With the launch of watchOS 6 in autumn 2019, Apple made it possible for the first time to browse and install apps directly from your Apple Watch, instead of installing them on the companion iPhone and then syncing them across. This was a big deal, and the second major step - following the optional inclusion of cellular connectivity on the Series 3 model two years previously - in establishing the watch as an independent device, rather than an iPhone accessory.

But how do you get started using the wrist-based App Store, and is it really as easy to use as the one on your iPhone? In this article we offer detailed guidance.

How to find apps in the Apple Watch App Store

To get started with the Apple Watch's onboard App Store, press the Digital Crown on the side of the device to view your apps. Find and tap on App Store to open it.

You're now in the App Store, but you'll immediately notice how different it is to the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV versions. It's greatly simplified: instead of multiple tabs there's just a search bar at the top, followed by a single column of apps and app categories, and finally a link to your account.

How to use the Apple Watch App Store

If any of the curated choices take your fancy, tap them to see more details, screenshots, ratings and more.

To look instead for something specific, tap the search bar at the top, then enter a search term using voice dictation or the Scribble feature (where you write one letter at a time on the screen of your watch using your finger). As ever, bear in mind that the standards we've come to expect from dedicated search engines are rarely replicated elsewhere, and that Apple's App Store search needs as much help as you can give it: get the name exactly right if possible, and don't be surprised if even then a different (and differently named) app is ranked higher on the term.

How to use the Apple Watch App Store: Search

A final method of discovering apps is less obvious. Tap on the search bar but instead of typing or dictating, look below it. You'll see a list of trending topics. Tap one of these to jump to a search of that term.

Installing apps

This part is a bit fiddly. As on iPhone, tap Get, or the price, on an app's listing to begin the process. You'll now be required to verify your identity; the Apple Watch hasn't got a fingerprint sensor or a face scanner so you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way, with your Apple ID password. You can enter this using Scribble, or choose to enter it on the associated iPhone.

How to use the Apple Watch App Store: Enter password

(It's slightly frustrating, at this point, that you can't use Face or Touch ID on the iPhone - you have to laboriously type out the password.)

The good news is that for subsequent installs, you won't have to enter your Apple ID password - just double-tap the side button when instructed, and enter your watch's passcode.

When you've successfully verified your identity, the app will start to install. Tap Open when this is finished.

Updating apps on your Apple Watch

Let's go back to the front page of the App Store, and scroll down to the bottom. Tap Account, then Updates. You'll be shown any apps for which updates are available.

How to use the Apple Watch App Store: Updates

Should I use the App Store on the iPhone, or on the Apple Watch?

As things stand we'd stick to the iPhone one. It's fiddlier to type in searches and passwords (and you can't use Face ID) on the Apple Watch, and you can't view apps and games separately.

It's nice to have the option to do things on the watch, but our advice at the moment would be to stick to the roomier alternative.

Further reading

To find out more about the enhancements available in the watchOS 6 update, take a look at our watchOS 6 new features article. For more general advice, see How to use an Apple Watch.