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Every built-in Apple Watch app, ranked

Susie Ochs | May 11, 2015
The apps that come with your Apple Watch run the gamut from super useful to superficial, but no matter what you think of any of them, they're not going away. On your iPhone, you can just make a folder of the un-deletable Apple apps (looking at you, Compass and Tips), so at least they're out of sight and out of mind. But the Apple Watch doesn't support folders, and you can't hide or delete any of its 20 built-in apps.

(I also tend to respond to the watch's get-up-and-move prompts by wandering from my computer to my refrigerator — not to snack per se, just to see what's in there — but my lack of willpower isn't the Apple Watch's fault. I could just as easily do a silly dance for a minute.)

Verdict: A Even with its quirks, I've found the Activity app much more compelling and motivating than using a Fitbit or a Jawbone UP to track my steps. The app's gorgeous layout has me visiting multiple times per day, and a fitness app that actually makes you want to use it is already ahead of the pack.

3. Messages

Messages is outstanding on the Apple Watch for two reasons: Apple is being smart about the notifications, and more importantly, when a notification comes in, you can actually act on it. You can reply to texts right on the watch, by choosing a prewritten snippet (those are easily edited in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone) or tapping the microphone to dictate a reply to Siri.

Dictation either works really well or not at all. I've moved all my texting to the Apple Watch, and even when Siri doesn't understand me occasionally (less than 10 percent of the time, I'd estimate), I still find it quicker and easier than tapping out a reply on the iPhone. You can send the messages as audio clips or as dictated text, and if you overwhelmingly prefer one or the other, you can set a default in the Apple Watch app for iPhone.

The Messages app for Apple Watch has exclusive animated emoji that you can send to anyone, not just other Apple Watch users. They're adorable, but what isn't super clear is that you can use the Digital Crown — or smear your finger around the screen without swiping to the next page — to get different options for the animated face, heart, and hand. The standard iOS emoji are here too.

But the best part of Messages is how smart the notifications have been, at least in my experience. If my iPhone is unlocked and in use, the notification comes to my iPhone and not my Apple Watch. If the iPhone is locked, it comes to my Apple Watch. If I have Messages open on my Mac and it's the active app (as in, I'm using it to chat with someone), the message will pop up there and leave both my iPhone and Apple Watch dark. But when I switch out of Messages into another app on my Mac, like Safari, new messages once again ping my Apple Watch. I've been really impressed with how seamless it is, and haven't missed a message yet.


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