Wednesday, October 10, 2018 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Why Apple Doesn’t Allow Custom Watch Faces

Marco Arment:

It’s great for Apple to offer a wide variety of Apple Watch faces, but most of them are short-lived novelties at best. We’re three years and four generations into the Apple Watch, and almost every Watch owner I know still uses the same handful of “good” faces.

If you want digital time with a good deal of complications, Modular is your only good choice (or Infograph Modular on the Series 4). If you want analog time with numerals, Utility is the only good option. If you want indices instead of numerals — probably the most popular analog watch style in the world — I don’t think there is a good option.

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And we’re restricted to the handful of good watch faces that Apple makes, because other developers aren’t allowed to make custom Watch faces.

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In a time when personal expression and innovation in watch fashion should be booming, they’re instead being eroded, as everyone in the room is increasingly wearing the same watch with the same two faces.

Renaud Lienhart:

The simple reason why Apple doesn’t allow 3rd party watch faces: the vast majority of them would be copyright-infringing, trademark-stealing lookalikes of the mechanical watchmakers’ designs. Apple would be liable for allowing them and be drowning in lawsuits in no time.

Charles Arthur:

think Apple is wary. Got sued over Swiss clock design ripoff in iOS 6, which is a LONG time ago. Clearly hurt. it’s all fine until you get stung for a ton of money.

Jean-Louis Gassée:

True: Rolex, Omega, Patek value their “trade dress”. Recognizable, intended to say something about the wearer.

Marco Arment:

I’ve gotten this theory a lot, and it’s absolutely a valid concern.

But they already have people submitting copyright and trademark violations all the time at a much higher volume, and a process for dealing with them, with the App Store.

Update (2018-10-11): Steve Troughton-Smith:

As so many people were asking, I put my sample Apple Watch ‘face’ project on GitHub. If you want to use this as a jumping off point to prototype your own Watch faces, go nuts!

Update (2018-10-26): Uluroo:

Apple calls the Watch its most personal device ever. What a recent surge of enthusiasm — led by Marco Arment and Steve Troughton-Smith — has been all about is simple: this personal device is missing personalization in the most important, most powerful, most obvious way possible.

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For an upheaval akin to the App Store to occur on the Apple Watch, the device’s key interaction point needs to be opened up, just as the iPhone’s was. And that brings us to what everyone has been begging Apple to allow since the inception of the device: third-party watch faces.

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Lots of major developers have been dropping out of the Watch’s App Store; this would send them running back. Uluroo would bet money that there were some ideas for Apple Watch experiences that got scrapped because they made more sense as a watch face than as an app.

5 Comments

They could make a whole separate store just for faces or a very prominent different area.
Then make it by invitation only and invite prominent designers and big brands first.
Have clear guidelines and requirements.
After a while they could make an application process when they pre-screen watch face designers first, before even considering their actual design submissions.

I think this is a good point: https://twitter.com/agilethumbs/status/1049757796277743616

Apple is entirely protected from liability by DMCA. All they have to do is have a copyright takedown mechanism. Those slowly dying Swiss watch makers would be very happy to sell their watch faces to customers through the App Store.

It's not like the App Store isn't full of copyright-infringing apps. Why would this be such a huge issue?

Also, it's not an issue for Android watches.

@Lukas
Because the reason is always about Apple control and people are just reverse engineering an alternative reason to avoid facing the likely truth. Happens constantly with people who have teams/brands/people/political parties they self identify with. Of course this may seem cynical, but it seems to be all too common, in my experiences anyway.

I suspect that the impact of the Watch face on battery and user experience is too high for Apple to feel comfortable leaving them at the mercy of a third party app. And therefore, similar to owning and having control of the iPhone Home Screen, Apple wants to control the Watch face and doesn’t want to relinquish it.

My guess is that third party Watch faces are highly unlikely to happen anytime soon.

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