When Apple released their smartwatch in 2015, many people expected it to have a round display, not only because traditional smart watches feature circular faces, but also because previously released smartwatches like the Moto 360 had round displays too. But Apple chose the rectangular form factor instead, and they had a couple reasons why.
Primarily, they realized that while we call a device strapped to our wrist a smart watch, it’s more of a miniature smartphone. Most of the content it displays. Some straight from our iPhone which has a rectangular display, so formatting things like texts, emails and calendars on a circular display would cause serious optimization issues.
Just look at this message on the rectangular Apple Watch. It can be formatted to take advantage of every pixel reaching the top, bottom, and sides of the display area. But if you move this to a circular display, you’ll struggle to take advantage of the screen real estate. Enlarging the content to take advantage of the displays width. The results in information being cut off, minimizing the content, leaves areas of the display unused, and if you’re thinking well around smartwatch would reformat this type of content in order to optimize for its display. Then take a look at this screenshot from an actual Galaxy active watch. It had to shrink the text buttons and even the time in order to fit all the elements onto its round display, leaving all these areas unused and wasting screen space on something as small as a watch. Is a huge problem.
That’s why in order to optimize the user experience and deliver as much content as large as possible, Apple chose to make their smartwatch rectangular, and that seems to have been the right decision since the Apple Watch has captured almost 30% of the entire smartwatch market worldwide, that’s more than Huawei, Samsung, Fitbit and Garmin combined. So while Apple might make some radical changes to the Apple Watch in the future, it will likely always retain its square shape.