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The Apple Watch is a pretty amazing device, made even more powerful by the wide variety of apps that it supports, but there’s no doubt that navigating through these can get cumbersome on the smaller screen.
Apple partly addressed this by offering a List View in watchOS 4, which can be easier to work with than the traditional “Grid View” that just mixes up a bunch of small icons, but for many users, it’s just the difference between panning through a large set of apps or scrolling through a long list of them.
Let’s face it, Apple puts a lot of its own apps on the Apple Watch that you may not have any use for, and this has become even more apparent with watchOS 6, which adds apps like Cycle Tracking, which is a handy app for about half of Apple Watch users, but completely pointless for the other half.
Fortunately — and quite possibly as a concession to apps like Cycle Tracking — Apple has finally introduced the ability in watchOS 6 to actually delete built-in apps right from the Apple Watch.
This feature has been available on the iPhone since the release of iOS 10 back in 2016, but even before that, iPhone users could at least relegate their never-used apps to a sub folder to keep them out of sight and out of mind. However, since watchOS has never had any concept of sub folders, the best that Apple Watch users could do was simply move those apps out to the periphery of the icon view. However, this wasn’t helpful for those who prefer to look at their apps in the new list view, since that view uses a fixed alphabetical sort order.
Now, however, with watchOS 6, whether you simply want to declutter the list of apps or you’re looking to get rid of an app that may be killing your battery, you can easily remove most of the built-in stock apps, with a couple of caveats.
Four Types of watchOS Apps
There are actually four different classes of apps on the Apple Watch that will determine whether and how you can remove them:
- First-party watchOS-only apps: These are the apps that exist only on your Apple Watch, without a corresponding iPhone app, such as Alarm, Breathe, Cycle Tracker, ECG, Noise, Stopwatch, Timer, Walkie-Talkie. These can now be removed directly from your Apple Watch.
- First-party watchOS companion apps: These are apps such as Mail, Maps, News, Reminders, and Notes that are companions to their counterparts on the iPhone. These cannot be removed directly from the Apple Watch. As with prior versions of watchOS the only way to get rid of these is to remove the corresponding app from your iPhone. Even Compass on the new Apple Watch Series 5 is linked to the iPhone Compass app.
- Core watchOS apps: In much the same way as on your iPhone, apps like Settings, Messages, Phone, and Photos are considered “core” apps on watchOS and can’t be removed from your Apple Watch either.
- Third-party watchOS apps: Unlike Apple’s first-party watchOS apps, third-party apps can exist on the iPhone without also needing to appear on the Apple Watch. This was previously managed through the Watch app on your iPhone, but with watchOS 6 you can now delete these directly from your wrist.
How to Remove Apps from the Apple Watch
As noted above, the only apps you’ll be able to remove directly from the Apple Watch are third-party apps and Apple’s own standalone watchOS apps — those that don’t have a corresponding iPhone app. Follow these steps if you want to remove one of these apps:
In List View:
- Open your app menu by pressing the Digital Crown.
- If you’re not already in List View, press forcibly on the screen to switch views.
- Scroll to the app that you want to remove.
- Place your finger gently on the name of the app and swipe from right to left to reveal a red trashcan button.
- Tap on the red button to remove the app.
Note that if you try this with an app that can’t be removed, it simply won’t slide to the left and no delete button will appear. There’s no easy way in list view to see which apps can or can’t be deleted except by trial and error.
In Grid View:
Remove an app from your grid view is a lot more like doing it on your iPhone, and has the advantage of showing you which apps can and can’t be removed all on one screen.
- Open your app menu by pressing the Digital Crown.
- If you’re not already in Grid View, press forcibly on the screen to switch views.
- Place and hold your finger gently anywhere on the screen.
- The icons should start wiggling just like they do on the iPhone, and a small “x” will appear at the top left corner of those that you can remove.
- Tap the “x” beside an app’s icon to remove that app.
Note that removing a third-party app from your Apple Watch will not remove the corresponding app from your iPhone. If you change your mind later, you can reinstall it from the Watch app on your iPhone as in previous versions.
How to Put an Apple App Back on your Apple Watch
If you change your mind later and want to put a standalone Apple first-party app back on your Apple Watch, you can do this from the App Store, much like reinstalling Apple’s apps on your iPhone, although the catch is that you’ll need to do this directly from the Apple Watch, using the new App Store app that’s found in watchOS 6.
If you browse the App Store on your iPhone you’ll be able to see Apple’s watch-only apps, but the download button will be greyed out, and opening the app’s details page will show a note that “This app can be downloaded only on Apple Watch.” Instead, go to your Apple Watch and follow these steps:
- Open the App Store app from the normal app menu.
- Tap Search at the top.
- Using either dictation or scribble, enter the name of the app you’re looking for.
- Depending on the app, you may need to scroll down your search results to find it.
- Tap the download icon beside the app’s icon.
Note that as a result of recent concerns that Apple was giving preferential treatment to its own apps, the company has adjusted its algorithms and searches for more generic terms like “noise” and “cycle tracking” will likely bring up other third-party apps ahead of Apple’s own, so it’s helpful to prefix the app name with “Apple,” so instead of searching for “cycle tracking,” search for “Apple cycle tracking.”
Unlike standalone Apple Watch apps, those that mirror corresponding iPhone apps will appear on your watch whenever they’re installed on your iPhone, so reinstalling these is done simply be loading up the iPhone app again, just like in previous versions of watchOS.