Friends is a new communications interface on Apple Watch, important enough that it’s assigned to a single press of the Side button.
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