The Apple Watch that I wear generates a constant stream of questions from friends and strangers alike. One thing they always ask is whether the device is actually useful. I always answer yes — and that’s even more so now that Apple has released the first major upgrade of the watch’s operating system.
The upgrade, which Apple calls watchOS 2, had its debut last week. The refreshed operating system adds many more features to the watch and lets the device run its own apps without having to be tethered to an iPhone. There are some good apps to try.
The one I have been using most is Carrot Weather, a forecasting app with a sense of humor. The watch version has a text-heavy display that includes humorous quotes alongside the weather forecast. There’s also a quick-glance graph of temperature predictions for the near future or an alert if it rain is expected. Swiping up the screen reveals a forecast for the next week, and tapping on a particular day gives you more detailed information: humidity, sunset times, UV index and more.
The app is simple but powerful, particularly if you enable the watch face “complication” feature, which shows you Carrot’s weather predictions alongside the time on the watch face. The app costs $4 but some information, like rain predictions, requires an upgrade to premium level for an additional $2 a year.
Another app I have been using often is Citymapper, which tries to help whether you are driving, taking a train, subway or even ferry. The travel app can help plan journeys because it has access to timetables for transport systems and can calculate how long it will take to walk or drive to a destination.
To navigate via the watch app, you tap on locations that you have preset in the phone version of the program. Tapping “let’s go” on the watch then determines a route and guides you through a journey. For example, if I tap the “home” destination, I see a seven-minute walk to the station, then a wait for the 12:24 train, which I need to stay on for five stops. You can also use Citymapper to see journeys available by way of a train or bus stop near your location, and it will also show traffic or transit alerts for your nearest city.
Having Citymapper’s information on your wrist is useful, particularly if you are in a hurry and don’t want to fish for your phone in a pocket or bag. But the free app sometimes reacts sluggishly when you touch the screen, and it may not work everywhere because of a limited coverage list.
This next app helps me, as a journalist, with recording interviews. The program, Just Press Record, has a dedicated Watch edition that records the sounds it hears through the watch’s own microphone. It’s quick to open, and you can start recording with a single tap. It even works if your watch is far from your phone — the files sync to the phone wirelessly when you are back in range.
The audio quality isn’t stellar, but it is functional. The app costs $3, and you need to be using Apple’s iCloud Drive for the files to sync properly.
Many reviewers are also praising Cycles, an app for tracking the menstrual cycle. It’s supposed to be very easy to use, giving warning of when your period is due and when you’re ovulating. Cycles is free, but to get some alerts and the power to share data with a partner costs $2.
It’s not all serious business on the watch. The app Timecrest, for example, brings a classic-designed text adventure to your wrist. That includes an interesting story (with a beginning like “I’m Ash, and my world is ending”) and the interactions work well on the watch — you tap on one of several options to interact with the app after it has finished describing the current scene. There are several paths through the story line, and you may find yourself failing, at which point you can “rewind time” to try again. This is where the free game may get you buying fresh “time crystals,” via in-app purchase, in order to win. Simple fun.
Another game to check out on your watch: Rules! This mentally taxing game pits you against the clock, asking you to tap on colorful playing tiles as you follow an increasingly complex sequence of rules like “tap on odds,” “tap only animals” and so on. It’s addictive fun, perfect for whiling away time on a boring commute. The phone app, which includes a bigger, and thus more complex and difficult, playing area with more tiles to tap, costs $3 and includes the watch edition.
The popular online learning companyKhan Academy has long had an app available for the iPhone. The app has now had a big makeover on iOS, with improvements including a more-polished interface. There’s a proper Android app for the first time too. Both are free.
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