Why the next Apple Watch will be round, not square, or something

“This week Pebble announced the launch of a new face in its smartwatch lineup: The Pebble Time Round,” Theo Priestley writes for Forbes. “The new addition joins a growing number of smartwatches that favour the classier rounded look such as the LG Urbane and G Watch R, Moto360, Withings; with G-Shock, Swatch and even higher end watchmakers like TAG Heuer launching their own versions soon.”

“Apple bucks this trend with its square design, but it feels like a forced attempt to alter how wearers perceive what it means to own a watch, and to show that a square smartwatch can carry its own chic,” Priestley writes. “Consumers prefer round watches, whether a traditional timepiece or a smart variant. 80% of watch sales on sale are made on round faced timepieces, according to Ruth Faulkner, the editor of Retail Jeweller.”

“Apple is no stranger to playing with designs over the lifetime of a product,” Priestley writes. “Remember the iPod Nano? Here Apple changed the iPod Nano in 2007 during its 3rd iteration making it more like the original iPod Classic with a squared off design before returning to the familiar candy bar shape again.”

MacDailyNews Take: Yes, we remember the iPod nano. Every iPod nano’s screen — and mini, classic, and touch, for that matter — was/is square. Every. Single. One.

“With the Apple Watch I predict the same will happen and Apple will release two styles side by side to grab a larger consumer share against the proliferation of rounded Android watches,” Priestley writes. “Apple will have to release a future version, whether Gen-2 or Gen-3, in both variants due to consumer pressure.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As if the very first question Apple asked themselves in designing the Apple Watch wasn’t “should it be round or square?” No, Apple just chose square without any consideration at all in a reckless act of industrial design neglect. Because this is how Apple works, they never carefully consider anything during the design of their products. Jony Ive just assigns new category products to the newest intern and that’s how it all gets done at Apple Inc.

It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them. — Steve Jobs

The majority of consumers today think they want a round-faced smartwatch because the majority of wristwatches through history have been round since basically all they have done/continue to do is to tell time and, ta-da, most clocks are round. Obviously, Apple Watch is much more that just a clock. Consumers thought they needed a beard of plastic keys on their phones and floppy drives in their computers, too. Because that’s all they knew. And then, somehow, they learned to Think Different™.

Just because “this is the way it’s always been done,” doesn’t make continuing to do so valid.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses. — Henry Ford

And, of course, Apple is renowned for bowing to consumer pressure to rush ill-considered designs to market. Happens all the time. That’s why Apple had large screen iPhones on the market so early instead of at least two years late (they didn’t release larger phones until they could do them right). And why they released that Apple netbook. And why they make $49 feature phones for third world countries in an empty quest for market share, too.

Android watch makers [still have to] figure out they need to make square displays (lists are square, not round, and lists dominate smartwatch uses)…MacDailyNews, August 14, 2015

Round is wrong.MacDailyNews, September 9, 2015

Theo Priestley doesn’t understand Apple Inc., Steve Jobs, Jony Ive, the Apple Watch, smartwatch design, or product design in general.

Furthermore, if Apple ever does release a round Apple Watch, it will be because they thought of something new that required it to be round, not because of consumers’ ingrained behaviors, misperceptions, or pressure.

41 Comments

  1. I prefer the elegance of the circle to the harshness of the square. I think that beautiful watches are inherently round. The circle isn’t just some simple design decision. It reflects the nature of time itself. In addition it reflects the engineering style of the the least expensive watch to the most expensive, lots of round gears. Watches have been round for centuries. There have been square watches of course, and they never quite look right. But…

    Like I keep explaining, the Apple Wrist Device is not a watch. It’s a gadget, a 2nd screen for the iPhone. It’s for messages and data, not simply telling time. Round would no more work there than it would for this little box I’m typing in right now. Round is inappropriate for text, data, pictures and stuff. Not hard to see why Apple chose square.

    For those who creat round smart watches, fine for them, but they compromise space by creating awkward text presentations within the circle. But they are able to create more pleasing simulations of nice watches.

    1. Very articulate and an interesting opinion and 99% pure BS philosophizing by someone who conveys he is deeply in love with his own voice/words. Keep explaining all you want, but it doesn’t seem too many people are listening. Maybe that is why you have to keep explaining. Let that go a-round and a-round in your head for awhile.

      Here’s five rectangular/square watches that are among the most elegant and fine wrist worn timepieces in the world/ “Timeless” examples of elegant design and function.

      • Cartier Tank
      • Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande
      • Patek Philippe Gondolo
      • Richard Mille RM17 Extra Flat Tourbillon
      • Oris Rectangular Complication

      1. Thats not the point, the point being made is that the watch function is secondary.

        It doesn’t help that Apple called it a watch but perhaps that was necessary to drive adoption

        1. This exactly. It’s not a watch.

          My phone keeps time but is not called a watch or a clock. So does my microwave. Not a watch.

          Dear Apple: Cut it out. It’s not a watch. It’s a wristicle.

    2. Many of the watches over the past few hundred years have been analog watches. Analog watch hands sweep out circular paths, thus circular faces.

      When watches went digital in my youth, companies moved away from the circular face to a more rectangular face. There is nothing magical about circular watch faces and no evidence to support the assertion that people prefer circular watches.

      This is a ridiculous article. TMac, you used to post stuff that made some sense. What happened to your sense of reason and logic?

  2. “Apple bucks this trend with its square design, but it feels like a forced attempt to alter how wearers perceive what it means to own a watch, and to show that a square smartwatch can carry its own chic,” Priestley writes

    about 4 decades ago I got a Timex digital watch for my birthday. The face was square. That square face was an is common.

    “Consumers prefer round watches, whether a traditional timepiece or a smart variant. 80% of watch sales on sale are made on round faced timepieces, according to Ruth Faulkner, the editor of Retail Jeweller.”

    I do not think the information supports that conclusion. If the major reason for selecting a smart watch is the shape of the watch face, it would be either an indictment of smart watches to date (the functionality is so inconsequential that I’m selecting it based on the look!) or a function of the most capable smart watches thus far having round faces. Also, what percent of smart watches were made with round faces? The author’s dissection of the data and understanding of the implications are poor.

    Even if it were true that “consumers prefer round watches”, Apple would ignore it. If Apple followed that kind of logic, the iPhone would have had a physical keyboard.

  3. Pocket watches, followed by wrist watches, were originally mechanical devices. They functioned though the use of gears and springs, which makes the circular shape logical and obvious. But this isn’t the only design utilized for conventional wrist watches, as conveyed in the Hamilton Ventura line, which has a triangular shield outline. I find them to be very attractive and unique.

    Modern digital watches aren’t restricted by this, and can really be any shape wanted, albeit functionality and aesthetics come into play. I don’t see why Apple couldn’t make a round faced watch which not only has a Digital Crown and buttons, but also maybe a ring on the perimeter that could rotate for various functions.

    Blathering on about Apple’s design being the only rational choice is ridiculous, and is a stifling attitude towards innovation. Believe it or not, Apple isn’t the only company in the world who has come up with fantastic ideas and products.

    1. Nobody is “blathering” on about Apple’s decision being the only rational choice. This is not something we all just made up, round displays are not as efficient or functional as rectangular displays. Period. Laying out content in a circle is an extremely specialized process and does not allow for the best possible use of space.

      Yes, a round face looks better then a rectangular face, but that’s only because we are always drawn towards tradition. All analog timepieces have a round face (even on rectangular watches), because there’s a round gear moving the hands in a circular direction.

      Nobody is arguing that the round smart watches look more like a watch, the argument is the functionality of the form in presenting content. There’s a reason books, televisions, computer displays, keyboards, etc. are rectangular in shape; it’s a form that allows a more versatile layout and design.

      Smart watches are no more watches than smart phones are phones; they’re computers. If you make a smart watch with a round face you’re severely limiting its capabilities – A round smart watch is ALL about form over function.

      1. You keep going on about “the best possible use of space”, as if everything available on a watch has to be crammed on the screen for instance access. Yet on the Apple Watch the icons are round, and they aren’t all the same size. Why is that?

        If square is so efficient, then why not square icons? If so, could you then get all of the apps on the screen at the same time in the same size?

        If and when Apple comes out with a different shape I hope you remember to inform us all about how wrong they are.

        1. Agreed…not sure why there is so much resistance to a round watch by MDN. It’s about choices. The Apple Watch UI was brilliantly designed to work with with either round or square faces. There absolutely will be a round Apple Watch. Some people will love it. If you don’t like it- buy the square one!

  4. The UI of the Apple Watch is already designed to be Round! Apple will release a Round watch, and in typical Apple fashion, it will be awesome and blow away all those who doubted. Funny to see MDN as a doubter in this one.

    Why no Round Apple Watch yet? Because it’s harder to build and Apple is waiting to get it right. Simple.

  5. Here’s another angle, one from the standpoint of optimal screen utilisation.

    A circle occupies 79% of a square screen, whereas a square occupies only 64% of a circular screen.

    Thus the square uses 23% more of its screen when displaying a circular watch face. And when displaying lists, the square can use 100% of the screen whereas the round one can use only 64%.

  6. You have a top selling product and along comes a guy who graduated from journalism school a bit back and now he’s telling the most successful company how to change its newest and likely most successful early sales volume product.

    Give me a break. No more clueless writer articles.

    1. Such arrogance from a mere internet blogger. If he likes round-face watches that’s fine but saying Apple needs to make one is simply ridiculous. I’m sure Apple can make an AppleWatch any shape they want it to be but if they choose not to then that’s their decision. Imagine if this writer were to go to a traditional watch company and tell them their designs didn’t satisfy his tastes and they’d quickly show him the door.

      I’m sure those all those classic watch companies took great care and thought of how their watch designs became as they were. They don’t need some outsider to tell them how to shape their watches. I guess writers need something to write about even if it doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense. Is there really such a thing as a classy shape for a watch? Whatever shape the buyer likes is what really matters. To me, round, square, rectangular and triangular can look attractive to me. I’ve found all sorts of shapes of watches are nice as long as it’s easy for me to tell the time with them. I prefer numerals to non-numeral watches because they’re quicker for me to read at a glance.

  7. This whole watch thing was a disaster — cheap plastic straps for the base model, highly overpriced for others, square design that has no elegance at all, $17000 gold watch for one percenters, the software design that is nothing like Apple has ever produced — the whole thing is disaster like the Maps. As long as Cook is in charge, expect nothing good from Apple. That is the reason Wall Street has almost given up on Apple stock.

  8. Dating myself but here goes…. I remember when I was a kid almost 50 years ago that all the houses ( at least in the South) had a porch with two front doors. One door, typically the one on the left opened to a bedroom. The other door, typically the one on the right opened onto the living room. Behind that living room was another bedroom. And behind the front bedroom was the kitchen. And off the back of the kitchen was the back porch and off the back bedroom was the bathroom. It was odd that you had to go through a bedroom to get to the kitchen. It was odd that a guest had to go through a bedroom to use the facilities. But in the day and the days of then modern housing, that was just how it was. You didn’t question it. That’s just the nature of a house, you assumed. If you built a new house, you thought about paint colors and other cosmetics but you didn’t rethink think the layout. And then over time, we developed long halls off the living rooms with kitchens in the back and bedrooms and bathrooms off those long halls so guests no longer had to traipse through our private spaces. Now today I live in a split-plan house with my bedroom behind the garage and other bedrooms on the opposite side of the house with living room and kitchen in the middle. And I sit here now thinking, Man, I’m glad we don’t live in those…. shotgun shacks anymore. That’s what we call them now because we have evolved. The home has a different meaning in an age where there’s not a woman at home cleaning all day while the man is out making the bacon. The world has changed. Our lifestyles have changed. And that means that we might require a bit more of a watch. Indeed, that old shotgun shack may not be what we want anymore. That’s called evolution. And when someone dreams up the idea to evolve with the times while EVERYBODY else screams, NO, you can’t do that. That’s not what consumers want. Well, that’s called Revolution. So the non-Apple folks can enjoy their shotgun shacks and round analogue clocks and watches. This nearly 50-year-old in his split-plan with his square watch with the digital face is ready to change with the times. Having my perception of the past though, I just wish all you younger folks had a view of the future and all its possibilities once you’re courageous enough to believe that maybe how each of us has molded the world in our minds guided by the way that things are is not necessarily the best that the world could be.

    1. Amen. Man is the only species on Earth that has evolved from this fast. We’ve gone from subsistence farming to advanced industry we have today in just about 200 years.

      The Apple Watch is not really a watch, but the next evolutionary step. Luddites want their wind up Big Ben round faced clocks with a clanging metal bell.

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