Time for Apple to stop being a control freak? Why the Apple Watch fails as a fashion accessory


The Apple Watch is a cool little tech toy. Some use it to track their fitness goals and health, others use it to get their messages and ask Siri stuff at any time… And many, many use it as a fashion accessory.

Me, I’m kind of in between. I like watches, and I have many, including a smartwatch that runs full Android, even. (Not WearOS – but full Android 5.1.)

When it comes to the Apple Watch Series 7, I enjoy having access to the internet on my wrist, I ask Siri to set reminders for me all the time, and yes, perhaps most of all I like customizing this thing. Except, it’s actually the least customizable smartwatch that I have.

Sure, there are countless watch bands you can get, even cases for the body of the watch if you look hard enough, but where I have a real problem with Apple and its smartwatch is the available watch faces we get. They’re not many, not very pretty, and in my opinion, not designed for a square smartwatch at all…

The available Apple Watch faces are few, not great, and most importantly – you can’t make your own or download new ones

In typical Apple fashion, you don’t get to make your own watch faces to your heart’s content. You get a few presets, you can change some of their colors, along with occasionally the typeface of the numbers… You can sometimes add a few complications, sometimes not…The main idea is, of course, for you to buy a different, usually more expensive Apple Watch in order to get some extra watch face options. The Apple Watch Nike edition, for example, has a few unique watch faces, but if you look closely, they’re actually just slightly changed iterations of the stock ones, with a Nike logo thrown in.

The more expensive Apple Watch Hermès edition has a unique watch face too, which again appears to be a modified version of a stock watch face (namely Chronograph Pro). But it does look cool, at least:

Here’s the thing, like I said those stock watch faces you get in Apple’s Face Gallery are… okay, but fail to impress. I tried all of them, but neither is perfectly designed for the square Apple Watch Series 7 display. The new Contour watch face comes close, showcasing how small the smartwatch’s bezels are, but it’s still a bit underwhelming for long-term use:

Apple keeps adding watch faces almost no one uses

Most recently we got another Pride watch face, which is definitely way cooler and more useful than the previous Pride ones we have. Those being essentially just rainbows under clock hands. Who can tell the time perfectly without numbers, or at least dots to indicate where the hours are?

One of the most notorious Apple Watch faces is called Artist, which, no offense to the artist, but out of the many Apple Watch users that I know, nobody likes it and nobody uses it. It’s one of those Apple things that are pretentious above all. Instead of a cool, stylish watch face we got this:

Who will find themselves in this, who’s it for, exactly?

We also have watch faces that you’d think were designed in Paint by a 6-year-old. X-Large, Unity and Numerals in particular. Now, those would have looked good with a better font, maybe, but as it stands they’re so basic, that using them on an expensive smartwatch feels pretty ridiculous.

So, you pay $400 or more for a smartwatch, you get it, and it’s built beautifully. You can buy all kinds of different third-party watch bands to make it your own visually – from sporty, breathable nylon ones to stylish, classy Spigen metal ones. But then we get to what’s actually shown on the screen – and the options are that disappointing and non-customizable? What the heck, Apple? Who makes those choices? Who looked at them and said “Great, those deserve to be among the few our users will get”?

So what kind of watch faces do I want, then?

I’m not gonna beat around the bush, I just want watch faces that follow the contour of this square watch, instead of most of them being round. A round face on a square watch doesn’t look good.Even worse, the few watch faces that have potential to be perfect, in my opinion suffer from other bad design choices. For example, the California Apple Watch face is one I’d consider almost perfect for this smartwatch:

Problem is, the hours are written in a not-great font size, way too large and bold. If I could actually resize them, or remove them, I’d probably be more than okay with this watch face, but I can’t. The watch hands having an outline isn’t very aesthetically pleasing either, I’d rather those be a flat color instead.

Here’s another example of an almost-good stock Apple Watch face – Gradient. That has the potential of being the perfect Apple Watch face to showcase how large the display is, by filling it all with gradient colors, but… Apple decided that we don’t need any indicators for where the hours are again.

Can you tell exactly what hour and minute it is by looking at this? I know I can’t, not always. And I don’t want to guess, I want a good watch face that actually shows me the time clearly, at a glance. So as it stands, it’s form over function:

My dream watch faces the Apple Watch will probably never get

Now let’s get to the perfect watch faces I’d love to see, even though I know those are probably too much to ask for, and will never make it to the Apple Watch – Casio G-Shock watch faces!

In my opinion, the Casio G-Shock series has some of the coolest watch faces ever made, and the only reason I didn’t buy a G-Shock as opposed to an Apple Watch is because I want the latter’s smart functionality.

As we covered, I’m happy with the smart functionality, but the watch faces are pretty bad in my opinion, nowhere near what I’d like on my wrist. Here’s what would been awesome to see in the Face Gallery:

Who knows, maybe if enough of us ask, Apple and Casio might strike a deal, like Apple has with Nike and Hermès? Probably not, but let’s reach for the stars anyway, kids.

By the way, I know if I don’t mention this someone else will, so here it goes – you can download third-party Apple Watch apps of questionable quality, and pay monthly for them to give you the illusion of third-party watch faces, if they even work (most don’t on the Series 7 yet).

They either run an app on your Apple Watch, that’s not actually your watch face, just pretends to be, or use the stock watch faces and add images over them. It’s clunky, expensive, and plainly not good.

You don’t actually have support for third-party watch faces on the Apple Watch, nor the ability to make your own unique ones, unfortunately.

Apple is a control freak, and I don’t like it

Most of the competition, including WearOS smartwatches, down to the cheapest fitness bands even, support thousands of vastly different user-made watch faces. And with some knowledge, you can make your own too, of course.

For example, I have a super cheap Xiaomi Mi Band on me. Despite its low price and limited functionality, it too supports different bands, and it too is open to countless, cool watch faces, as opposed to just the stock ones. If you spend a while digging through the many available watch faces, you’ll even find the aforementioned G-Shock(-ish) watch face options that I want for the Apple Watch.

Apple just has a problem with control. “Users can’t make or download third-party watch faces”, “users can’t sideload third-party apps on the iPhone or iPad”… Well, you know what? Just recently we reported on the American Choice and Innovation Act bill getting a revision.

What does it mean for us – the users – if the bill passes? That Apple might have to finally allow users to sideload apps. The company is, of course, still very much against the idea, citing user privacy as a main reason.

But the way I see it, if the bill passes, Apple will be forced to make a first, much-needed step towards treating its users like the humans with free will that they are, who might want to exercise that free will too.

Whether by sideloading apps on the iPhone that Apple doesn’t allow on its app store, or downloading third-party watch faces on the Apple Watch – the way I see it, it would be a giant win for many, many Apple users who wish to be different.


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