Why A Round Apple Watch Is Possible, But Won’t Be A Surprise


Apple’s newest product, the Apple Watch, is not yet a year old and there is plenty of criticism and speculation for what may be the second and third generation of this product. Although Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has high hopes for the health implications this device may have, consumers have concerns with what the watch will be able to do as a standalone device and ultimately, how it will look aesthetically. In the watch’s short time on the market, enthusiasts have questioned if the device’s form factor will turn to a round design, taking the look of many other smartwatches on the market today.

For those of us who are deeply rooted into Apple’s DNA, we know that change in the company is a rare occurrence; however, 2015 has been full of changes for Apple: Releasing Swift as open source, allowing free downloads of Xcode, breaking ground into the streaming music industry and, creating a stylus for what could be Cupertino’s future tablet-computer. Through these changes, Apple has proven that in a post-Jobs era, they can still entertain a crowd. So does this mean that Apple can surprise us with a round smartwatch in the future?

To reiterate the previous phrase, for those of us who are deeply rooted into Apple’s DNA, the answer is no. The simple reason is application support. Apple has made it clear, especially this year, that developer support is crucial to their success.

When the App Store was released for the iPhone, it was released with 500 applications. This was no surprise because the SDK for App development was released at the MacWorld/iWorld expo months before the App Store went live. This allowed for the opportunity for developers to create material for 3.5-inch screen. When the iPhone 3G was released, it carried the same 3.5-inch screen as its predecessor, with little change to (then) iPhone OS source code, making it simple to developers to update their apps. Similarly, developer support was crucial to the iPad’s success. Apple’s release of the iPad in 2010 came two months after its initial announcement, providing developers time to create applications tailored for a larger display. When Apple announced the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6, devices with larger screen sizes, they optimized iOS to enlarge and/or center applications that weren’t yet updated for the larger screen, still allowing for consumer use of the applications. Finally, when Apple unveiled the Apple Watch and the Apple TV 4, running watchOS and tvOS, respectively, this was done in advance, allowing developers the time to get their code ready for Cupertino’s newest hardware.

Source code in iOS 9.0 beta indicating the screen resolution of the upcoming iPad Pro.

Apple’s reliance on developer content is crucial and, with each new iteration of the iPhone and iPad, the shape of the screen has remained unchanged. Changing the shape of the screen, the interface between the user and the product, changes the game for developers. Apple wants a great user experience. Aside from the programming language, developers must (at a minimum) know the size and dimensions of the interface for which we are creating applications. Although Apple can include information (like resolution changes) in the source code of an OS, it doesn’t seem like Apple to announce a shape (and therefore major design) change to a product through the source code of watchOS beta.

If Apple decides to change the design of Apple Watch, there are two paths they could follow.

Apple could surprise the world by announcing a new design to their smartwatch at a September keynote and release the source code to developers, giving them a month before an October release. Though plausible, this option (like the addition of 3D Touch to iOS 9) would be another middle finger to those of us who are developers, as the window to update our applications for a different interface would be miniscule.

With Apple’s history, it would seem more paralleled for a redesign to be unveiled during the company’s annual developer conference in June, allowing developers the summer months to edit code for a fall release. However, like the first-generation Apple Watch, doing so wouldn’t surprise anyone, as the world would know of the upcoming product months before release, providing time for other companies to push a new models into production prior the Apple’s product launch.

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