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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.

If you go off course, the Maps app will reroute you, and you'll feel a buzz on your wrist to let you know it's doing that. Since the Apple Watch doesn't have its own GPS chip, you do need your iPhone to be connected via Bluetooth to use Maps at all.

You can start a new navigation session from the watch itself, which is great. Just force-touch the screen, and you'll get choices for Contacts and Search. The Search screen lets you search by dictation, or browse your Favorites and Recents. Locations you've searched for in Maps on your iPhone show up here too. While navigating, you can force-touch the screen to stop.

Verdict: B Still no public transit directions in Maps — not on the watch or even on the iPhone — although rumor has it Apple is still working on that. But I love getting taps on my wrist when it's time to turn, instead of spoken directions that interrupt whatever music or podcasts I'm listening to.

13. Mail

Mail is useful for skimming email and then using Force Touch to either delete it, keep it unread, or flag it for followup. But its design is nothing to write home about, and I'd like a few more options. My ideal Mail app would let me archive messages, or even forward them to someone else.

Perhaps a third-party mail app will up the ante with gestures: I could trace an L on the screen to move an email message to a Later list, or an R to send it to a list of messages I need to reply to (back on my iPhone, iPad, or Mac of course), maybe a circle to archive it, and a diagonal slash to delete it.

Verdict: B- Right now, Mail is mostly a notification engine. Even reading messages on the watch's small screen isn't a great experience, and I'd appreciate more features for triaging the deluge of email I get every day.

14. Photos

You can keep up to 75MB of images (or 500 photos) stored directly on your Apple Watch, so you can view them even if your iPhone is off or out of range. The default synced album is Favorites, but you can choose a different one in the Apple Watch app for iPhone.

Viewing photos on the watch just isn't a stellar experience, though. First you see miniscule thumbnails representing the entire album at once, and then you need to use the Digital Crown to zoom in, since the display doesn't support Multi-Touch (and is a little too small to comfortably pinch-to-zoom anyway). Once you're viewing a photo, you can swipe to the next or previous image, but that's it. You can't text photos, draw on them with Digital Touch, nothing.

 

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