May 23, 2024

Byte Class Technology

Byte Class Technology & Sports Update

Upgrade Your Apple Watch | Best Apple Watch Accessories 2023

Upgrade Your Apple Watch | Best Apple Watch Accessories 2023

An Apple Watch places your most important daily tasks and notifications on your wrist. With a tap, you can respond to messages, track workouts, and browse social media without reaching for your iPhone. Some people even play games or watch YouTube on their watches. But despite all of this smartwatch’s features, there’s still so much it can’t do—it doesn’t have a camera. That’s where the Apple Watch accessories below come in handy. These are the best gadgets we’ve tested to add new skills to the popular smartwatch. From transforming the wearable into a wrist-mounted action camera to a stylish alarm clock, here’s how to squeeze even more functionality out of your Apple Watch.

WristCam

Take Photos

Wristcam Smart Dual-Camera Band

Smart Dual-Camera Band

Take Photos

Wristcam Smart Dual-Camera Band

Key Specs

Camera Resolution 8 MP Photos, 1080p HD Video
Storage 8 GB
Water Resistance IPX68
Weight 22 Grams

WristCam is a silicone sport band that adds two action cameras to your Apple Watch; a rear-facing camera that shoots stills at 8 megapixels (MP) or HD video at 1080p, and a 2MP front-facing camera for selfies. It replaces the stock band but feels equally as comfortable against your skin without adding much bulk. That’s an impressive feat for a gadget housing a standalone battery and 8GB of storage. While the WristCam isn’t an official Apple product, its style and seamless operation feels like a natural extension of the Apple Watch without impacting either its battery life or memory.

wristcam smart dual camera band for apple watch on hunters wrist

Trevor Raab

After installing the WristCam app you can start a recording through either a press of a physical function button located on the band itself or through a digital shortcut built into the included Watch face. This automatically pops open a live viewfinder on your Apple Watch’s screen so that you can see exactly what you’re capturing and switch between aspect ratios (1:1, 4:3, 16:9, and 9:16). I often switch between vertical video (9:16) for nabbing quick social media stories but prefer widescreen (16:9) for capturing memories like a trip. The default wide-angle works well for action shots, like when running or riding a bike, but I occasionally needed to lift and aim my arm in awkward positions to capture everything I wanted. Having a camera on standby to quickly snap a picture or video is incredibly handy. Plus the 8GB of internal storage is enough for a full hour of HD video or a thousand pictures. Each time you connect your WristCam to its charger, your images are wirelessly synced up to your phone to free up the band’s onboard memory.

 

preview for Popular Mechanics All Sections

The rear camera is sharp and reproduces accurate colors in content recorded during the day. While the thick stabilizing wedge on the back half of the band takes some getting used to, it helps to keep footage looking smooth as you move. This made it easy for me to quickly snap blur-free shots of local monuments as I walked past them. Even a video captured on the weaker front-facing camera during the last lap of a jog was perfectly usable despite my shaky arms.

Of course, the 2MP camera doesn’t keep up with a front facing camera of a newer iPhone, which has larger sensors and higher resolution. You can see the quality difference in the photos below. That said, the WristCam does a heck of a job and even retains little details like the stray bristles of my beard and the window frames, which aren’t obscured or blown out by the direct sunlight behind them.

selife of hunter taken on the iphone 13 pros front facing camera

Selfie taken on the iPhone 13 Pro’s front-facing camera. 

Hunter Fenollol
seflie of hunter taken on the wristcams front facing camera

Selfie taken on the WristCam’s front-facing camera.

Hunter Fenollol

The low-light performance isn’t great because of the small sensors and a lack of flash—darker shots look grainy. Plus, battery life is wildly fluctuating. For example, on days where I took dozens of photos and even some quick 15 second videos, it lasted for up to five hours. But while continuously recording from a full charge, the band died just shy of one hour. That would be fine if it supported quick charging, but it takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to top off a completely drained battery. I recommend it as a supplement to your phone—saving it for getting quick shots or for recording an activity from a unique angle only possible from a wearable action camera.

NightWatch

Dock Into A Clock

NightWatch Nightstand Charging Station

Nightstand Charging Station

Dock Into A Clock

NightWatch Nightstand Charging Station

Key Specs

Material Lucite Glass
Weight 1.25 pounds
Ports Apple Watch charger, cable management

Three things are certain in this life: death, taxes, and an Apple Watch dies after 18 hours. While other smartwatches can last as long as one full month from a single charge, you’re lucky if your Apple Watch makes it to bedtime. The NightWatch charging dock is an essential investment if you juice yours up while you sleep. This hand-polished glass sphere props up your watch in Nightstand mode, magnifies the screen, and amplifies its sound to transform your Apple Watch into a stylish bedside alarm clock.

Setting up the NighWatch takes just under a minute—the original Apple Watch charger fits into a circular cutout on the backside of the glass. Push you Watch through an opening on the side of the sphere until its screen reaches the center of the glass and the backside makes contact with the charger to activate Nightstand mode. The rounded glass enlarges the screen’s display. With my head laying on a pillow three feet away the Apple Watch’s alarm chime sounds nearly twice as loud when placed within this gadget than it does on its own.

nightwatch nightstand charging station

Trevor Raab

Nightstand mode works on a tap to wake basis. This means that the screen stays off until you give it a nudge, then it briefly displays the clock for a few seconds before going blank again. Since the NightWatch’s glass construction can sense touch it’s easy to turn on the screen or snooze an alarm with a quick press anywhere on the sphere. This is a huge advantage over standard alarm clocks that remain illuminated throughout the night.

I no longer rely on my phone to wake me up in the morning, so I’ve started charging it in my kitchen instead. This has done wonders for my mood and sleep schedule. Who would’ve thunk doom-scrolling Twitter before bed and first thing in the morning would have such a negative impact on my worldview?

Catalyst Total Protection Case

Dive Deeper

Catalyst Total Protection Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8

Total Protection Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8

Dive Deeper

Catalyst Total Protection Case for Apple Watch Series 7/8

Key Specs

Level of Waterproofing IP68 (330ft/100m)
Shock Protection Rating MIL-STD-810G (6.6ft/2m)
Screen Guard Raised Bezels

If you’re drawn to the ruggedness of the Apple Watch Ultra but turned off by its $800 price tag, this Catalyst case is worth a look. It effectively lets you dive twice as deep—to 330 feet—adds a layer of shock protection, and guards its ports from exposure to the elements. Above all else, the silicone loop band is soft and breathable to the point that it’s easy to forget you’re wearing tank-level shielding on your wrist. This opens the door for using your watch for more extreme outdoor activities without worry.

To Apple’s credit, the Apple Watch’s sapphire glass is insanely tough. Even my ancient Series 3 survived a low-side motorcycle crash with just a few surface scratches. But as accessories have improved over the years, I’ve cycled through nearly a dozen cases to find top-notch protection that looks and feels good for long periods of time. Not many check those boxes. While I’ve found models that come close, like this well-rounded case from Spigen, the upgraded Catalyst offers superior shock resistance and the deeper diving depth that effectively changes where and how you can use your Apple Watch. I’ve repeatedly dropped the watch onto concrete and wooden floors to test structural integrity of the band, yet there’s no visible blemishes on the case or watch itself. Its even spent a handful of 30 minute sessions submerged in a bucket of water—each time our tester Series 7 came back bone dry.

catalyst total protection case breakdown and look on wrist

Trevor Raab

As you can see in the photos above, the Catalyst offers multiple fail-safes starting from the initial silicon layer that encases the watch to seal out water. That clicks into a rugged polycarbonate shell, which keeps your sensors, charger, and buttons easily accessible. One thing that really stands out about this case is its button extenders which make the watch’s physical controls easier to click.

Otterbox 2-in-1 Power Bank With Apple Watch Charger

Portable Power

OtterBox 2-in-1 Power Bank with Apple Watch Charger

2-in-1 Power Bank with Apple Watch Charger

Portable Power

OtterBox 2-in-1 Power Bank with Apple Watch Charger

Key Specs

Capacity 3,000 mAh lithium-ion battery
Material Premium metallic finish (scratch and fingerprint resistant)
Weight 0.4 pounds

Otterbox’s 3,000 mAh portable power bank has two charging points; a USB-C port on its backside and a magnetic Apple Watch charging puck embedded at the top of it. This lets you charge your phone (or other USB-C device like a tablet) and Apple Watch at the same time. While I’m a sucker for the versatility, the real draw is the gadget’s compact size—it’s roughly as big as a pocket knife making it easy to carry.

Although it’s capacity is much less than an average power bank—10,000 mAh—I find it’s much more convenient to quickly juice up my iPhone or tablet during flights or train rides. From a full charge it can provide a dead iPhone 13 Pro Max up to 50 percent of battery. Strictly using it for charging your Apple Watch yields four complete charges. I’ve used mine daily over the past three months and am quite impressed with how tough it is—this thing has taken beatings from the sharp edges of charger prongs, keys, and even a boxcutter inside my backpack and pockets. Yet it still looks good as new thanks to a scratch- and fingerprint-resistant aluminum construction.

otterbox 2 in 1 power bank with apple watch charger

Trevor Raab

Most generic Apple Watch chargers I’ve tested in the past have run hot and the charging speeds slow down after a few minutes. This one runs cool to the touch, even after a few hours of use. Plus it supports fast charging on both iPhone and newer Apple Watches to extend their battery lives by hours with just 30 minutes of charge time.

Aura Band 2

Extensive Health Insights

AURA Band Strap 2

Strap 2

Extensive Health Insights

AURA Band Strap 2

Key Specs

Sensors Bioelectrical impedance analysis
Measurements Fat, muscle, and water levels
Band Stretchable silicone loop

Health tracking is one of the biggest selling points for an Apple Watch. The latest models monitor vitals like heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and even body temperature. But it still lacks built-in sensors for deeper insights into your body composition (such as hydration and body fat levels) from your wrist. The Aura Band 2 is a replacement band that uses Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA). This technology, often used in smart scales, works by sending a low electric current through your body to measure the resistance which reveals water and fat percentage.

Aura’s one-piece design stretches over your wrist so there are no buckles or clasps to deal with. I find that its thinner and more comfortable to wear than the original band, but there is a tiny textured metal plate that rests gently against your wrist. This addition to the bottom of the band reads data directly from your skin. To trigger a reading, you just need to select the start button from the app and cross your arms to touch the backside of this plate’s stainless steel contacts against your opposite palm, forming a circuit, then hold still for 30 seconds. The Aura watch and phone apps will display your health data along with a detailed breakdown of each metric. After your first reading, you can create body goals such as adding lean mass or cutting fat. The app then provides advanced insights on how to make progress, such as cutting food calories and groups within them by a percentage, or extending training durations.

aura band strap 2

Trevor Raab

While the stats are easy to read and the accompanying graphs provide a good visual breakdown, I recommend that you take two readings back-to-back for the best accuracy. I’ve spent the past month comparing my body composition levels (visceral fat, water percentage, and muscle) calculated by the band against this smart scale which analyzes the same data through the legs. Both measurements are taken at the same time every morning (8:15 am). While the scale will give me the same exact reading each time I step on it, the band’s initial results are often a percentage or two off. A secondary test matches the accuracy of the scale’s readings. Despite this one hiccup it beats using a separate caliper to measure fat, plus it tracks water fluctuations throughout the day. If you want to turn your Apple Watch into the ultimate health tracker, no other add-on is as feature-rich.

Headshot of Hunter Fenollol

Hunter Fenollol, our resident expert of all things consumer tech, from smart home to VR gaming headsets, has years of knowledge creating product explainers, in-depth reviews, and buying guides to help you get the most from the latest electronics. Throughout college, he covered and reviewed the latest gadget releases for sites like Tom’s Guide, Laptop Magazine, and CNN Underscored. If he’s not elbow-deep in the latest hardware, you can find Hunter at one of Long Island’s many beaches, in Manhattan, or gambling away his paycheck.