AppAdvice has more patience with Watch Apps than I do. Indeed, as a site devoted to the Apple Watch, that needs to change, but I’d argue that the apps need to change first. They need to be useful. They need to convince me and others that the platform can stand alone. Unfortunately, there are very few apps that actually do that. Still, AppAdvice kind of crushed it with their list of the launch year’s best, devoting the top spot to something I’ve never even heard of, BeatTune:
An app that tells you when your heart rate is inappropriate for your given level of activity? That’s medically useful, and it’s something I can get behind. AppAdvice’s runner-up, however, is Shazam, which I personally found delete-worthy after about two frustrating days of mind-numbing redundant nonsense. To each his own, I suppose.
The rest of the list is hit or miss to me, but — unlike most such Top 10s — it is thoughtfully assembled and explained. Check it out. But be warned: You won’t find big-budget garbage like Facebook Messenger or Twitter or Instagram on there, and that speaks volumes about the establishment’s (lack of) competence and ingenuity when it comes to the smallest screen.
But all that festering incompetence aside, I have a list, too. It’s no Top 10 (as there aren’t 10 good apps on the thing), but I can point to a handful:
2015 Apple Watch App of the Year
Workout, Apple Inc., $250-17,000
There’s no embed for this one — it’s a stock app. And it’s far and away the best app on the platform to date. I use it almost every day, and it’s pretty much the only reason I wear my Apple Watch any more.
Dark Sky, Jackadam, $3.99
Oddly absent from the App Advice list, Dark Sky is pretty much the de facto favorite among Apple Watch early adopters (which is, ironically, why it was probably left off the AA Top 10). It’s predictions are accurate (sometimes uncannily), and it makes a real argument for “better at the wrist,” which is a bridge most apps will likely never cross. That Dark Sky did so so early on is only icing on the cake, and I’m looking forward to what Jackadam brings to the table in the future if the developer decides to double down on new concepts for the new platform.
Dataman Next, Johnny Ixe, $1.99
I wrote about Dataman Next before, and being on a family plan, I still use it. While it does take a little elbow grease to coordinate things with others on your bill, the app works wonders to keep you apprised of impending overages, and it’s worth every penny as it will likely save you several thousand of them each month.
(Note: If I didn’t live in South Florida, Dataman Next would probably be my runner-up, but the sporadic weather down here has propelled Dark Sky to the almost-top spot.)
Apple Music, Apple Inc, $250-17,000 + $10/month
At first, I wasn’t on board with Apple Music. Many of my favorite bands — most notably King Crimson — are absent, and I wasn’t sure the subscription fee was worth it. Then I found out that Apple Music is actually the only service Siri is any good for at all, and the remote function makes track skipping during workouts better than yanking out your handset and futzing with the screen while trying not to rocket off the back off the treadmill or tip over the side of your favorite elliptical (LifeFitness FTW). The experience is far from perfect, but it’s getting there. A dedicated remote inside the Workout app itself would solve a lot of the current issues, but — better aptitude notwithstanding — Siri will still always be a hurdle:
— Andy Faust (@ndyfaust) November 30, 2015
Procreate Pocket, Savage Interactive Pty Ltd, $0.99
While it can’t hold a candle to its big brother (which is the best digital drawing software in the world and works amazingly well with the new Apple Pencil on iPad Pro), Procreate Pocket for iPhone is a neat, quick tool for mocking up ideas on the go. Its Watch App is a clever tool- and palette-picker, but because of how users hold their iPhones, the metaphor kind of breaks down in this particular use case. (The metaphor, for those who dont know, is that traditional painters are often in the practice of using their off-hand wrists as mini-palettes, allowing them to quickly dab color onto their current brush without removing any focus or attention from the canvas in question. I work with ink, so this isn’t natural for me, but I grew up watching my painting sister do this very thing.) When the iPad is finally opened up to Apple Watch support, I suspect Procreate for Apple Watch will settle in much nearer the top in future lists.
Bonus: Last Place
Twitter, Twitter, Free
When I say “Last Place,” I dont mean “Sixth Place.” I mean last freaking place. As in dead last. As in “the worst app out of the 15,000-plus current Watch Apps on the App Store.” Twitter is that app. I discussed why earlier, and here’s an excerpt:
[Twitter] has built itself up as the ultimate one-shot messenger, limited in characters but unlimited in scope. If any social network should shine on Apple Watch, you’d expect Twitter, by its very nature, to be that social network. But the experience sucks.
Take my personal example: I have 4000-plus real followers (Crowdfire works wonders) on my private account, and my timeline is flooded with garbage, spam, politics, links, and promoted ads I dont give the smallest fraction of a frack about. Similarly, no “Top Trend” has ever mattered to me in the slightest degree. My interests and interactions on Twitter are of a very limited niche subject, and these two exclusive app options are utterly useless for promoting non-passive user involvement. But even if I could simply view my actual mentions (why I can’t already do this is baffling beyond belief), I’d still get very limited use out of the app. Sure, I could retweet something or plant a meek, almost insulting “Yes, I have read your tweet but find it of little value” favorite on some stupid message, but that’d be the extent of it. And that’s not the type of interaction I’m after on Twitter. I actually like to have conversations, and I can’t do that with Apple Watch.
Because social networks — all of them — have their own unique structures and languages. Twitter users rely heavily on atmarks and hashtags. Similarly, they also rely on alphanumeric alphabets that replace numbers for words to save characters, and they frequently use contractions (often of their own invention) to get a message out in the limited space available. Try using Siri for any of this, and it’s a total nonstarter. It is impossible. Twitter, like so many other big-name apps, doesn’t belong on the wrist. And maybe it never will.
So there you have it: My Top Five and Bottom One. But as usual, AppAdvice did it better, so head over to the source and check out some apps that should cheer you up right in time for the holiday season.