work.

Tell me what I missed! I'm always on the lookout for more great watch apps.

1. Outlook

Download free

One of the things I find most useful about the Apple Watch is being able to triage my emails immediately as they come in during the day. Some will call me crazy, but I have my phone set up to notify me the moment each new email comes in. I only get a few dozen emails a day so this is manageable, but I wouldn't recommend this to someone who gets 100+ emails daily, as this would be a perfect way to drive yourself mad.

But because I see each email as it comes in, I am able to triage my messages without ever visiting my inbox. I get the notification on my wrist, and then choose whether to save, snooze, or archive that message right away. This means when I do go to my inbox when I'm ready to work on email, I just see the messages that I actually need to deal with.

There are other email apps that have Watch apps as well, like Airmail and Spark, but Outlook bests them by actually showing the full content of my emails, not just the first few lines. I'm not reading all my email on my watch (that would be insane), but it's convenient to have the full message there in those cases where it is actually easier to just read it all on my wrist and not break out my phone.

Again, this workflow may sound crazy to some, but using Outlook on the Watch to triage my messages as they are delivered is a hugely useful part of my workflow that I rely on everyday.

2. Dark Sky

Download $3.99

Every Apple Watch user will tell you that they use their Watch for checking the weather. Dark Sky takes the cake for me, because it addresses the primary questions you have when getting the weather from your watch: what's the current temperature, is it going to rain soon, and what's the rest of the week look like?

Dark Sky runs on the API and is a hyper-accurate tool for precipitation chances at your exact location. The Dark Sky complication is on my watch face and lets me see at a glance what the temperature is and how long until we get hit with some rain.

Tapping into the Dark Sky app is where Dark Sky separates itself from the other weather apps I've used on the Apple Watch. It loads fast, which is already a big perk, and the app layout is perfect for the watch. It's split into 3 pages, which should you "right now", "next 24 hours", and "next 7 days". Each screen is clean and easy to understand.

The runner up in this category is Carrot Weather, which I actually think has a better watch face compilation, but the app itself is not quite what I'm looking for. It's not bad by any means, but it's a little slower and a little less detailed than Dark Sky.

3. Due

Download $4.99

This one is easy, as Due simply lets you create reminders that sync between your watch, phone, tablet, and Mac. Due is a great service on all platforms (although what is the deal with the Mac app?), but it shines on the Apple Watch because it is so easy to use and works exactly as you'd expect.

As an example, I need to remember to update Chrome when I get to work today, so I opened Due on my Apple Watch and said:

"Pick up Mike at 1 PM"

Due was able to smartly parse that request and created a reminder called "Pick up Mike" and set a due date of 1:00 PM. Perfect. The app doesn't do a lot more than that, but that's a really convenient ability, that I find better than Apple's build in Reminders app.

4. Strava

Download free

If you're a runner or a biker and own an Apple Watch, you almost certainly have tried the built in Workouts app and have been a little let down by what's on offer. Workouts doesn't have GPS data, lacks advanced statistics such as split times, has no social aspect, and doesn't back up online. Strava does all this and is a great app for runners and bikers.

Unlike the other big dog in this category RunKeeper, Strava separates itself by actually updating its watch app for watchOS 2, which gives it a few key advantages. First, it has the ability to stay open on your watch for the duration of your run, as opposed to RunKeeper that will automatically close itself after about a minute of not looking at it. You want glance able information when running, and having to reopen the app every time you want to see your current pace is frustrating.

It also means that Strava can pull your heart rate in real time during your workout and give you a clearer picture of your workout intensity.

Overall, Strava is a great service, and I'm glad that their Apple Watch app meets those same quality standards.

5. MacID

Download $3.99

Do you have a really long password for your Mac? Do you hate having to type it in every time you wake up your computer or install something that needs admin permissions? Have you ever wanted to control iTunes when you're not sitting at your Mac? If any of that rings true for you, MacID can help make your life a little easier.

MacID's primary feature is allowing you to unlock your Mac with your iPhone or Apple Watch. Essentially, every time you open your Mac, MacID will buzz on your wrist and you can tap the notification to instantly unlock your computer. It's easy, and works incredibly reliably.

There are also media controls in the full Watch app, so you can control iTunes or whatever your media player of choice is from afar. This isn't something I use all the time, but it's convenient on those occasions when I do.

There are rumors similar functionality will be coming to iOS 10 and watchOS 3, but you should still buy MacID and support this awesome developer.