Apple Watch Loop Concept
Source: Felipe Duarte
The Apple Watch 6 (Review) from 2020 is about to be superseded with a predictably named Apple Watch 7. Rumours and speculation have suggested that we might one day see a move by Apple from the round-edged rectangular watchface to a more conventional circular face. Here designer Felipe Duarte has created a full concept including packaging to imagine what this might look like with his Apple Watch LOOP.
Duarte combines some aesthetics of the existing screen and strap mechanisms to show that a ‘simple’ change to the screen shape is, in fact, far from simple to execute.
Existing aspects of Apple’s current design that are already circular such as the rings on the screen and the heart rate sensor on the rear DO translate well to a circular watch format. However, the Home Screen shown above doesn’t look great and underscores the subtle superiorities of Wear OS in this particular aspect of interface design (below)
And that’s just aesthetics. If you think about the myriad of changes that are required to the interface layout from both Apple and all the app designers then you will start to appreciate that a circular watch face isn’t coming anytime soon.
Considering the huge volumes of smartwatches that Apple sells, the number of product variants and options is relatively small. Yet within this restriction of product choices, Apple cleverly sees the importance of user customisation both for the strap and for the watch face. I wouldn’t foresee any issues at all with creating circular watch faces…it’s kinda been done before millions of times! However, a move to a circular watch face by Apple would be highly likely to require a wholly new strap mechanism. Apple has to produce a complete set of any new strap and 3rd parties have to start their designs from scratch too.
The current Apple Watch mechanism to release and attach a new strap is a little bit fiddly BUT it is a secure mechanism and, in my experience, I’ve never worried about a strap inadvertently losing the watch body or not quite attaching on properly. Apple really has designed the details well.
Duarte imagines a one-piece strap where the circular rubber on the strap holds the body in place to some degree with his smaller crown also locking the body into a precise position with the strap…I can’t see that working over an extended period despite the superficial cleverness of his concept.
Next, we consider Apple’s existing rotating crown which I’m the first to admit isn’t pretty. But the crown IS functional and DOES work really well. Duarte imagines something smaller; smaller even than on the Fossil Gen 5 (below). His proportions are wrong…but, then again, so are Apple’s. Perhaps a rotating crown of any sort is anachronistic on a modern smartwatch?
So where does that leave the physical, hardware interface? A: Buttons and/or sliders.
Oppo has done away with any kind of crown. I like what Oppo has done with their buttons. My guess is that Apple will move to a similar button+button/slider interface at some point. When that time arrives, Apple will then be in the position of effectively copying many other watch formats that have come before and bang goes their perceived excellence at innovative hardware design aesthetics.
You will NOT see a circular Apple Watch 7 this year. No way Jose.
A crownless Watch Series 7 is possible for September 2021 but VERY unlikely.
Q: Why should Apple fundamentally change the hardware design of the best selling smartwatch EVER?