Apps on Apple Watch: How to install them, how to delete them and how they work

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Apps! The Apple Watch has quite a few: over 3,000 already, and many more to come. What do they do? How do they work? And how do you put them (or, take them off) your Apple Watch? Read up, I’ll tell you.

Apple Watch third-party apps: What they are and how they work

Many, many app developers are releasing Apple Watch apps. What they’re actually doing are updating their existing iPhone apps, and building in an Apple Watch app right inside without you realizing it.

They’re tiny extensions of your iPhone apps.

Some of them show quick news headlines, some act as remotes for playing streaming music or radio, some are second screens for your iPhone apps, some show basic information like weather reports or sports scores. Think of them as tiny, multi-layered widgets, hopefully helping you use your iPhone or access features. Many of them run slowly…or, I should say, load information slowly. Or, more slowly than you might expect. They’re using your connection to your iPhone to load information back and forth.

They can’t run without your iPhone on.

If they’re third-party apps, that is. Apple’s pre-installed apps — like Activity, Workout, and the Music app — can run independently, for the most part. Apple will eventually allow third-party apps to work like this too, but not right now.

They don’t use all the Apple Watch’s built-in features yet.

There will be a full-fledged “native” third-party apps on Apple Watch later this year, allowing deeper access to functions, while working away from your iPhone, too. At the moment, most third-party apps feel simplified and not nearly as complex as your average iPhone app.

They work in the background on your iPhone.

A few apps, like Maps and Runkeeper, launch apps on the iPhone. Most launch the connected iPhone apps in the background. That means you could let your iPhone do other things: you could give your phone to your kid to watch a movie and still access Apple Watch apps to get news or make a reservation.

Glances: Your handy-dandy app dock helper

Glances, a swipe-up series of card-like easy-to-read mini-apps that are basically little widgets on your Apple Watch, also act like shortcuts to apps. Tap a Glance, and it opens the full app. That makes Glances, basically, an easy-access app dock. They’re one of my go-to tools for using the Apple Watch.

You can add a Glance for most apps: in the Apple Watch iPhone app, click an app in settings and toggle “Show in Glances.” Some apps use Glances for a topical headline; others, for a quick weather report. You can add 20 Glances maximum, so choose wisely. Again, removing them just involves toggling them off in the app settings, or in the Glances section of the app.

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