watchOS 4 Astronomy Face STILL Doesn’t Display ‘Seconds’

2 minute read
| Editorial

Here we are in watchOS 4, and the Astronomy watch face still doesn’t display the full time with hours, minutes, and seconds.

watchOS 4 Astronomy face.

Astronomy face. No customization. No hh:mm:ss

It’s All About Time

Apple has done something like this before. It all started with the original iPad in 2010. Presumably to reach a full 10 hour battery life, Apple had to strip out many, many iOS daemons (processes). That included NTPd, which maintains accurate computer time. As a result, the clock on the original iPad, without periodic corrections, drifted badly because the quartz crystal used couldn’t maintain accurate time by itself. It would drift by about a second a day. After a few months, the error was grievous. Here’s what I wrote at the time.

Apple eventually fixed the problem with iOS 5 and the iPad 2.

What Time is it? Your iPad & iOS 5 Finally Knows (25 Oct 2011)

Say What Apple?

I can almost understand Apple’s obsession with meeting the original goal of 10 hour battery life. After all, if the product manager gave in on one daemon, other engineers would lobby for their own pet feature. That said, the iPad came to be used in many technical applications such as aviation, science and astronomy. A badly drifting clock was just not good form for this fabulous new tablet from Apple.

However, with the Apple Watch, we have a timepiece for goodness sake. There is no excuse for not having several watch faces to select from that have digital hh:mm:ss. (A sweep second hand doesn’t cut it.) When the Apple Watch first shipped, Apple CEO Tim Cook bragged about 50 millisecond accuracy. So it’s all there, within.

Astronomical Error

Especially abhorrent is that after all these versions of watchOS, now at watchOS 4, the Astronomy watch face still doesn’t have full hh:mm:ss.

In his review of watchOS 4, our Jeff Butts wrote:

John Martellaro has been crying out for Apple to add this, at least to the Astronomy Watch face, but it’s yet to happen. There is no seconds display in most of the Watch faces. Digital Activity provides the option, but none of the other digital Watch faces have it.

Just before the August 21 solar eclipse, an amateur astronomer wrote me and said that he really needed the full hh:mm:ss for his astrophotography. I pointed out that there remains just one face, not the Astronomy face, but the Activity face that includes the full digital seconds. So that’s proof the Apple Watch can do it if programmed.

watchOS 4 Activity face.

The Astronomy face should also have full hh:mm:ss.

I thought for sure watchOS 4 would attend to this small coding issue, but it has not. There are astronomers, pilots, researchers, technicians, military people and many others who need to know the time right to the second. It’s time :: cough :: to make this right for customers.

Tell Apple

If you agree, you can go to Apple’s Apple Watch feedback page and tell the company what you think about this serious omission. Apple listens to its customers.

3 Comments Add a comment

  1. Mike Weasner

    Just provided this feedback on the Apple page:

    “It is a very serious oversight for a timepiece to NOT show Hours, Minutes, and SECONDS on the watch face. I know that Apple can do it (the Activity clock face has it, but cluttered up with Activity rings). Now with WatchOS 4 it is well past time (pun intended) for Apple to provide HH:MM:SS in a digital form on Watch faces. Apple, the clock is ticking. Seconds DO count!”

    But as usual, Apple’s Feedback page is out-of-date. It only allows WatchOS 3.2.2 and NOT 4 in the version pop-up.

  2. Old UNIX Guy

    Some thoughts:

    I haven’t worn a watch since 1998 and I’ve still not seen anything about the Apple Watch that is going to change that, especially when Apple is raising their prices on every new product they release (thanks, Apple – clearly you need those few hundred dollars more than me).
    I agree with John that this is a classic example of an egregiously bad mistake for Apple to be making.
    However, it’s one of only thousands of egregiously bad mistakes Apple is making these days and well down the list of things I wish they’d fix. Craig F. likes to brag about how stable and bug-free Apple’s software has become … that’s a Trump-level lie. Come spend a few days with me Craig and watch while every stinking Apple app I use crashes! Even Terminal, for crying out loud.

    Old UNIX Guy

  3. Michael McGlothlin

    Who cares? If you need high accuracy then you’re best off getting something that doesn’t require an OS. Most of the time I don’t even know what day of the week it is. The majority of the time knowing the seconds is just information overload.

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