We're going to need a bigger Friends interface...

Laid out like a clock, you have twelve Friends slots — one for each hour position — that you can assign to your contacts on the Apple Watch and cycle through using the Digital Crown. Apple offers to populate Friends with your iPhone Favorites during set up, but you can easily assign or reassign Friends at any point using the Apple Watch for iPhone app. While the clock position interface is fun, and twelve sounds like a lot, the limitations can assert themselves quickly and... awkwardly.

Having more than twelve contacts with an Apple Watch isn't a "humblebrag" or a "first nerd problem": The Apple Watch is going to be the world's first mainstream wearable and that means it could well be in the hands of multiple family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. My mother ordered one. So did my sister. So did my two best friends. So did all of my fellow iMore editors. So did several others at Mobile Nations, fellow Apple writers I know, and others that I want to be able to Sketch and Tap with, and easily access for messages and other communications.

The "problem" is exacerbated by how the Friends system works. You fill up the slots using the Apple Watch for iPhone app. If someone who's not in your list Sketches, Taps, or Heartbeats you, you can still play it back, and then you're get a popup asking if you want to add the sender to your list or block them. If you add them, you get a slot. If all your slots are already full, however, then you get denied. And if you get denied, you can't send a Sketch, Tap, or Heartbeat back. They're just left hanging.

Sure, you can go back to the Apple Watch for iPhone app, delete someone from a slot, and then assign it to the new sender. But it can be tough to decide who you want to delete, and if it happens frequently, you start to feel like you're juggling friends around.

Maybe Apple is trying to enforce a limited Friend set for a reason, or perhaps they've already considered a greater than 12 slot system and have a solution drafted for a future version of Watch OS.

Perhaps there could be some mechanic like the app carousel that lets you zoom out, see different "groups" like Friends, Family, Coworkers, Teammates, etc. and then zoom in to select a specific contact. Perhaps there could be a system for switching "groups" like watch faces, where you force touch and then swipe between them. Perhaps the same interface could first be used to choose a group, then a contact.

Apple's typically excellent at solving hard problems, so regardless of the implementation details, hopefully they'll solve this one and solve it well for Watch OS 2.0.

We've filed a feature request for this issue with Apple's bug reporter. You can find it at rdar://20722280

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I have two in my friends list, and so far since Friday I've not called/messaged either from my Watch (and neither of them own iPhones). I'd rather (like others have suggested) that button be re-purposable for something else to be honest.
  • Sounds like you need new friends. HEHEHE. iPhone friends only. ;-)
  • Both of them are family so I can't change them lol :-)
  • I feel your pain there. My dad and mom still dont have an iPhone. At least my mom has the iPad. Maybe now since the iPhone 6 plus has the larger screen he will switch. He needs that large screen. Old eyes. HEHEHE
  • I would not have enough people I want in that list so I am good with the amount.
  • You can always go through the Phone app on your Apple watch to call/text other people who are not on that friends circle. Or tell Siri. ;)
  • Seems to me the next step would be to allow any or all of the twelve locations to be a category which could open to become twelve others. A = apostles, F = family, A = acquaintances, W = work. That would expand it to a maximum of 144, including the categories. Personally, I don't see filling up the twelve.
  • Personally, 12 is way too many for me, but I can see it not being enough for people who actually LIKE people or have friends. And I'm the only person I know who has ordered an Apple Watch. The only person I would consider sending my heartbeat to is my partner (I find the whole idea to be very intimate for some reason) and he can't wear a watch or any jewellery at work so he'll likely never have an Apple Watch, either. Of course, I might change my mind when I GET mine... (May 15-28)
  • I think that if one believes one has more than 12 friends, that this is a mis-definition of the word "friend." It's like Facebook, before that came along no one in their right mind would say the words "I have 350 friends!" Maybe if you are a Mormon and want to include your entire family on the friends dial you might have a real problem. But family are not necessarily friends in any case.
  • Heh, yea, maybe the 'friend' list just needs a little trimming. :)
  • I wonder how you can get it to the grid view
  • It seems the main problem is when someone sends you a tap/sketch/heartbeat, and they are NOT in your friends list? Having to 'add them' seems like a limitation Apple can lift/change. We just need a way to respond, and not add to friends list?
  • 144 contacts = 12 groups of 12 people. The favorite contact of each group is at 12 o clock position and his photo shows up when you scroll from group to another displaying the name of the group on top left corner in group view and contacts names once you enter the group.
    Watch oriented design with digital crown and touch screen combinations.
    What's next?
  • I think a lot will be changing with regard to the UI over the next year. Apple will be getting LOTS of feedback, both negative and positive.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but at the September event I remember the friends being a list instead of that round interface. I wonder why they went away from that idea. I hated it when I saw they redesigned it at Spring Forward. I would much prefer the original list view.
  • You are not wrong. It was about an hour and 28 minutes into the Keynote. It was Just the circle heads two columns but no idea how far you could scroll. The new was is a little strange but they were all right there on one screen so you did not have to scroll through a list.