Poll: should Apple allow third-party Watch faces?

Apple Watch Three Second face

Apple touts rich personalization through custom faces as one of the cornerstones of its wearable device, but not everyone agrees. Skimming through your comments paints quite a different picture as tinkerers and jailbreakers alike are clearly big on the idea of third-party faces for the Apple Watch.

As much as built-in ones are customizable with tint colors and complications, surely official Twitter or Facebook faces that showed current status, photos and what not would have been much appreciated, am I right?

As third-party faces development is a highly polarizing issue among the Apple faithful, we’re curious to hear your position on the matter.

So, should Apple deliver?

Cast your vote below.

On one hand, the official App Store Review Guidelines don’t explicitly prohibit third-party faces. On the other, Apple Watch User Guide indicates that additional first-party faces may arrive by way of software updates.

“Apple Watch includes a variety of watch faces, any of which you can customize to suit you,” reads the document. “Check frequently for software updates; the set of watch faces that follows might differ from what you see on your Apple Watch.”

While I’m inclined to think that third-party faces development is a matter of company policy, not technology, I’m not counting on actually seeing these before native Watch apps start hitting later this year.

As many times before, it’s about controlling platform experience.

Apple Watch Clock teaser 002

Having downloadable faces would fly in the face of that while potentially confusing normals outside the tech bubble with non-Apple-y user interfaces.

As reader Luke O’ Sullivan put it two days ago:

The Apple Watch is a new device and a lot of people won’t have seen one in person yet. Apple wants everyones first impressions to be under their control when they see it on someone else’s wrist.

They want everyone to see Apple-designed software running on the Watch rather than custom faces that it considers may be less impressive, or worse, not Apple-like.

He’s making a lot of sense, especially in light of the insane attention to detail that went into designing stock faces, which Wired so extensively detailed in its fascinating write-up.

When you think of it, who’s to say Apple doesn’t deserve some ownership over the device, at least for now?

Daring Fireball’s John Gruber opined that there is no way to set up a watch face that is ugly, or that doesn’t look very Apple-Watch-y.

“Even the Mickey face looks like an Apple Watch Mickey face, because of the San Francisco font on the hour markers and the complications,” he wrote. “That is by design, and I don’t see that changing.”

Speaking of which, the stock Mickey Mouse face no doubt came to be through a partnership with Disney.

Apple Watch flying 002

Another thing to consider: potential ramifications stemming from the App Store review team dealing with licensing issues if a developer created, say, a custom Rolex face without approval from that watchmaker.

Remember the Montaine Swiss Railway clock design mini-scandal?

Which brings me to my next point: Apple may change its stance and start allowing downloadable faces after the full Watch SDK ships later this year. And if I were a betting man, I’d wagger that we’d first see branded faces realized through cherry-picked partners such as, say, Ferrari, before Apple opened them up to its army of developers.

For what it’s worth, Google does screen and reject plagiarized faces for Android Wear smartwatches from the Play Store. And if comments on Apple blogs are anything to go by, the rewards in allowing downloadable faces would far outweigh any concerns.

At the end of the day, things could play out just like the early days of the App Store.

The App Store debuted in the summer of 2008, a year following June 2007 release of the original iPhone, but required the second-generation iPhone as a cunningly devised incentive for existing users to upgrade.

As John Gruber summarized, third-party faces “would be like third-party apps were for the iPhone — something that wasn’t there at the launch, but which came sooner rather than later.”


Are you concerned that the Watch limits you to ten Apple-designed faces? And if so, will Apple eventually relent and ease up on these issues, do you think?

After all, not that long ago people had thought Apple would have never permitted widgets into the iOS Notification Center. Heck, Apple for years did not allow apps that mirrored stock functionality like Calendar, Contacts, Reminders and so forth, but now the App Store is packed to the gills with them.

If you were standing in Apple’s shoes, what would you do?