Customizable Apple Watch faces aren’t just about tinkering — they will surface great apps

Now and again, Apple will announce a new software feature and it’ll be something exciting and deep that gets to the very heart of a device. Rarely, you’ll instead hear about a feature that’s frankly superficial – something glitzy and shallow that looks good in pictures but that fundamentally does little to improve your time with a device. Face Sharing manages the trick of appearing to be the latter, but in reality it’s the former.

Face Sharing is a part of the upcoming watchOS 7. And on the face of it (pun intended – apologies), it appears to be a hollow update. You configure a face on your Apple Watch, and you can send it to someone via Messages. But that’s not the clever bit, because this isn’t about showing off your amazing design skills — it’s about people getting more value from their Apple Watch through amazing apps.

Making faces

First, it’s important to realize that anyone can share an Apple Watch face — and that includes app creators and corporations. Secondly, those faces can be shared beyond one-to-one messaging, and will be available on the App Store — and even from websites. Thirdly, Apple cunningly invites you to download apps featured in a custom face when one’s sent your way. And, finally, apps can now take over the entirety of even the most complex and complication-packed Apple Watch face.

This means that if you’re massively into exercise, companies that make workout apps can set up faces that include everything you need for a workout and monitoring your Health rings, without you having to do the work yourself. People big into weather forecasts can have the likes of Carrot Weather take over an entire Apple Watch face, offering a mix of rainfall estimates, temperature gauges, UV ratings and snark. Got a newborn? There are apps for helping there, too, to track feeds and poops.

Face the facts

For the individual, the benefits are clear: your Apple Watch can shift from being a timepiece with occasional additional benefits, to becoming more central to your life. Instead of complications being a nice-to-have that let you glance at a few specific pieces of information, they can become core elements of the Apple Watch experience – and Apple ecosystem – through dedicated faces designed to aid specific tasks.

For developers and brands, this could be revolutionary. Until now, Apple Watch apps have had little visibility. They’re largely hidden on the iPhone App Store, and the Apple Watch App Store app is fiddly to browse and little fun to use. All this changes if you can find a task or brand you’re interested in, and almost instantly find yourself armed with an already configured Apple Watch face that could improve your life.

The only downside is that something similar doesn’t yet exist for sharing a Home Screen of iPhone widgets. How about it, Apple?