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Apple still doesn't allow developers to create entirely new Apple Watch faces, but with watchOS 7, it has freed them up to make and share very many different options.
As of watchOS 7, you can now buy and download faces for your Apple Watch. It's not what users and developers have been wanting from the start, though, as it's still not possible to entirely design every element of a face.
Apple's limitations mean there's only so much a third-party company can do. Ultimately, it comes down to offering images as backgrounds to Watch faces, just as you could do yourself from your Photos album.
This year it's allowing the ability to share faces, and third-party companies are beginning to find ways of using this.
How to buy a Watch face on your Apple Watch
- Open the App Store on your Apple Watch
- Tap Search
- Tap the microphone icon to dictate your search term
- Dictate "watch faces" and tap Done
- Scroll through the listings that appear
- Tap Get to buy
You can of course search for anything — and you can scribble your search instead of dictating. What tends to happen is that you either get no search results at all, or you get quite a long list.
The App Store on the Apple Watch is automatically filtering the results so that it only shows you what's relevant. However, there are so many of these that it's worth doing the search on your iPhone instead, and putting up with the odd non-Apple Watch app in the listings.
Unfortunately, at the moment you are going to have to turn to your iPhone at some point. Even though you can now share faces, and even though you can now buy them straight from the App Store, you can't actually install them directly on Apple Watch.
Instead, your new Watch app will ask you to open the accompanying iPhone app. This is a bit messy, and it's not helped by how some Watch face developers word their instructions.
Equally, some apps we tried were clunky to use. Ultimately, though, they all ask you to select a face, and then they open the iPhone's Watch app. Just as with sharing a face from an individual, you're then walked through adding that face to your Watch — with or without the apps used in its complications.
How to choose which Faces to buy
In each case, the face you buy comes as part of an app which contains hundreds, or quite possibly thousands, of different ones. Clearly the choice of which watch face you'll use is up to you, there's no way to narrow down your options.
Unfortunately, there's not much in the way of narrowing down which collections of faces you should get. However, most or possibly even all, such collection apps offer you a free trial.
There are also other ways to get new Watch faces rather than via the App Store. Now that Apple's watchOS 7 enables sharing of faces, you can download them.
How to download a Watch face
You can expect that there are going to be a lot of sites offering Apple Watch faces. Again, none of them will contain very much in the way of customization. There won't be any that have an entirely new and different arrangement or sizes of complications, for instance.
What you can already find on sites such as Facer — which is also available as an app — currently boil down to three types of Apple Watch face. The simplest is the photo-based one, which offers you assorted backgrounds for your Watch face.
Then there are ones where people have spent a lot of time finessing Apple's own Watch faces to offer particularly good balances of color, complications, and so on. Lastly, there are ones that aim to offer useful functions.
They're really just exploiting the larger complication on a face such as Apple's Siri one. But there can be, for instance, a language face where every time you turn your wrist to look at the Watch, it displays a new phrase for you to learn.
What's available to buy or download
It will still be better when Apple allows developers to create entirely new faces. And until that happens, you are in theory very limited in what you can get for your Watch.
However, if there are few different capabilities that developers can use, they are already exploiting those en masse. There are thousands upon thousands of Watch faces available to download, even for free.