Apple's work on circular screens could lead to round-face Apple Watch

Posted:
in Apple Watch
The Apple Watch device family could potentially include a round-faced variant in the future, following the discovery that Apple has worked on a way to produce displays for devices with curved edges, an element crucial to the creation of such a circular-shaped wearable device.

Apple Watch


Granted and published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, Apple's patent for "Electronic device having display with curved edges" describes how to construct a display that differs from the usual rectangular shape typically used in mobile device screens.

In the explanation, the patent advises of the reduced pixel count and the irregular rows and columns that make up a round display compared to the uniform pixel arrays in rectangular screens. Folded vertical lines for pixel data could be split across two halves of a round screen, with bisected horizontal gate lines working in a similar manner, for a more efficient display.

apple round screen patent


As there would be a number of unused array sections on the edges, Apple suggests using curved coupling segments in these inactive areas to join the segments together. By doing this, Apple suggests this could help limit the number of "bottleneck regions" in a display where "signal lines become crowded, leading to inefficient use of [the] display area."

Originally filed on January 7, 2016, the patent is credited to Yu Cheng Chen, Tsung-Ting Tsai, and Shih Chang Ghang.

The patent largely talks about how the technology could work, but does briefly suggest this could be used in a watch-like design. One image also shows an example of the viewing area of a circular-faced watch, hinting at its potential application, but without offering any fully-developed designs for a round Apple Watch at all.

The description of the patent also notes the technology could be used in other smaller devices than a watch, including a "pendant device" and headphones. Considering Apple's previous rumored work on VR and AR headsets, as well as smartglasses, the patent also suggests its application for "a device embedded in eyeglasses or other equipment worn on a user's head."

apple round screen patent


Apple regularly applies for patents, filing ideas with the USPTO tens or hundreds of times a week, and in many cases the company doesn't commercialize the concept, even if it is granted. As a result, there is no guarantee the applied patents will make an appearance in a future Apple product.

There has been little speculation as to what to expect from the next generation of Apple Watch, but the main predictions from KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo point to a 15-percent larger display, extended battery life, and enhancements to its built-in health sensors, not a major design change.

Round-faced smartwatches are also not a new concept either, with some Android Wear devices, rebranded as WearOS, using circular OLED screens. The existence of competitors equipped with circular screens makes an Apple Watch sporting a similar design a possibility, but there have not yet been any rumors or reports hinting that such a device is on the way.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 80
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,502member
    Mmm. 

    Sounds like a lot of complexity and a lot of compromises.  
    SolironnGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 2 of 80
    tulkastulkas Posts: 3,733member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Mmm. 

    Sounds like a lot of complexity and a lot of compromises.  
    Yup. There is a good reason we don't use round smart phone, TVs and monitors. Round displays are not optimal for for most/all media types, but especially for text over one or two words. 
    StrangeDaysrossb2stanhopelolliverGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 80
    I have played with Android Wear and the TizenOS stuff with the round faces. The Apple face as it currently is I have found to be far superior for reading text. Of course, with Apple's focus on end user experience I would tend to believe they would overcome some of these shortcomings. 
    stanhoperonnlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 80
    SoliSoli Posts: 7,021member
    While round has an aesthetic appeal for a watch, I think that ship has sailed.

    I’d like to see the Watch display get a wider aspect ratio as there’s a lot of real estate on the lower arm and it would allow for better I/O which would improve its overall utility, but I think that’a still likely years away.
    edited May 8 berndogcornchipjony0lolliverGeorgeBMac
  • Reply 5 of 80
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,541member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Mmm. 

    Sounds like a lot of complexity and a lot of compromises.  
    You are probably right isn't digital watch and phone design all about 'complexity and compromise' I used to think a round digital watch face was lame and illogical. It doesn't make sense in terms of a digital display. whereas for a mechanical watch 'round' makes perfect sense. But over time I have come to realize that a round object on the wrist just looks better. It may just be because I am conditioned to think of watches as round but I find the shape more pleasing. Some of the Garmin watches look pretty good and I have been considering getting one. So yeah, a round Apple Watch face, please. Bring it on.
    larryamike1abhinav1215charlesgres
  • Reply 6 of 80
    boboliciousbobolicious Posts: 323member
    ... this is great news to me... Is the archetype for watches (and pure form) well established and does the chicklet (while functional) smack of computer geek no matter how much gold someone paid for... ?
  • Reply 7 of 80
    KuyangkohKuyangkoh Posts: 159member
    Unless they focused on analog watch display only, hehehe...NOT for Apple
    lolliver
  • Reply 8 of 80
    You're already taking up that real estate on my wrist, please dont take the very useful corners away. Why do people insist on "the archetype for watches". Mainframes were the archetype for computers but they didnt fit very well on your office desk.
    berndogcaladanianmatrix077StrangeDaysfastasleepSnickersMagooronnlolliverGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 80
    wigbywigby Posts: 665member
    ... this is great news to me... Is the archetype for watches (and pure form) well established and does the chicklet (while functional) smack of computer geek no matter how much gold someone paid for... ?
    Smartwatches do not have to comply with wrist watch archetypes any more than apps or software design have to comply with skeuomorphism. If anything, the new archetype of digital wearables have been defined as square or rectangular by Apple. I still like the look of round faces too, but round watches will continue to appear increasingly irrelevant and antiquated as we move forward. 
    caladanianfastasleepronnlolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 80
    radarthekatradarthekat Posts: 2,297moderator
    Other than aesthetic appeal, which is in the eye of the beholder, it seems a round watch display offers no advantages over a rectangular display.  The imperative for a round face went away with circular mechanical movements, and I doubt Apple will revive it for the wrist-mounted computer we call the Apple Watch.  

    Looking at the 2016 patent filing date, it seems as though the patent could be related more to the rounded corners of the iPhone X.  Apple may simply have illustrated the patent with the obvious application in order to obfuscate its true purpose.  
    caladanianStrangeDaysuraharacornchipjony0lolliverGeorgeBMacmjtomlinwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 80
    larryalarrya Posts: 484member
    Guys, unless this is for the top of the HomePod it probably means we will see a round Apple Watch. Ship not sailed.  Yes for Apple. Text reading be damned. 
  • Reply 12 of 80
    boboliciousbobolicious Posts: 323member
    wigby said:
    ... this is great news to me... Is the archetype for watches (and pure form) well established and does the chicklet (while functional) smack of computer geek no matter how much gold someone paid for... ?
    Smartwatches do not have to comply with wrist watch archetypes any more than apps or software design have to comply with skeuomorphism. If anything, the new archetype of digital wearables have been defined as square or rectangular by Apple. I still like the look of round faces too, but round watches will continue to appear increasingly irrelevant and antiquated as we move forward. 

    ... I agree with what you say, and I look to products like fitbit www.fitbit.com/en-ca/charge2 for some elegance in rectangular face design ... What little I've read has me asking if Ive without Jobs can ever be as effective, and I'm sure missed every day... I was in fact surprised to see Ive's design preference for a home, although who knows what factors play into such a thing...

    www.businessinsider.com/photos-of-apples-jony-ives-home-2014-8

    ...and might there be some benefits, such as weather radar, photos + call ID, rotary controls, etc...

    edited May 8 allmypeople
  • Reply 13 of 80
    It seems the current form is pernt near perfect at allowing four complications to surround round dial. Quite savory. 
    cornchiplolliverGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 80
    allmypeopleallmypeople Posts: 328member
    My wife is an Apple Watch nut and for her it's all about fitness tracking & aesthetics. She's got about 20 different bands to ensure she has something with every outfit.

    If Apple came out with a round face she thinks she'd prefer it style-wise but would want to try it first. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 80
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 427member
    Other than aesthetic appeal, which is in the eye of the beholder, it seems a round watch display offers no advantages over a rectangular display.  The imperative for a round face went away with circular mechanical movements, and I doubt Apple will revive it for the wrist-mounted computer we call the Apple Watch.  

    Looking at the 2016 patent filing date, it seems as though the patent could be related more to the rounded corners of the iPhone X.  Apple may simply have illustrated the patent with the obvious application in order to obfuscate its true purpose.  
    this. It’s interesting to consider why the round shape is generally more asesthetically pleasing than a square face. Clock faces and more specifically watches have been round for several hundred years and fine timepieces are still round. A square face is associated more with tech than with sophistication. Even now, when I dress up, I put my analog watch on simply because it looks better, even though it’s only a $45 Timex.

    From a functional standpoint, the only advantage a round face offers is using the bezel as an input device, but I’m assuming Samsung has already patented that idea and I can’t see APple ever copying it. Other than that, a square face is infinitely more functional and usable for functions other than telling time.
    cornchiplolliverradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 80
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 158member
    This would be a rounding error.

    However I have found the best song for Apple to use if they release a round Watch: The Beach Boys' I Get Around: "Round round get around, I get around, Yeah, Get around round round I get around, I get around". Maybe with this extra lyric: "My buddies and me are getting real well known, Yeah, the SQUARE guys know us and they leave us alone."
    patchythepirateradarthekatapplesnorangesGeorgeBMacmac_128
  • Reply 17 of 80
    flashfan207flashfan207 Posts: 278member
    It seems the current form is pernt near perfect at allowing four complications to surround round dial. Quite savory. 
    Yeah, I agree. There are quite a few stylistically pleasing round watch faces to choose from, too. Then the four complications on the corners and/or one in the centre of the face somewhere and you can get a really cool look.

    I personally prefer the square design, but know several folks who would rather wait for an Apple-branded round one, and ignorantly refuse to even try on the square one because “watches are supposed to be round,” lol. Perhaps a round Apple Watch would be a sound business decision. I dunno...
    king editor the gratelolliver
  • Reply 18 of 80
    slurpyslurpy Posts: 4,983member
    I'd love the option of a round face. I really think it would widen the appeal and expand potential customer base. 
    mike1mac_128
  • Reply 19 of 80
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,058member
    Possible also that this patent may play some part in Apple’s AR glasses.
    cornchip
  • Reply 20 of 80
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 4,540member
    wigby said:
    ... this is great news to me... Is the archetype for watches (and pure form) well established and does the chicklet (while functional) smack of computer geek no matter how much gold someone paid for... ?
    Smartwatches do not have to comply with wrist watch archetypes any more than apps or software design have to comply with skeuomorphism. If anything, the new archetype of digital wearables have been defined as square or rectangular by Apple. I still like the look of round faces too, but round watches will continue to appear increasingly irrelevant and antiquated as we move forward. 

    ... I agree with what you say, and I look to products like fitbit www.fitbit.com/en-ca/charge2 for some elegance in rectangular face design ... What little I've read has me asking if Ive without Jobs can ever be as effective, and I'm sure missed every day... 

    Why? Ive didn't single-handedly design everything, nor did Jobs. Jobs made a point of saying at one event that it's a team effort. Ive leads that team at a senior executive level, and we've seen some amazing products from the design team -- the Watch, AirPods, Pencil, new iterations of Macs, iPads and iPhones including the amazing X. 
    cornchipwatto_cobra
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