Apple doesn’t want Watch apps that tell time

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Apple Watch sales figures are basically analyst roulette right now.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

There are all kinds of Apple Watch apps, from the really cool ones to the totally weird.

But what about third-party apps that tell the time? Such a use case would seem pretty obvious for the Watch, but Apple isn’t having it.

Developers noticed a new guideline today on Apple’s website that simply says, “Watch Apps whose primary function is telling time will be rejected.”

It doesn’t get much clearer than that, and the mandate shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who’ve been following the Watch’s development and release closely.

Apps that display custom Watch faces haven’t been welcome in the App Store since Apple started accepting Watch app submissions. While the rule has been unwritten until today, Apple has made it clear to developers that users should only be able to choose from its 10 built-in watch faces for telling the time.

“I don’t expect Apple to open up watch faces to arbitrary designs, even when the full Apple Watch SDK ships later this year,” wrote Daring Fireball’s John Gruber recently. “If they do allow third-party faces, I think it’ll be through design partners hand-selected by Apple.”

Tightly controlling the look of watch faces makes sense for Apple given how crucial design is to its branding. After all, the watch face is the main thing people see on their wrist throughout the day, and cluttering it up with ugly third-party layouts would make the Apple Watch look less elegant.

Will Apple allow custom watch faces down the road? Probably. People forget that Apple didn’t let you change the iPhone’s wallpaper until 2010.