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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.

Verdict: A- Bay Area weather doesn't vary a whole lot, which makes weather apps less exciting here. (Oh, it'll be around 60 and mostly sunny pretty much all the time? You don't say.) I like the layout of Weather and hope the performance gets snappier with a few software updates. Being able to add a new city with voice search would be welcome.

11. Friends

This isn't an app on the home screen — instead, you just press the Apple Watch's button once to call up your favorite friends list. This is 12 friends in a watch-like circle interface. They're automatically populated with the Favorites in the Phone app on your iPhone, but you can customize the list further in the Apple Watch app for iPhone, if you want different people as favorites on each device.

Once you select a friend with your finger or the Digital Crown, you get shortcuts to send them a message or give them a call, and if the person also has an Apple Watch, you can tap the tiny finger icon to enter Digital Touch mode. This lets you tap the screen to have the taps replicated on the wrist of your friend, which is a neat way to get someone's attention. You can also draw a little sketch on the screen — very simple, one-color drawings, like a smiley face, heart, or "HI!" work the best. A color picker at the top-right offers a few preset colors, or you can force-touch it to choose from more shades. When you finish drawing, you just lift your finger and watch your image fade away, to be redrawn the same way on your friend's watch.

Holding two fingers on the watch's screen in Digital Touch mode will grab your heart beat and start tapping out its rhythm on your watch as well as your friend's. It's a cool feeling but also incredibly intimate, like pressing your fingers onto someone's pulse point. A community has popped up on Reddit to let Apple Watch owners test this out if they don't already have other friends with the Apple Watch, but I find it too personal to share my heartbeat with strangers.

Verdict: B+ Occasionally, Digital Touch gives me an error message that my drawing can't send, but otherwise, it's a pretty fun feature to play with — assuming you have watch-owning pals to use it with. I'd like to see more than 12 slots in the Friends shortcut list, especially since there isn't a standalone Contacts app on the watch — maybe you could have a few groups of 12, and swipe between them.

12. Maps

Maps offers turn-by-turn navigation for walking or driving, but you won't hear spoken directions. Instead, you'll feel taps on your wrist to signal you to upcoming turns. Before a right turn, you'll feel 10 taps all in a row. For a left turn, the watch will tap you six times, but in three sets of two taps so it's easier to distinguish. (Tap-tap, tap-tap, tap-tap.) The watch face shows two views, either a tiny slice of the map showing your route, or a more easily read screen that just shows what your next turn is and how far away you are. Swipe between them.

 

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