The Coronavirus Pandemic May Have Postponed This Apple Watch Feature

International Apple Watch Faces Credit: 9to5Mac
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With everything else that Apple has packed into iOS 14 and watchOS 7 this year, it’s easy to dismiss some of the earlier rumours about what may have been coming, but there’s at least one omission that was strongly hinted at earlier this year that oddly never materialized, despite it actually being found in early iOS 14 code.

Back in March, while 9to5Mac was having a heyday with a leaked preliminary version of iOS 14, it discovered the presence of international watch faces that seemed all but certain to be coming to watchOS 7, however when actual iOS 14 and watchOS 7 betas began to arrive in June without the new faces, some supposed that maybe Apple would be limiting them to the new Apple Watch models to be released in the fall, or at least holding them back for that announcement (as it actually did with several of the newer watch faces).

However, even after the Apple Watch Series 6 and Apple Watch SE landed, the international entries were nowhere to be found among the new watch faces, and to be fair many folks had forgotten they were ever there in the first place. While it seems like a trivially easy feature for Apple to implement — after all, creating new watch faces isn’t exactly rocket science — the watchmaker had for whatever reason chose to remove them somewhere along the way.

Now, however, a new leak may shed some light as to the reasons behind their disappearance.

Getting the Timing Right

While nobody really gave much thought at the time as to why Apple would be adding international watch faces, a new set of photos shared by enigmatic leaker @L0vetodream has just offered a really big clue as to what Apple’s plans were for the new faces.

The series of photos shared on Twitter reveals a set of country-specific Apple Watch band designs that follow the same concept as those created for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The two watch bands shown, which match the design of each respective country’s national flags, also have abbreviated country names on the underside, such as JPN and DEN.

While the photos only show custom Sport Loops for the host country Japan and Denmark, it’s a safe bet that they’re only a pair of many more that Apple had in the works. Back in 2016, Apple released 14 custom nylon bands for the host country of Rio de Janeiro, along with the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Africa.

In light of this, it seems fairly apparent that the new international Apple Watch faces that were hidden in the prerelease iOS 14 code — which came from well before the global health pandemic had caused the 2020 summer games to be cancelled — were originally designed to match the new Apple Watch bands, with the entire set being released to highlight the Olympic season.

The idea of pairing up a face with a band would have followed the same concept that began with Apple’s Pride watch faces and bands, which it began releasing back in 2018, and updated for this year.

In the case of the international faces, however, by the time Apple released the first developer betas of iOS 14 and watchOS 7 in June, the decision to postpone the 2020 summer games had already been made long before, and so the new international watch faces would have understandably been removed from the code, presumably to be added back again sometime down the road when the 2020 games are actually held.

In fact, since the 2020 Olympic games were originally scheduled to be held this past summer, well in advance of the release of iOS 14 and watchOS 7, it’s quite likely that Apple originally planned to add them into a point update that would have been released in May or June, announcing the new country-specific watch bands at the same time.

With the “2020 Summer Olympics” now scheduled to begin on Friday, July 23, 2021, it seems like a safe bet that the international watch faces — and their accompanying bands — will be making a return sometime before iOS 15 and watchOS 8 debut next year.

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