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Review of Pokemon Go for Apple Watch (and troubleshooting tips)

pokemon go icon

The surprising truth I found was that the Apple Watch version of Pokemon Go is an excellent complement to both the main Pokemon Go app on the iPhone, but also to the Pokemon Go Plus device.

The developers were wise in that they planned it all very carefully so that the app, the Go Plus, and the Watch app all contributed to the fun of the game experience, but all in slightly different ways and all in ways that you didn’t feel like you were missing anything if you didn’t have any given device, but enjoyed the game all the more if you did.

Put another way, they didn’t attempt to make all three do the same thing (for example, you can’t catch Pokemon on the Watch app), but rather understood what unique capabilities each device had and developed around that.

The best way I can describe the Apple Watch app is that it’s like a basic “workout app”, but in addition to tracking things like steps, distance, time, and calories, you’re also tracking Pokemon Go specific metrics, such as how many items you picked up during this workout and how much progress you’ve made towards hatching your eggs and walking your buddy.

The huge advantage the Watch app provides that you can’t get with the phone app or the Go Plus device is that it allows you to track your distance indoors. In other words,  the Watch app doesn’t use GPS to gauge your distance traveled, but rather uses your watch’s pedometer to measure your steps walked. So if you run on a treadmill indoors, now you’ll get “credit” for your workout. This is great news for my wife, as now I’ll have incentive not just to run errands outside our apartment complex, but also taking out the trash and carting large junk within the building–activities which previously would have earned me nothing in Pokemon Go.

And if you’re a long-time Nutwiisystem, PS3 Fitness, or Xbox Fitness fan, you can breathe new life into games where you move your hands like Wii Sports Boxing, Exerbeat, Walk It Out, Just Dance, The Fight: Lights Out, Kung Fu for Kinect, and all the other games we’ve grown to love so much over the years by getting Pokemon Go “credit” for playing them.

I should point out that reports out there have been mixed as to how much “credit” you really receive. I’ll provide more details in the FAQs below on how to maximize your chances of receiving full credit for all your workouts.

You don’t need to do anything to install Pokemon Go on your watch–if you have the app on your phone you’ll see the icon on your Watch’s app launcher.

pokemon go icon on apple watch

The app isn’t an “always on” type of app, but really designed to be used specifically in conjunction with workouts that have a discrete start and end. When you open the app you’ll see your name, your avatar’s face, your level, and the egg in your collection that’s the closest to incubating. You’ll also see a big green “Start” button. Click it to start tracking your steps.

opening screen of watchos pokemon go

From there, you’ll see a screen that lists the kilometers you’ve walked (again, this is based on your steps, not on the GPS), the elapsed time, and a toggle between the steps you’ve taken and the calories you’ve burned. You’ll also be able to see the nearby Pokemon, although as I mentioned above you won’t be able to catch them from the app–for that you’ll need to take out your phone or use a Pokemon Go Plus.

main screen of pokemon go app for apple watch

You have the option of getting alerted every time you pass a Pokestop or a new Pokemon. Unlike Pokemons, you can interact with a Pokestop by spinning it just like you do on your phone, and you’ll see the items you’ve collected.

spinning pokestop on apple watch

You can also see a screen that shows all the eggs you’re currently incubating and the progress you’ve made on each.

eggs on apple watch

When your workout is over you can scroll to the screen with a big red X. Once you do you’ll see a summary of your workout, including your total distance, total time elapsed, active calories burned, number of steps taken, and items you’ve collected from Pokestops during your workout.

workout over on apple watch

You can also install the Pokemon Go complication, which will show you a green workout icon if the app is tracking your steps in the background, as well as the progress towards your egg hatching.

The theory, the Watch App is fantastic and if it consistently worked 100% the way I’d expect it to, it’d easily get 5 out of 5 stars from me as a review. But as of right now, my experiences have been way too

In all honesty, my own experiences with the Apple Watch have been mixed, and looking at some of the comments on reddit and other forums, there are a lot of complaints about the watch app.

The first step in troubleshooting is to make sure of a few things:

  1. Do you have the latest, most up-to-date version of the Pokemon Go app on your Apple Watch?
  2. Go to the “Health” app on your phone and then click “Sources”. Is Pokemon Go listed as one of them? If so, click in. Are all categories turned on?
  3. When you installed the game, did you allow permissions to always track location in the background and did you give full access to Motion & Fitness (if not, either uninstall and reinstall the apps or go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and Settings > Privacy > Motion & Fitness)

If you’ve confirmed this, I’ve compiled a list of Q&As that may help you in further troubleshooting.

Why do I keep getting the message “Open Pokemon GO on your iPhone” on my Watch app?

If you keep getting this annoying screen…

open pokemon go on your iphone

is your phone connected to your apple watch via bluetooth…your watch and your iPhone may have lost its Bluetooth connection. To check your connection, go to the watch face (your clock screen) and swipe up. On the top of the screen should you should see the word “Connected” in green and a small green phone icon to the right. In some cases, this will happen because you put the phone on airplane mode or you walked too far from your phone.

It’s also possible that your phone lost its Internet connection. It might take a little longer, but you can see the same result.

One annoyance is that I’ve found that even when the Bluetooth or Internet connection is lost even temporary (even for a split second such as when your phone switches between Wifi and cellular data or your phone’s Bluetooth hiccups), the entire app will reset. This can get really, really annoying, especially since you typically lose whatever progress in terms of steps and kilometers you’ve made on your watch that hasn’t been “credited” to your buddy or your egg.

Why does the Watch app keep quitting (either showing me the Summary of my completed workout, even though I didn’t tell it to stop, or just going back to the Start screen with all my progress reset?
blank pokemon go on apple watch

Another annoyance occurs when you’re working out and suddenly the app seems to reset. In some cases it blanks out (such as the screen to your right), and in other cases it’ll show a Summary of your “completed” workout even though you didn’t ask it to complete.

Again, likely that either your Bluetooth or your Internet connection got interrupted, even for a moment. Sometimes when you re-establish your connections things will come back, but worst case scenario you’ll need to reset everything and start from scratch.

To do that, try force-closing the Pokemon Go app on your phone (double-click the home button and swipe the Pokemon Go app up), force-closing the app on your watch (with the Pokemon Go app open, press and hold the power button until “Power Off” appears, and then press and hold the digital crown until you get to the main screen). Double-check that you have a steady Bluetooth and Internet connection. Then, open the iPhone app first, let it load all the way, and open the app on your watch. When you press the green “Start” Button again you should see your buddy and egg.

If you start seeing this happen a lot, you may need to take more drastic measures. Visit this Help page on Apple and scroll down to “Unpair your devices, then pair them again” section.

I have eggs incubating on my phone, and yet when I go to the egg screen I see “Start Egg Incubation on your iPhone” and the egg icon on the Watch app is greyed out
start egg incubation on your iphoneAgain, this is likely due to a break that happened in your Internet connection. The good news is that you haven’t lost any eggs–they’re still intact on your phone. The bad news, again, is that whatever workout you’ve done to that point on the watch is probably lost.
I find myself glancing at my watch from time to time just to make sure my connection is still active and the app is still tracking my steps, an annoyance to be sure, but a necessary one at this point until they make the app a little more stable.
The best thing, of course, is to make sure you have a strong, steady Internet connection that isn’t easily broken, even for a split second.

Why do I seem to get credit for steps, but they don’t get transferred to my buddy or my egg?

This one is probably the most frustrating about this app. I’ve found that results are really, really inconsistent. In my testing, there are times my egg and buddy distances update almost immediately and accurately, but other times the step counter will report multiple kilometers walked, but only a fraction will be reflected in the egg and buddy distances.

With the annoyances of the app not dealing will with lost connections, crashes, and the inconsistencies in distance tracking, for now I’d drop my rating of the Apple Watch app to about a 3/5. I’ll still plan on wearing it, especially when indoors, but I’ll make a point to set my expectation very, very low. Hopefully Niantic is working on shoring up the app, because like I said it’s a great concept that just needs to be executed better.

What’s the difference between Pokemon Go app for the Apple Watch and the Pokemon Go Plus handheld device?

Here’s a chart that lays out the differences between the two:

Pokemon Go for Apple Watch Pokemon Go Plus
Best use Workouts, indoor or outdoor Walking outdoors or driving/biking under 20 MPH
Does Pokemon GO on iPhone need to be on? Yes, at least when starting and ending workouts. No (although certain apps such as Candy Crush or Camera will prevent Pokemon Go from running in the background)
Notifies you of nearby Pokestops? Yes Yes
Notifies you of nearby Pokemon? Yes Yes
Identifies nearby Pokemon? Yes No
Allows you to spin nearby Pokestops? Yes Yes
Allows you to catch nearby Pokemon? No Yes (only one regular Pokeball throw)
Tracks distance using Steps Phone GPS
Key benefit to egg and buddy distance calculation: At least partially credits you with steps taken indoors (e.g. on a treadmill) Allows you to use other apps on your phone while tracking distance happens in the background

 

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