Don’t hold your breath for third-party Apple Watch faces

In a new CNET interview, Apple execs Alan Dye, Apple’s vice president of interface design, and Stan Ng, its vice president of product marketing, discuss what influenced the design of the Apple Watch Series 7, including whether third-party Apple Watch face would be coming any time soon.

Apple Watch Series 7 is available in three materials: titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum.
Apple Watch Series 7 is available in three materials: titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum.

Scott Stein for CNET:

The way the display seems to curve around the glass of the Series 7 gives a similar effect to looking into a watch crystal, a design idea that was intentional. “This refractive edge creates this very subtle wraparound effect. And it makes the screen appear to bend downward, right toward the watch housing,” says Ng. “Really, it’s an optical effect, it’s due to the way the light from the OLED refracts at the edges of the front crystal. We redesigned that crystal to be more of a dome shape, which also contributed to the thicker crystal and the greater durability. So it was kind of a twofer for both.”

That domed effect and wraparound quality were what sparked Apple to rethink some watch face designs. “Once we started to play with this new crystal and the display, that’s where all those subtle design decisions were made to push those ticks out to the very edge of the display to highlight some of these effects,” says Dye.

But what Apple hasn’t introduced yet, despite partnerships with companies like Nike and Hermes on individually branded Apple Watches, is a watch face store.

I asked about that, but it still doesn’t seem like part of any immediate future plans. “As critical as the hardware is at playing the role distinguishing Apple Watch as Apple Watch, we think the watch faces play a pretty big role there as well, which is why we’ve been so careful over the years, despite the fact that there’s wide variety, to have a lot of consistent design elements,” says Dye. “If you look closely, the watch hands are always drawn exactly the same way, despite the fact that they show up in different colors. We think we struck a really good balance. The watch faces themselves, they provide a canvas for third parties for sure, and a template that they can [use to] create multiple complications and turn a watch face into their watch face, and that becomes the interface in some ways for their application.”

MacDailyNews Take: We imagine an Apple app for macOS, iPadOS, and iOS that would allow users to design their own custom Apple Watch faces would prove to be quite popular.

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  1. I agree with MDN’s comment. I’d enjoy choosing some alternative watch faces and I’m pretty sure many owners would as well. Some might enjoy a Rolex or Omega style face. Some creative artistry might well bring some very cool looking or highly functional looks we can’t even imagine yet. I’d pay for an app that enabled me to shop a variety of new face providers.

  2. I think that what Apple fears is that someone will make a watch face that’s Apple would think will affect their corporate image. They won’t admit to something like that though.

    As far as the hands all being the same shape, we’ll, it’s always bothered me that I can’t pick different hands. It’s bland that every face has the same hands—except for the Micky and Minnie Mouse faces, where the hands are actually their gloved hands.

  3. Well I’ve already changed the face of my watch to that of my beloved….except for the one that isn’t her face….(which I show it to her and say ‘it’s time for some _____!)

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