Apple Watch users could already customise their wearable to give it the face of say a Rolex or Patek Phillippe using an app. There were even official Nike and Mickey Mouse faces. But until this week, there was a glaring omission. Snoopy.
But as promised at the Apple WWDC 2023 back in June, WatchOS 10 has corrected that wrong. The free software update ahead of today's release of Apple Watch Series 9 finally brings Snoopy and Woodstock to Apple Watch. And there was a lot of work involved to make this work (see our guide to the Apple Watch generations for a roundup of all Apple's smartwatches).
Apple developed the new Watch face with Snoopy's minders Charles M Schulz Creative Associates. And while Snoopy has appeared on watches before, bringing him to a digital screen was a different challenges. In an interview with GQ magazine, the studio's chief creative officer Paige Braddock shared some tidbits about the painstaking process involved.
The watch face responds to different activities and the time of day. Go for a swim, and Snoopy puts on scuba gear. At night, he howls at the moon. Creating this required 148 animations that together run for over 12 minutes, which all began in rough sketches made during an initial face-to-face meeting at the Charles M Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California.
“When you design an analogue watch with Snoopy, he's a static character right?” Braddock told GQ. “So all you're really focusing on is the hands and the arms. You wouldn't believe the minutiae we go into to make them work at every angle, but going into this first meeting with Apple I was going ‘I don’t even know if I'm smart enough to wear this watch.’”
“In the initial brainstorm, the team had started with sort of generic sketches where he’s walking in the rain with an umbrella or whatever,” she added. “But there are some very specific Snoopy things that that no other comic character does, like he holds up his ear and blocks the rain for Woodstock.”
The Snoopy Apple Watch face has some wonderful details, like the use of a colour backgrounds on Sundays and grey during the week, reflecting a tradition in the comicstrip. It took time to decide which incarnation of Snoopy to use. The dog's had a long life, starting back in Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip in 1950. It was decided that the animations would use the character's look from the 1980s.
Once the designs were settled on, Apple faced the challenge of working out how to ensure that users would see them. For that, the tech giant's engineers created a scene layout engine that can rotate clips by six degrees per minute and a Snoopy decision engine that works out the best time to show them without repeating them too often.
The Snoopy Apple Watch face is available in WatchOS, which has been released for Apple Watch 4 and above. Apple Watch Series 9 is released today (22 September) and offers new features, including a 'double tap' gesture to control the watch. See the best current prices on this and other recent models below. The iPhone 15 is also released today.