Preview of Quick What Time Is It

Marco Arment: Why It’s Hard to Read the Time on Infograph: "Across a wide variety of brands, styles, and price points, a few key design principles are clear: (1) The hour markers for 12 (and often 3/6/9) are more prominent. (2) The hour indices are much larger than the minute markings. (3) The hour hands nearly touch the hour indices. These all improve legibility... making it as fast and easy as possible to know which hour is being indicated (and minimize the chance of an off-by-one error), first by orienting your eyes to the current rotation with the 12 marker, then by minimizing the distance between the hour hand and the indices it’s between. Apple Watch’s analog faces all fail to achieve these principles.... Infograph is similar, but even worse: its hour indices are more faint, it uses 30-second markings instead of minute markings, and its default Calendar display wipes out the top three indices. (At least you can tell which way is up.)... When it’s being used as Apple seems to intend, time-telling at a glance is so difficult that many people have actually suggested setting the digital time as the center complication, at which point the hands are just a nuisance and we should stop pretending it’s an analog face....

We’re three years and four generations into the Apple Watch, and almost every Watch owner I know still uses the same handful of “good” faces.... Modular.... Utility.... If you want indices instead of numerals—probably the most popular analog watch style in the world—I don’t think there is a good option.... And we’re restricted to the handful of good watch faces that Apple makes, because other developers aren’t allowed to make custom Watch faces.

The Apple Watch is an amazing feat of technology. It’s a computer. It can display anything. With no mechanical or physical limitations to hold us back, any watch-face design from anyone could plausibly be built, enabling a range of creativity, style, and usefulness that no single company could ever design on its own. But they won’t let us. In a time when personal expression and innovation in watch fashion should be booming, they’re instead being eroded, as everyone in the room is increasingly wearing the same watch with the same two faces. Open this door, Apple...