The makers of Pokémon Go have released their long-awaited Apple Watch app, which is sure to please Watch wearing Pokémon trainers everywhere.
Despite waning popularity, Niantic continues to update and refine Pokémon Go with fixes and new features such as the buddy system and the catch bonus system.
Perhaps the most newsworthy update in recent months, however, is the newly released Apple Watch app. Now, the Watch app obviously isn’t going to appeal to Pokémon Go trainers who don’t own a Watch, but it may revive interest for those who do, both for wearing the Watch and playing the game.
How to Set Up and Configure the Pokémon Go Watch App
The Watch app is available as part of the December 22, 2016 update for iOS (version 1.21.2). So just make sure your app is updated to the latest version, and the Watch app should automatically be installed on your Watch.
When you first open the app on the Watch, it will ask permission to send you notifications. You should allow it to do so or you’ll miss out an essential part of the experience. You can always change this in the Settings later.
When you proceed, you will probably be greeted with a level 1 trainer screen. Don’t panic, you just need to open the Pokémon Go app on your iPhone to sync up. Indeed, when you tap “Start” on this screen, you might be greeted with a message telling you to do just that.
On your iPhone, open the Pokémon Go app. The first time you do so, you will be asked to allow the app to access your location even when you’re not using the app. Again, you’re going to want to tap “Allow”, because it will let the game to run in the background.
On the surface, the Pokémon Go Watch app seems like just another way of playing the game, but it’s also a workout tracker, which means it hooks into the Health app. You can allow or disallow the app from tracking four Health metrics: Active Energy, Steps, Walking + Running Distance, and Workouts.
If you allow Pokémon Go to write data, it will track progress for any or all of these metrics and write them to the Health app so you can track your progress. On the other hand, if you allow the app to read data, it will use this data for things like tracking distance walked, hatching eggs, and finding candies.
Note the “Data” item on this screen as well—we’ll talk more about this below.
If hatching eggs and finding candies is important to you as a trainer, then we highly recommend you allow Pokémon Go to read and write data. You can always change these settings again later on by tapping the “Sources” tab at the bottom of the Health app and choosing “Pokémon Go”.
When you tap the “Data” button mentioned earlier, you can peruse and even delete all the data Pokémon Go collects. If you tap the “Edit” button in upper-right corner (as seen in the right screenshot) you can tap on and delete individual data points.
That explains the setup process and how the Health app factors into it. If hatching eggs and collecting candies isn’t important to you, then you don’t need to allow Pokémon Go to track your steps, distance, and other items.
However, if you don’t allow it access your location, the iPhone app won’t be able to run in the background, and thus you won’t be able to discover nearby Pokémon and PokéStops, which kind of defeats a lot of the app’s fun.
How to Use the Pokémon Go Watch App
With all the dry, boring setup stuff out of the way, it’s time to dig into the cool stuff: actually using the Pokémon Go Watch app.
Once you’ve performed the setup and opened up the app on both your Watch and iPhone, you will see your trainer’s avatar, current level, and any egg or eggs you’re currently walking.
Like we mentioned earlier, the Watch app is at its heart a fitness tracker and activity monitor, so when you tap “Start” it will begin tracking your steps, distance, and other metrics we mentioned in the previous section.
The app consists of four screens. The Settings screen will let you turn notifications on or off for nearby Pokémon and PokéStops. Each time one or the other is nearby, your Watch will tap your wrist to notify you.
If you’re out on a run or walk and you simply want to hatch eggs and collect candies, you can turn the notifications off so you won’t be bothered every time a Pidgey, Rattata, or Psyduck shows up, though you might miss out on a Pikachu!
The Eggs screen will display progress for any and all eggs you’re walking. The app will also alert you when an egg is about to hatch. If you tap on the alert, it will display an animation and show you what you just hatched. If you miss this alert, you will need to check your journal on the iPhone app to see what it was.
The main app screen, and the one you will use most often, displays your progress in terms of distance walked, the time of your workout, as well as calories burned, and steps taken. The last two metrics will alternate on the display.
To the right, of these numbers, you will also see your current egg or candy progress (more on this in a bit) as well as how many eggs you’re currently incubating.
Finally, at the bottom of the screen, you will see up to three nearby Pokémon.
Alternately, the upper-right indicator will display your progress toward finding another piece of candy. What is displayed here seems to depend on which goal is closer. In other words, if you’re closer to hatching an egg, the egg progress indicator will display; if you’re closer to finding a piece of candy, the candy progress indicator will show.
When your buddy finds a candy, the Watch will tap your wrist and let you know. To dismiss this screen, swipe up on the screen and tap “Dismiss” or simply tap lightly on the screen.
As we’ve already mentioned, the Pokémon Go Watch app will alert you (if you have notifications enabled) whenever a PokéStop or Pokémon is nearby. In the case of the latter, you can’t actually catch Pokémon with the Watch, for that, you will still need to pull your iPhone out.
You can dismiss both alerts by swiping up and tapping “Dismiss” or in the case of Pokémon, simply tapping lightly on the screen.
However, you can spin PokéStops and collect items. Just tap on the PokéStop notification and spin the Stop with your finger. It will then display whatever it gives you on the screen. Tap “Close” to go back to the main app screen.
Finally, the End screen will let you either pause your session (it will pause automatically just by swiping over to this screen) or end it.
When you end your session, you will see a summary of your total distance, time, calories burned, steps taken, as well as any items you collected.
While people are sure to complain that you can’t catch Pokémon with the app, the fact is, you probably don’t want to. Such a feature would likely add a level of complexity (choosing different Poké Balls, Razz Berries, etc.) to the app, that it simply doesn’t need.
Nor is catching Pokémon with it really the point. It functions quite well as an activity monitor, and for walking eggs and finding candies. That you can also spin PokéStops is also a nice bonus.
The Pokémon alert system works fairly well, though sometimes it either seems to be behind or ahead, which means that you’ll have already walked past the Pokémon or you will have to wait for the main app to update and for them to appear. Hopefully this is just a minor performance issue that Niantic will fix in a future update.
Similarly, we noticed one small issue with PokéStops: it’s pretty slow (at least on the Apple Watch Series 1, it might work more smoothly on Series 2). The point is, if you’re in an area with a lot of PokéStops, you will have to spend more time waiting to spin and collect items than you would if you just pull your iPhone out and collect items that way. Again, hopefully this is just a performance issue that a future update can address and not hardware related.
Finally, if we could wish for any one feature, it would be the ability to blacklist certain Pokémon so that we don’t receive constant alerts. This is especially true when we’re out on a run or walk and our wrist is repeatedly buzzing every time a Pidgey, Rattata, or other common Pokémon appear. You can temporarily disable all alerts, of course, but then you won’t know if a good, rarer Pokémon appears.
RELATED: How to Use Pokémon Go's New Buddy System
Overall, the Pokémon Go Apple Watch app is stable and fairly polished. It’s also quite feature-complete for a Watch app. One thing we particularly like is how it constantly updates egg distance progress so we always know how close we are to hatching one.
It’s definitely a great tool that Pokémon trainers who own Apple Watches will appreciate and we look forward to seeing Niantic continue to improve and polish it.