watchOS 4.3.1 Beta Hints at Future Support for Third-Party Apple Watch Faces

Apple may be considering allowing third-party developers to create custom Apple Watch faces, if a line of code discovered in the latest watchOS beta is anything to go by.

Historically, Apple has resisted allowing third-party developers to create and release custom watch faces for Apple Watch, instead electing to add to its stock options for watch faces in successive iterations of the device's operating system, such as the Siri and kaleidoscope watch faces introduced in watchOS 4.

applewatchfaces
However, a log message in watchOS 4.3.1 beta, unearthed by 9to5Mac, suggests Apple may be considering the possibility in a future version of Apple Watch software. As part of its NanoTimeKit framework which provides developer access to watch face components, the beta includes references to a currently inactive developer tools server that will likely allow communication with Xcode on macOS.

Within this portion of code is a log message that reads: "This is where the 3rd party face config bundle generation would happen."

watchos beta custom watch face code

Image via 9to5Mac

Whether or not Apple decides to implement the missing feature for watchOS 5 or in a later version is unknown, but the mere mention of third-party face configuration will likely be cause for hope for anyone longing for additional personalization beyond the existing color-adjustable stock options, custom "Photo" watch face, and accompanying third-party watch complications.

On the other hand, any such hope could prove misplaced given Apple's traditional reluctance to open up the most outward-facing aspects of its operating systems to third parties (such as the lock and home screens in iOS, for example). Apple imposes strict limits on changes to major interface elements out of a concern that they guarantee a high level of usability, stability and security, and it's hard to imagine the company casting aside those principles.

It's worth noting that Apple tends to reject third-party Apple Watch apps that closely duplicate existing functions, as per its developer guidelines, although whether watch faces would come under this provision remains unclear. At any rate, while Apple welcomes "creative ways of expressing time as an app interface", currently it does not allow apps that look like watch faces.

Meanwhile, rival smartwatch operating systems like FitbitOS and Wear OS have allowed users to install third-party watch faces on their devices for some time, but the design and usability standard on offer is highly variable and Apple isn't likely to warm to the idea unless it can enforce a consistent means of quality control.

Apple is expected to release the fifth version of watchOS and iOS 12 at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June.

Related Roundup: Apple Watch Series 6
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)

Top Rated Comments

Tijdelijk Avatar
39 months ago
It's about time
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Nozuka Avatar
39 months ago
The only thing i can currently think of, that would really improve my experience with the watch.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Bacillus Avatar
39 months ago
Let's remember Apple's Classic operating system. There were an unbelievable number of system extension tools with which the appearance could be individually modified.
When OSX drastically limited the possibilities, I was outraged. I felt patronized. Today I see it as a brave and great step: I can quickly find myself on any Apple computer, no questioning because something has been changed. And Apple has worked out the graphically best compromise, probably there is a large consensus and thus peace.
This time, I wish Apple the courage to keep things limited to appropriate functionality.
The quality of the look of an AppleWatch lives 100% from the graphical user interface, and I think Apple has done everything right so far.
And "freedom fighters" for unlimited emoji freedom and free design have always existed, giving in to them can be disadvantageous.
Thx for sharing your transformation into a GUI conformist. It inspires me to never become so.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Piggie Avatar
39 months ago
As always it brings a smile to my face to read posts by HARD Apple fans, saying they don't want choice and feel Apple should not give others choice either.
Apple knows best and you should be happy with that.

I have to wonder if they hold this viewpoint about other aspects of their life?
when you go food shopping you have to accept only the food they tell you to, or wear the cloths you are told to.

Funny isn't it.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Shalev Avatar
39 months ago
yes... this and always on display mode...
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
pika2000 Avatar
39 months ago

Meanwhile, rival smartwatch operating systems like FitbitOS and Android Wear have allowed users to install third-party watch faces on their devices for some time
And how successful they are? Yeah.
I have the moto 360, and most 3rd party watch faces are crap. They are either a copycat of each other, or a poorly done copy of luxury watch faces. Worse, many are buggy too, telling you that they are just lazy devs trying to make some quick buck. In the end, the built-in face watches are more reliable and good enough (style wise).

Besides, Apple already partnered with big names like Nike and Disney to have specific face watches. Imo that is the route that Apple would go, partnering with brands to have their custom face watches instead of opening it to the public.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple event spring loaded

Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Officially Announced for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Following an overnight leak by Siri, Apple today officially announced that it will be holding a special "Spring Loaded" event on Tuesday, April 20 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time at the Steve Jobs Theater on the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California. As with all of Apple's 2020 events, the April 2021 event will be a digital-only gathering with no members of the media invited to attend in...
iphone12cameras

Kuo: 2022 iPhones to Feature 48-Megapixel Camera, 8K Video, and 6.1 and 6.7" Sizes With No 5.4" Mini Option

Tuesday April 13, 2021 10:45 pm PDT by
The upcoming 2022 iPhone lineup will feature two 6.1-inch devices and two 6.7-inch devices, with no mini-sized 5.4-inch iPhone, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said in a note to investors that was seen by MacRumors. Two of the iPhones will be high-end models and two of the iPhones will be lower-end models, similar to the current iPhone 12 lineup. Apple introduced the 5.4-inch...
macos catalina serial number

Apple Preparing Rollout of New Randomized Product Serial Numbers Ahead of 'Spring Loaded' Event

Wednesday April 14, 2021 2:08 am PDT by
Apple is advising its authorized premium resellers and dealers to prepare for new products with 10 and 12 digital serial numbers, days ahead of when it's expected to reveal a slew of new products. MacRumors previously reported that Apple plans to switch to randomized serial numbers for future products starting in early 2021. The company now seems to be preparing for that roll-out, telling...
apple event particularly innovative article

Gurman: Apple's 'Spring Loaded' Event Won't Feature Anything 'Particularly Innovative'

Thursday April 15, 2021 1:30 am PDT by
Bloomberg's highly-respected Mark Gurman says that he expects nothing "particularly innovative" or "extraordinary" to launch at Apple's "Spring Loaded" event next week, Tuesday, April 20. Gurman made the remarks during an interview for Bloomberg Technology, in which he reaffirmed that Apple will launch a new 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with the higher-end model featuring a brand new...
duanrui iphone13 notch samples

More Leaked iPhone 13 Samples Show Smaller Notch, Repositioned Earpiece and Front Camera

Wednesday April 14, 2021 1:06 am PDT by
Leaker known as "DuanRui" has today shared an image of two iPhone 13 "film samples," which show the same rumored smaller notch design coming to the iPhone 13 series that we've seen from other sources. In past tweets, DuanRui has accurately leaked the correct names of the iPhone 12 models and an iPad Air 4 manual revealing its new design, so there's good reason to think this leak is credible, ...
siir apple event april 20

Siri Reveals Apple Event Planned for Tuesday, April 20

Tuesday April 13, 2021 12:04 am PDT by
Siri has apparently prematurely revealed that Apple plans to hold an event on Tuesday, April 20, where the company is expected to reveal brand new iPad Pro models and possibly its long-awaited AirTags trackers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Upon being asked "When is the next Apple Event," Siri is currently responding with, "The special event is on Tuesday, April...
apple event hashflag

Twitter Hashflag for April 20 Apple Event Goes Live

Tuesday April 13, 2021 2:21 pm PDT by
Following the overnight Siri leak and subsequent announcement that Apple will hold a media event on Tuesday, April 20, a new Twitter hashflag has appeared to help provide visibility for the event on the platform. For the last several recent events, Apple has utilized hashflags, which are little icons next to hashtags on Twitter, as a way to market its events. The company first started the...
parallels windows 10 arm mac

Parallels 16.5 Can Virtualize ARM Windows Natively on M1 Macs With Up to 30% Faster Performance

Wednesday April 14, 2021 7:00 am PDT by
Parallels today announced the release of Parallels Desktop 16.5 for Mac with full support for M1 Macs, allowing for the Windows 10 ARM Insider Preview and ARM-based Linux distributions to be run in a virtual machine at native speeds on M1 Macs. Parallels says running a Windows 10 ARM Insider Preview virtual machine natively on an M1 Mac results in up to 30 percent better performance compared ...
iphone 13 pro render rear

iPhone 13 Pro Rumored to Be Thicker and Feature Larger Rear Camera System

Wednesday April 14, 2021 7:07 am PDT by
Tech blog 91Mobiles has obtained 3D renders of what it claims will be the iPhone 13 Pro, revealing a largely familiar design with a few notable changes, including a smaller notch and a significantly larger rear camera system. Following renders of the standard iPhone 13 model from MySmartPrice yesterday, which showed a new diagonal rear camera layout, these renders of the 6.1-inch iPhone 13...
third gen Apple pencil leaked video

Video of Alleged Third-Generation Apple Pencil Leaks Ahead of Apple Event

Friday April 16, 2021 6:13 am PDT by
A video purporting to be of the third-generation Apple Pencil has today been shared online, showing a glossy finish that mirrors previous leaks. New ✏️ ready to 🚢 #AppleEvent @TommyBo50387266 pic.twitter.com/s4RCDwDi5M— 漢尼斯·拉斯納 🇨🇳 (@ileakeer) April 16, 2021 The brief video from Twitter account @ileakeer, spotted by 9to5Mac, shows an Apple Pencil with a glossy finish much like the...