While third-party watch faces have long been a common request from Apple Watch users, we haven’t seen anything like that as yet, not even in the upcoming watchOS 10 operating system.
In an interview with Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger (via 9to5Mac) published today, Apple’s VP of Technology Kevin Lynch, and product marketing employee Deidre Caldbeck explained why Apple won’t pull the trigger on third-party watch faces.
One of the main reasons third-party watches are a no-no is that Apple says it wouldn’t be able to ensure that the watch faces keep working if they change something in the operating system. For example, this year’s watchOS 10 redesign includes a new swipe-up gesture that reveals a tray of user-selectable widgets.
Lynch said Apple puts a “huge amount of effort” into every watch face to ensure they work “uniformly and simply,” and he said Apple needs to plan ahead to make sure watch faces continue to work “if we want to change something or add new possibilities.”
Caldbeck added that developers are allowed to create complications for their watchOS apps, allowing “glanceable” information to be displayed. A new feature in watchOS 10, the new Smart Stack widgets feature, provides space for up to three complications.
The Smart Stack feature provides widgets displaying timely information that can be revealed with a turn of the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown from any watch face. For instance, Weather shows the forecast. When you’re traveling, the Smart Stack will show your boarding passes from the Wallet app. Using Smart Stack, users can enjoy the watch face of their choice, while still providing quick access to information.
The executives don’t make any other comments about the lack of third-party watch faces during the interview.
While watchOS 10 doesn’t allow third-party watch faces, it does include two new watch faces from Apple: “Palette” and an animated “Peanuts” face with Snoopy and Woodstock. The Palette face shows the time in a wide variety of colors in three overlapping layers, and the colors on the display also shift as time changes. The Peanuts watch face features Snoopy and Woodstock, who interact and play with the watch hands, react to weather conditions, or become active when the user performs a workout.
World Clock now features background colors reflecting the time of day for different time zones.
The developer beta of watchOS 10 is now available to Apple Developer Program members at developer.apple.com. A public beta will be available to watchOS users in July at beta.apple.com. watchOS 10 will be available this fall as a free software update for Apple Watch Series 4 or later paired with iPhone Xs or later, running iOS 17.