Marco Arment: It’s time for Apple to allow third parties to create Apple Watch faces

“Infograph suffers from two major issues,” Marco Arment writes for “The center complications reduce the contrast between the dial and hands, often making the hands hard to locate. This is avoidable with customization, although the defaults should be much more conservative. It takes too much cognitive effort (and therefore time) to distinguish the current hour. This is simply a flawed design.”

“Even with almost no complications, the basic essence of the Infograph dial has poor time legibility,” Arment writes. “When it’s being used as Apple seems to intend, time-telling at a glance is so difficult that many people have actually suggested setting the digital time as the center complication, at which point the hands are just a nuisance and we should stop pretending it’s an analog face.”

“By now, we’ve seen Apple’s design range that they’re willing to ship as Watch faces, and while it seems broad at first glance, it’s actually pretty narrow,” Arment writes. “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.”

“The Apple Watch is an amazing feat of technology. It’s a computer. It can display anything. With no mechanical or physical limitations to hold us back, any watch-face design from anyone could plausibly be built, enabling a range of creativity, style, and usefulness that no single company could ever design on its own,” Arment writes. “But they won’t let us. 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. Open this door, Apple.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: You’d think that Apple, of all companies, masters of UI/UX design, would be able to come up with great watch faces or, at the very least, would have hired some top-flight designers from traditional watch makers to do the job.

Failing on both of those counts, Apple should have opened Apple Watch faces to third parties long ago.

This is why we use the Nike+ Digital on all of our watches. It’s the only one (besides Modular) that works at a glance and lets us have (barely) enough complications on the face. Apple offers tens of faces, but we’d only consider ever using two or three of them (Siri watch face, maybe) on a regular basis.


  1. What they should also do is create a round watch. I know the current rectangle shape fits a device-style mien but they call it a watch and the most common design is a round face – just like the new Apple Campus.

    1. How many times do we have to explain the problems not to mention naffness of this ill conceived idea when it should in all honesty be self Explanatory. Not to mention the depression in hearing someone say that Apple should do it the traditional way because that’s what others are doing. Now how does the parody go, if Steve were alive today he would be turning in his grave. Tell you what why not use Android because that’s what others do or make fridges because that’s what Samsung does? The whole reason you see so many round digital watches is purely because they simply can’t compete with Apples watch so try to offer something different where they don’t need a usefully shaped screen doing useful things and instead use an unsuitable shape where physically you won’t be able to expect too much functionality.

      1. But but… round faces look good!
        Not that I’m fussed as what I would like on my Watch is a revamped 1950s-era Ingersoll design that featured space pilot Dan Dare, his moving hand holding a paralyser gun, taking aim at an alien critter.

  2. An analog face is not really compatible with a mountain of complications. Analogs are designed to be looked at longer than a digital time. It provides not only the time past the hour, but also the time until the next hour. Complication are for corners of the Watch, maybe with small, faint dates or alert symbols in the center. Personally I believe the analog face should be designed for fast glances when driving at 70 MPH on a busy highway. Sort of like don’t text while driving.

    1. Right. I guess you’re one of the people who thinks “America” doesn’t include a significant portion of Americans. You are against Nike because apparently you don’t think their lives matter?

  3. I think the round face would be just dumb, you’d lose a slew of display space just because you want it round…

    I also think that the Infograph watch face works, I find MDN jumping on the I don’t like it because Marco doesn’t a little disingenuous, this isn’t Apple, etc etc, They need to learn how to figure it out for themselves.. and write about it for themselves if they don’t like it..

  4. I’m sure part of the consideration is ownership of design. If someone were to copy Rolex, Breitling or even some Swiss rail company clock, I’m sure Apple would have a lawsuit on their hands.

    1. We just have to look at the success and incredible customization of the Pebble smartwatch from a few years back (before they got bought by FitBit). Literally anyone could develop and share watch faces, including some pretty sophisticated time animations. The bulk were grey-scale, but there was lots of movement on color faces as well. I loved my Pebble!

  5. Apple is way too controlling to allow that…

    But it would be great if they did..
    Most of the present watch faces are very bla!
    And uncrearitve.. both visually and functionally..

  6. The big problem I have with Apple’s control of watch faces is that it pushes Apple’s agenda. For example, a gay-oriented watch face. Now I don’t have a problem with some LGBT types getting a watch face from Apple, more power to them. However, I don’t feel like promoting the gay lifestyle on my wrist (no problem, I won’t use that watch face). However, there are some causes I would like to promote. Apple doesn’t give me the opportunity. I only get Apple’s choices in this matter.

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