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.


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."

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 Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 6, watchOS 7
Buyer's Guide: Apple Watch (Caution)

Top Rated Comments

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29 months ago
It's about time
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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29 months ago
The only thing i can currently think of, that would really improve my experience with the watch.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
29 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)
Avatar
29 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)
Avatar
29 months ago
yes... this and always on display mode...
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
29 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)

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