The Game Of Smartwatches: Round Versus Square Display

Author Chinavasion Marketing 17.6.2015. | 19:28

The debate around whether we need a smartwatch or not seems to have quieted down, with both sides holding their ground and waiting for the future to settle the argument.

However, with more and more watches entering the market, the discussion has shifted into the design area, with debaters clearly settling into two distinct groups: the round ones and the square ones.

If the phrase “traditional smartwatch” is appropriate for a gadget that has only been around for a couple of years, then we could say that traditional smartwatches came with squared watchfaces. It also seems to have been the universally accepted gadget form, as smartphones, tablets and laptops all sported one and the same shape. Thus, we have accepted the squared smartwatch as a natural addition to our lives without much of a second thought.

And then came the Moto 360. The company has decided to bring back the classic look of the original watch and thus initiated the current discussion. Other companies followed: Huawei Watch (presented at this year’s Mobile World Congress) and LG Watch Urbane both sport timeless round watchfaces.

Moto 360

Moto 360

LG Urbane

LG Urbane

Huawei Watch

Huawei Watch

However, not everyone was convinced. Apple Watch proudly unveiled itself in all of its square glory, joining Sony Smartwatch 3, Samsung Gear S and a bunch of others.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch

Sony Smartwatch 3

Sony Smartwatch 3

Samsung Gear S

Samsung Gear S

So who is right and who is wrong, and which display will be crowned as the best option for a smartwatch?

Square Watchfaces

There a lot to be said in favour of the “traditional” square smart watchface.

  • They give us more screen real estate – and thus many more things can be fitted onto the screen, giving us a better view of emails, websites and, basically, everything else.
  • A square display is also good for all sorts of text, from notifications to emails. On it, all the writing can be displayed in full, with no words cut in half and no information going missing – thus saving you from excessive scrolling.
  • Icons can be presented in a neat stack of rows, making use of the whole screen.
  • As we have mentioned earlier, square design is familiar and we are used to working with it – thus, operating the smartwatch will feel easy and familiar.
  • A great number of applications are designed with a square format in mind and will look their best on the screen of the same shape.

What could be the problem?

  • We dubbed the square screen “traditional” in this post and that may also be its biggest drawback: we are used to it, and there is nothing new about the design. Not much has changed in the smartwatch screen since the gadgets first appeared, and users are getting hungry for something different.
  • Some users may not find a square screen sitting comfortably on their wrist. Surely, this is a matter of personal preference, but as we all know, personal preferences often serve as deciding factors in the “to buy or not to buy” dilemma.
  • Square screens are also gadget giveaways. Your watch will look more like a gadget than an accessory – and it is a gadget – but some users may be leaning towards a more fashion-oriented look that would fit in with their daily stylings.

Round Watchfaces

As ironic as this may sound, round watchfaces are the new thing when it comes to smartwatch design. Ever since the unveiling of Moto 360, users have been clamoring excitedly, eager for a journey “back to the future”.

But is there anything the round watchscreen has to offer besides the relative novelty?

  • Well, first there is the design. For many, a circular watch simply looks better on the wrist: it seems lighter, thinner and somehow more organic.
  • The time-honored look is also easily adjustable for various styles and fashions and seems to go well with just about anything, projecting a refined classic look.
  • A circular screen is expansive and seems edgeless, visually enlarging the available display space.

On the functional side, a circular screen can also offer quite a number of advantages.

  • You can use the gyroscope to rotate the display according to your best convenience, no matter which way the watch is held.
  • A round watchface also gives lots of possibilities to animate original watch functions and there may be lots of ways to bring both worlds, traditional and smart functions, together.

But, again, there are some issues.

  • Round screens are not the best for showing text, notifications often have to be squeezed into the lower part of the circular screen or centered, which leads to a considerable waste of screen space.
  • Most applications are also designed with square screens in mind, and when presented on a round watchface, you may have to deal with roughly-cut versions of them, not giving the apps due justice.

What does the future hold?

With major smartwatch players clearly adhering to different positions, it’s hard to make any predictions. A poll, conducted by in 2014, revealed the following picture:

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 4.07.23 PM

But will opinions change with the release of the Apple Watch? We’ll have to wait and see.

Would you prefer a round or a square display? Share your opinion in the comments below.

Author Chinavasion Marketing 17.6.2015. | 19:28
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