The Next Apple Watch Should Be Round

Time is linear, but the way we measure it is circular. As the earth rotates, causing the sun to seem to rise and set, days pass according to a familiar rhythm. When the sun is high in the sky we call at noon; when is on when it is on the opposite side of the earth we called at midnight. These two markers are what clocks have long used as reference points.

The round shape of clocks and watches is no accident. It attempts to reproduce this movement of the sun around the earth, this rise and fall and repetition of day and night. Of course there are other ways to measure time: water clocks, hourglasses, and digital clocks, for example, all track time, some with a visible element showing its passage (such as water clocks and hourglasses) and others, like digital clocks, that display time just as a set of abstract numbers.

As the Apple Watch has reached maturity, it’s time for Apple to reconsider the shape of the device. While the rectangle with rounded corners is good for reading text, it doesn’t make one think of a watch. To be fair, this isn’t a watch; it’s a wrist computer, and the shape of the device suggests that much more than it does a timepiece. While there are some iconic square or rectangular watches — think of the Cartier tank watch — most watches are round. There is something relaxing, reassuring about a circular device on the wrist. It is linked to the tradition and history of watches, and to the circular movement of the sun and the way we represent time.

I use a round watch face on my Apple Watch most of the time; I’m not a big fan of digital time displays, and, as a friend of mine has said, a digital watch tells you what time it is, but an analog watch — or one with a round display — tells you what time it isn’t. And I find that I can more easily have an idea of what time it is just by glancing at a round face. I don’t have to read numbers and interpret them; the hands alone show me what time it is (or isn’t).

Samsung’s smartwatches are circular, and they look more like watches and less like computers. I think Apple should copy this; not that copying the round shape not that making a watch that is circular would actually be copying Samsung, it would just be aligning the Apple Watch with standard timepieces. Yes, reading emails might be more difficult, but as the last few years have shown, the Apple Watch is not a device that many people used to read text on. Its health and fitness features don’t need to be rectangular; notifications don’t need to have a rectangular display; and most apps would easily accommodate the round shape.

I can’t help thinking, as my as I look at my Apple Watch today, that this device is almost as clunky as those old Casio calculator watches with the tiny buttons, and that, in a few years, will look back at this and snicker. A round Apple Watch, especially if it was thinner, would look much better, it would make the device look less like a computing device and more like a timepiece. Even though that timepiece would have some very advanced computing features, why couldn’t it look less like a wrist computer and more like a watch?

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