Pokemon Go Apple Watch App Pros and Cons

Power Your Pokemon Game with the Apple Watch App

Pokemon Go took the world by storm by threatened to become a flash in the pan over time. It's tough to play the game if you must hold your phone in your hand in cold winter weather walking outdoors. The Apple Watch Pokemon Go app lets you keep your phone in your pocket without the main app running. That reduces the hazards of distracted walking.

Meanwhile, you will log kilometers towards egg hatches and buddy candy based on your steps, not GPS. You will also be alerted when Pokemon appear and you can collect items at Pokestops. You won't be alerted as to whether a Gym is in range and you can't use the app for Gym training and battles.

But there are cons as well as pros with this app. Here is a rundown so you can start playing on your Apple Watch or perhaps make a decision to buy an Apple Watch.

Starting a Pokemon Go Workout on Your Apple Watch

Pokemon Go Apple Watch App Start Screen
Pokemon Go Apple Watch App Start Screen. Wendy Bumgardner ©

The Apple Watch Pokemon Go app is free, and you can install it from the app store if you don't have automatic updates already set. Launching the watch app, you will see your Pokemon player name and level. If you have eggs incubating, you will see distance needed for the first one to hatch. You will also see your distance progress towards buddy Pokemon candy. Tap Start to begin your workout.

Pro: No Need to Launch the Phone App and You Can Keep Phone Locked

You can save your phone battery. There is no need to launch the Pokemon Go phone app until you get an alert of a Pokemon. You'll be able to collect items at Pokestops and only take out your phone if you see a Pokemon you want to catch. You'll know which ones can be caught and if you don't want the ones that have appeared, you can keep your phone in your pocket.

Pro: You Can Collect Items from Pokestops with the Watch App

You'll be alerted that a Pokestop is in range and you can twirl the stop with the watch app and collect your items. No need to get your phone out to do this. If you have a stop handy at home or work, you'll get an alert whenever it has recharged and you are able to collect items.

Con: You'll Be Draining Your Apple Watch Battery

The watch app is a big power drain and you will need to recharge your watch after a few hours if you keep it running. To save battery life, you can turn off the heart rate detection. To do so, open the Apple Watch phone app, select General, Privacy Settings, Motion & Fitness, and turn off heart rate. Note that this will turn off heart rate for all apps until you turn it back on.

You may want to keep your Apple Watch charger handy for mid-day recharges, or invest in a second one.

A Pokemon Go Workout—Treadmill Counts!

Pokemon Go Apple Watch App
Pokemon Go Apple Watch App. Wendy Bumgardner ©

The workout screen shows how far you've walked in kilometers, with elapsed time and a rotating display of steps and calories. To the right, you will see your buddy Pokemon and an indicator of how far you've walked towards your next candy reward and an indicator of how many eggs you are incubating.

If a Pokemon is in range to be caught, it will show on the bottom line. You can then decide whether to take out your phone and launch the phone app to attempt to catch the Pokemon. You can't catch Pokemon with the watch app.

Pro: Treadmill Steps Now Count Towards Pokemon Kilometers

One of the best reasons to use the Apple Watch Pokemon Go app is that it is based on the pedometer function of your Apple Watch and not GPS, at least for original Apple Watches and Apple Watch 1, which do not have built-in GPS.

The phone app is GPS-based, and your location is noted every 15 seconds to determine your distance. If you're pounding out steps on the treadmill, you get no Pokemon distance credit with the phone app. However, the Apple Watch Pokemon Go app will count those steps, and they will add up for distance.

Pro: Pacing Counts for Pokemon Kilometers

You can also launch the app and circle a room or pace up and down a hallway and now accrue distance. You will see your step count during the workout (it alternates with the calorie count). If you use the Stand Activity alert on your Apple Watch to reduce sitting time and inactivity, launch the Pokemon Go app when you get up and move to get credit for those steps. This is very motivational, a positive reward for doing what is good for you.

If you only move 250 steps each hour, you still log a kilometer every four hours, which is far better than nothing.

Con: Those Without Apple Watches May Call Foul

You are likely to see comments from those who don't have the Apple Watch app that getting credit for the treadmill, pacing, and other activity that logs steps is unfair. But the game creators determined this was appropriate when they launched the Apple Watch app. Therefore it is fair. It's their ball. You're just playing by their rules.

Hatch Those Eggs and Earn That Buddy Candy

Pokemon Go Apple Watch App Eggs
Pokemon Go Apple Watch App Eggs. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Swipe left to see eggs you are incubating and how far you need to walk to hatch them. If you are incubating multiple eggs, you will see the details here. Back on the Workout screen, you see only the details for the egg you are closest to hatching. This can motivate you to keep moving as you get close to hatching time.

You should get a notification on your Apple Watch when an egg has hatched, along with an animation of the hatching and a picture of the hatched Pokemon and its attributes.

You should also get a notification when your Buddy Pokemon has found a candy.

Egg Hatching Con

You will have to open the phone app to start incubating another egg, you can't do that from the watch app. If you miss the notification, the best place to determine what has hatched is to check the Journal screen. 

Buddy Candy Con

The notification should alert you that you've found a Candy. But you'll need to stay attentive if you are planning to switch Buddy Pokemon as soon as you get a candy. The notification doesn't include how many candies your Buddy has, so you would have to check that on the phone app.

Pokemon Go Apple Watch App Settings

Pokemon Go Apple Watch App Settings
Pokemon Go Apple Watch App Settings. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Once you start a Pokemon Go workout, you can swipe right to the Settings screen and choose whether you want to be notified of Pokestops or nearby Pokemon. You'll feel a tap on your wrist as well as a screen notification for these if you activate them.

This is a good feature if you are only interested in one or the other, or if you just want to log kilometers and don't care about the stops or catching Pokemon.

Add the Pokemon Go Complication to Your Apple Watch Face

Pokemon Go Apple Watch Complication
Pokemon Go Apple Watch Complication. Wendy Bumgardner ©

You can add the Pokemon Go complication to your Apple Watch face. Then you will be able to launch it quickly whenever you want. If you want to log your distance each time you get up and move around, you can do so.

When the app is running, you will see the green workout icon. The app will run in the background and continue to log your steps and distance, as well as notifying you of Pokemon and Pokestops. It's also good to check to see whether the app has crashed and you need to restart it.

Pro: Quick Launch and Egg Progress is Motivating to Get Moving

Seeing the complication on your watch face can be very motivating. You want to continue your progress towards Buddy candy and egg hatching and it's only a tap away. Why not get up and start moving now?

Pokemon Plus or Apple Watch App?

Pokemon Go Plus Accessory
Pokemon Go Plus Accessory. Courtesy of Amazon.com

What are the advantages of the watch app compared with the Pokemon Go Plus accessory?​

The Pokemon Go Plus accessory allows you to collect Pokestop items and attempt to catch Pokemon simply by pressing the button. The watch app only allows you collect items from the watch. If you want to catch Pokemon with your phone safely in your pocket, you need the Plus accessory.

You need to launch the Pokemon Go phone app to use the Plus accessory, although the phone app can be sent to the background once launched. With the watch app, there is no need to launch the phone app.

You don't know which Pokemon you are tossing Pokeballs at with the Plus accessory and you are only using the lowest power of balls. If you'd prefer to be selective, the watch app shows you which Pokemon are in range and you can decide whether you want to take out your phone to catch them.

The Plus accessory uses your phone GPS to determine distance for egg hatching and Buddy candy, so treadmill steps don't count. It is more forgiving about backtracking than the phone app, so you get more distance credit using it than just using the phone app. But if you want every step to count, the watch app is superior.

The Apple Watch app is available for free, while the Plus accessory must be purchased and there has been limited availability.

Biggest Drawback of the Pokemon Go Apple Watch App

Apple Watch Battery Screen
Apple Watch Battery Screen. Wendy Bumgardner ©

Keeping a Pokemon Go workout running for an hour can drain your battery as much as 30 percent, even with the heart rate detector off. It will be worse if the heart rate detector is enabled. You will have to decide whether this is acceptable.

Things You Can't Do from the Apple Watch App

You'll still have to open the phone app to do these things:

  • Catch, evolve, or transfer Pokemon
  • Use a Lure, Incense, Lucky Egg, Revives, Potions
  • Gym training, battles, placing Pokemon in gyms
  • Buy items from the Shop or collect candy rewards

Biggest Advantages of the Pokemon Go Apple Watch App

Pokemon Go Apple Watch Workout Summary
Pokemon Go Apple Watch Workout Summary. Wendy Bumgardner ©

What makes the Apple Watch app a game-changer for Pokemon Go?

Counting Your Treadmill and Workout Steps

Now you can log distance for treadmill and indoor walking, even if it's just circling the room. Sneaky folks can even find ways to log indoor cycling as steps by attaching their Apple Watch to an ankle or shoelaces. You may be more motivated to hit the gym with some of your steps being counted in the game.

No GPS, No Problem

If you've had difficulty getting GPS distance to register on your phone due to being in a building or a canyon, the Apple Watch app will record it. It should also record distance in areas where you don't have cell service. Previously, those hikes in the wilderness were simply not able to be recorded by the Pokemon Go phone app.

Keep Your Hands Warm on Outdoor Walks

While the Plus accessory is best and can be operated while wearing gloves, the watch app also lets you keep your hands in your gloves while out walking in the cold. That is, until you come to a Pokestop or want to catch a Pokemon.

Go forth and hatch those eggs and earn that Buddy candy! It might even be enough to convince you to buy an Apple Watch if you've been on the fence.

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