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How to install and update apps on your Apple Watch without an iPhone

Apple Watch with App Store icon on home screen

Sometimes, you may want to install and update apps on your Apple Watch without needing to use your iPhone. Luckily you can! 

Knowing how to use the Apple Watch App Store to install and update apps is especially important for folks that have an Apple Watch that’s set up with Apple’s Family Watch Setup, where you don’t have a paired iPhone to search for apps.

To learn how to install new apps or update your current apps directly on your Apple Watch, keep reading. 

Suggested reading:

How to install apps on Apple Watch using the Apple Watch’s App Store app store apple watch icon page

Installing apps on the Apple Watch is super easy to do! All you have to do is open the App Store app directly on your Apple Watch.

Once you have it open, browse through Apple’s recommendations or categories and use the watch’s digital crown or your fingers to scroll down or up.

Want to search for a specific app? Just tap on the top Search bar app store homepage apple watch

  • You can dictate the app’s name using talk to text by tapping the microphone icon. Talk to text on Apple Watch App Store
  • Or use the Scribble feature to write out the name in the blackboard area and draw out each letter. Scribble on Apple Watch
  • On Apple Watch Series 7 and above, you can even type out the app’s name using a QuickType keyboard on the watch or use the keyboard’s QuickPath to swipe between letters.

How to download and install apps with the Apple Watch App Store

When you find the app you want to download onto your Apple Watch, the next step is to purchase it.

  • If it is a free app, tap Get. download app apple watch
  • If it is a paid app, tap on the Price to purchase. Dark Sky app in App Store on Apple Watch
  • If you see the iCloud icon, that means you have purchased this app before. So if you click on that, it just redownloads the app! When you redownload an app, you don’t have to pay for it again.

Install an app from apple watch app store

Once you tap an option to purchase, a message pops up. You need to double-click your watch’s side button to install. double click to install

You may need to enter your Apple ID password as well – especially if it is your first time purchasing from the Apple Watch App Store. 

Can’t find the app you want?

If you use an older model Apple Watch, check if your watch and watchOS version is still supported. Your watch may no longer be compatible with the app. If your watchOS version is not supported by the app developer anymore, you can not install it on your Apple Watch.

Also, sometimes the first few listed options are not the app you want so make sure you scroll down to check out all the options that match your search. 

For example, if you want to install Apple’s Alarms app and search the watch’s App Store, it isn’t the first or even second app listed for “Alarms.” You need to scroll down to find it. Scroll to see all recommended apps when searching on Apple Watch App Store

If you have a watch that’s set up with Apple Family Setup, some of Apple’s native watch apps and many third-party apps are not available, including ECG, Cycle Tracking, Sleep, Blood Oxygen, Podcasts, Remote, News, Home, and Shortcuts.   

Finally, the watch may also have some restrictions on apps set by Screen Time.

How to update Apple Watch apps without an iPhone

If you want to update an app directly from your Apple Watch, you can do that too! It is very simple!

  1. To do so, open the App Store app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Scroll all the way down to Account, and select it. This opens your account information. your account options on the Apple Watch App Store
  3. Scroll down to Updates, and tap it. app updates apple watch

There you see a list of apps that either need to be updated or have been updated recently. apple watch recently updated app

  • If you see apps that need to update, just tap the Update button next to the app that needs an update.
  • If you have a lot of apps that need updates, you can also select Update All Apps.

You can also turn on Automatic Updates if you don’t want to constantly update your apps manually. 

How to turn on Automatic Updates on Apple Watchautomatic app updates apple watch

  1. To turn on Automatic Updates, open the Settings app on your Apple Watch.
  2. Scroll down to App Store and select it.
  3. Scroll down to Automatic Updates, and toggle the switch on. 

Note for users who use Apple watch Family Set-Up

Apple Watch family setup

If you use Apple’s Family Set Up options for a loved one’s Apple Watch who doesn’t have an iPhone, you may experience some issues with downloading certain apps onto their Apple Watch.

Some apps on the App Store require an iPhone to use their Apple Watch app. This is common with apps like Podcasts, ESPN, and any app that has anything to do with listening or consuming content.

That’s because these app’s Apple Watch apps typically just mirror what’s on the iPhone app. 

So if your loved one does not have an iPhone, they typically cannot download those apps for the Apple Watch.

Final thoughts

Downloading and updating apps directly from your Apple Watch is sometimes so much easier, especially if your iPhone is unavailable. 

Plus it’s way more convenient to find Apple Watch-specific apps directly on the Apple Watch’s App Store! 

We hope this guide helped. Let us know if you have any questions or additional tips!

I'm a content writer with a passion for all things lifestyle having earned my Bachelor of Science in journalism from St. John's University. I was born and raised in Southern California. My Apple Watch never leaves my wrist, but I also adore Fitbit. I love all things health tech, including fitness and self-care apps. When I'm not writing, I enjoy traveling, reading, and drinking iced coffee!

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