It looks like 2019 is shaping up to finally be the year that the Apple Watch will be entirely unshackled from the iPhone.
This is a process that actually started with watchOS 4 and the Apple Watch Series 3 back in 2017. Naturally, it wasn’t until the Apple Watch gained cellular capabilities that there was really any need to worry much about iPhone independence, since you couldn’t really get an internet connection without an iPhone nearby. Despite this, however, the Apple Watch has continued to rely on the iPhone for updating its software, for installing apps, and in some cases even for running apps.
With watchOS 6, however, it looks like this is all set to change in a big way. Firstly, there’s the fact that your Apple Watch will finally gets its own App Store, entirely eliminating the need to search for and install apps from your iPhone. However, Apple is also taking the next big logical step here and allowing even future watchOS software updates to be installed over-the-air, Although right now you still need to accept the terms and conditions on your iPhone in order to do this, that will presumably be done away with by the time watchOS 6 is released to the public later this fall. In fact, the need to agree to terms is likely only related to Apple’s developer beta program anyway.
The second big change, however, is that TechCrunch has discovered that you’ll also now be able to remove any built-in apps from the Apple Watch that you don’t want cluttering up your screen. While this capability finally came to the iPhone back in iOS 10, it’s the first time we’ve seen it on the Apple Watch, and we think it’s going to be even more useful here.
For years, iPhone users who didn’t use many of the built-in apps could at least relegate them to a sub-folder, where they would be out of sight and out of mind. Since watchOS doesn’t support any concept of subfolders, the best that Apple Watch users could do was to move them to the periphery of the grid view screen, but those who preferred to view their apps in list view were out of luck, since that’s sorted alphabetically with no way to change it.
Since iOS 10, removing an app from your iPhone that mirrors a watchOS app will remove it from both devices, so if you weren’t using something like Weather or Reminders on your iPhone, you could get rid of it from your watch as well, but that was only an option if you really didn’t want to use the app at all — if you still wanted to keep the iOS version around, you were stuck with the Apple Watch version too, and of course there was no way at all to get rid of apps like Breathe or Stopwatch that don’t have a corresponding iPhone app.
With watchOS 6, however, it appears that you’ll be able to delete almost any stock app from the device, including Alarm, Timer, Stopwatch, Remote, Camera Remote, Radio, Walkie-Talkie, ECG, Breathe, and even the new Noise and Cycle Tracking apps. This last one especially makes sense, as it’s the one app that’s absolutely guaranteed to be useless to a significant number of Apple Watch users.
While the actual ability to do this doesn’t seem to be enabled yet as of the second beta of watchOS 6, the move has been telegraphed by Apple in the same way as it was in the early iOS 10 betas: the appearance of all of the built-in apps on the App Store — a necessary move to allow users to restore any apps that they may have removed should they decide that they want them back later.
How to Delete Apple Watch Apps
Sources familiar with the feature told TechCrunch that it will be handled in much the same way as on the iPhone — tap and hold to watch the icons wiggle, and then tap the X button that appears above the app’s icon to remove it.
Like iOS, there will be a few built-in apps that you still won’t be able to remove, however, such as Messages and Heart Rate. It’s also unclear whether you’ll be able to remove an app only from the Apple Watch while leaving its iOS counterpart on your iPhone.
For obvious reasons, the watchOS App Store on iOS 12 and watchOS 5 don’t display these built-ins apps, so if you’re hoping to sneak one of the new apps onto your existing Apple Watch without installing the watchOS 6 beta, that won’t happen, but clearly Apple is preparing to allow those using the beta to be ready to reinstall any missing apps once the feature goes live.
Unlike iOS 13 and tvOS 13, Apple doesn’t appear to have any plans to make the watchOS 6 betas available to the public, however, so unless you’re a registered developer, you won’t likely be seeing these new features until the public release of watchOS 6 in the fall.