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By Dan Moren

Friends, meet Glances: Two okay tastes that could taste great together

Much as Apple likes to talk about the Apple Watch as a communication-centric device, I find that I rarely use its Friends feature, especially after the early novelty of sending Digital Touch scribbles wore off. To me, the Watch is a great device for responding quickly to incoming messages, whether they be emails or texts, but I rarely initiate a conversation from the Watch—and, if I do, I generally use Siri. More than anything, the idea of a hardware button being devoted to a feature I rarely use is frustrating.

Likewise, I’ve previously expressed my annoyance about the interface for the Watch’s Glances, which I find to be one of the most disappointing implementations on the device. While the slowness with which Glances update is perhaps the biggest problem, I find the linear organization of them silly and difficult to navigate: I can’t remember which Glance I put where, and there’s no way to easily identify them. Plus, the more Glances you add the harder that process gets. And so, after nearly two months with the Watch, I’ve whittled it down to just five Glances: the mandatory Settings screen, Pedometer++, Heart Rate, Battery, and Fantastical.

So it occurred to me a few weeks back: why not combine the best of both of these features?

Glances
A concept of how Glances could work. Mockup made with help from Joe Rosensteel.
The one part of the Friends interface that I do like is the selection dial. It works within the conceit of a circular “face,” offers clear cues as to which friend is which, and has two good options for selection: a linear one involving the Digital Crown and a non-linear one that works by simply touching the corresponding icons.

Glances, meanwhile, excel at providing a simple snapshot of data when I don’t want to go into the full Watch app. (Hopefully their performance will improve when Watch apps go native this fall.)

So, a crazy idea: let’s use the Friends interface for Glances. Press the hardware button below the Digital Crown and in slides a dial showing your favorite dozen Glances. You can quickly see which Glance is which, and either use the Digital Crown or touch to select the one you want to view.

Yes, such an interface does require more user interaction than the current Glances UI. But I’d argue even with a button-press, Digital Crown/touch, and a second click, it would still be faster to locate the specific Glance you want than under the current system of seemingly endless swiping.

If you want to get even fancier, the center circle could even potentially be used as a canvas itself, displaying relevant information. (To my mind, that works particularly well with a visual indicator like the Activity rings; it’s probably a less useful idea on more text-heavy Glances.)1 All of which feels more clever and less clunky to me than the current Glances interface, and dedicates a hardware button to something I actually want to use. You could even make Friends itself a Glance if you didn’t want to lose that functionality.

Of course, based on what we’ve seen from the preview of watchOS 2 at WWDC, Apple is doubling down on Friends, letting you create multiple groups so you can separate your work friends from, say, your family. Glances, on the other hand, got nary a mention in the keynote, so I’m not particularly hopeful that they’ll see any noticeable revisions in the next version of the Apple Watch software. And that’s a shame. I think a few tweaks here and there could make both of these features more appealing and more useful.


  1. I guess you could instead use this type of interface as a quick launcher for full Watch apps.  ↩

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[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]