Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Still No Custom Apple Watch Faces

Benjamin Mayo (MacRumors):

Asked about the possibility of third-party watch faces on Apple Watch, Lynch says that the watch face is the home screen of the watch and they want everything to work reliably and consistently.

As Apple controls all the faces the user can choose, Caldbeck adds that users “don’t have to worry about the watch face still working when there’s a major watchOS update. We’ll take care of that.”


If third-party faces were available, Apple argues it wouldn’t be able to ensure that the watch faces keep working if they change something in the operating system, like this year’s watchOS 10 redesign that includes a new swipe up gesture to reveal a tray of user-selectable widgets.

This explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.


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The obvious and straightforward accommodation would be to simply only allow to run those faces that are built with the current SDK (and revert to a system one, if need be, after an upgrade).

@Ben It’s not clear to me why a custom face is more risky than any other sort of custom view. There were full-screen iOS apps, and Apple added global gestures, and it was fine. Even if not, a face that’s broken for 1 week out of the year (assuming it wasn’t made compatible during the beta) is way better than having it unavailable for 52 weeks of the year because it’s not allowed. And, as you say, there are obvious ways to ensure compatibility if they actually wanted to make this work.

Kevin Schumacher

> There were full-screen iOS apps, and Apple added global gestures, and it was fine.

In Apple's (very weak) defense, there are still plenty of games and apps that have been updated since iPhone X was released but haven't gotten around to updating for this era to account for the notch, and are still at least partially broken due to the navigation grab bar or whatever it's called. And I tend to think that "novelty" things are much less likely to be updated (e.g. the spectacular failure of iMessage apps).

That said, you are correct there are ways to make sure it is not a problem that are not as draconian as the current solution.

"Custom watch faces could bring down cell phone towers."
-- Apple, 2015-present

(kidding--and for those who aren't old enough to get the joke, this is a reference to every cellular carrier claiming "bad [custom] apps could bring down cell phone towers", 2003-2007)

@nobody Steve Jobs: “Cingular doesn’t want to see their West Coast network go down because some application messed up.” Which, as the linked article makes clear, even at the time people did not take seriously as the real reason.

3rd party faces support is a highly requested feature, but most people would be satisfied if Apple allowed more customization to at least a few existing faces.

For example, selecting more fonts and symbols, size and color of all the elements, positioning, etc.

Apple can still have all the control and be able to ensure ongoing compatibility if people would have a "Lego" set of all available elements with their possible positions and assemble it as they like. And even go a step further, send it to Apple for approval and then sell or share them.

We, collective watch users, would get a lot farther if we were asking for that instead of begging for full 3rd party faces support.

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