Apple Isn’t Opening Apple Watch to Third-party Watch Faces

Apple Watch Activity and Messages watch faces

Code tucked away inside watchOS 4.3.1 has raised hopes that Apple is going to start allowing third-party watch faces on Apple Watch. That sounds great, but don’t count on it actually happening.

Apple Watch Activity and Messages watch faces
Don’t count on custom third-party watch faces for your Apple Watch

Currently, the only watch faces available on Apple Watch are those that Apple includes with watchOS. Those watch faces are customizable to a degree by choosing which complications to show.

The clue to the supposed third-party watch faces is buried in the NanoTimeKit framework in the watchOS 4.3.1 code, according to 9to5Mac. Specifically, it includes a line stating:

r3="This is where the 3rd part face config bundle generation would happen";

That sounds a lot like support for watch faces designed outside of Apple. Unfortunately for Apple Watch owners hoping for a throwback to the days of the Pebble smart watch’s nearly limitless collection of custom watch faces, that’s not what the code represents.

Developer Steve Troughton-Smith shot down the idea that Apple is opening up watch face design to all developers saying, “haven’t third-party watch face config bundles been a thing for years? I wouldn’t get too excited about a log message just yet.”

He also linked to Apple’s developer article about adding complications to the watch face gallery—something developers have been able to do for some time, and very likely exactly what the line of code is referencing.

It’s easy to see which apps support Apple Watch complications in the Watch app on your iPhone. Just tap My Watch in the Watch app, then tap Complications. From there you can see a list of every app with an available complication.

Apple Watch complications in the Watch app
You can see which apps include Apple Watch complications in the Watch app on your iPhone

Apple does offer custom watch faces, in a manner of speaking. Hermes and Nike Apple Watch models include their own exclusive watch faces, for example. Those watch faces aren’t available on other Apple Watch models.

For now, Apple Watch owners will have to be content with customizing the watch faces Apple offers.

One thought on “Apple Isn’t Opening Apple Watch to Third-party Watch Faces

  • I have been waiting for watch faces for years. I have the original Apple Watch. I would’ve bought the latest version, but, still waiting for watch faces. I actually have the Samsung S3 paired to my iPhone because it has some cool watch faces. Thinking about getting a Samsung phone to replace the iPhone. Getting tired of being locked down, and things taken away with every new generation of Apple devices. No fingerprint reader and the notch killed my upgrade to iPhone X. I avoided iPhone 7 because of the loss of the headphone jack. Don’t get me wrong I love Apple. But, the current products being sold really don’t appeal to me anymore. For the first time Android looks cool. I just want more flexibility and customization. I don’t want to lose cool or essential features. Lack of watch faces is just a symptom of Apple not really listening. (Mac Pro anyone). I’m just about done waiting for the features I want and losing features I had and really didn’t want to lose. Just venting here. Tired of waiting.

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