When it comes to smartwatches, is it actually hip to be square?

< type="image/webp"/>A combination of Wear OS and Apple Watches rests on a black rubber mat, illustrating a mix of square and circular watch options.

Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The discussion of square vs. circular smartwatches isn’t new, but it hasn’t come up with a definitive answer yet. It’s certainly easier to pull off an angular device than it used to be, but many users still rely on the circular aesthetic.

This year, we saw the debut of an exciting new Wear OS on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, a sleek and effortless flagship device with a round profile. We also saw the presentation of the Apple Watch Series 7, with a screen bigger than ever, in the same way that we expected.

But which design makes the most sense? There are reasonable (and unreasonable) defenses to each. Let’s go over the common arguments and practical pros and cons of round and square watch cases.

Our verdicts: Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 Review | Apple Watch Series 7 review

Aesthetics is personal

Before we dig too deep here, it goes without saying that style is subjective. Many people like the strongly geometric silhouette of the Apple Watch. Maybe the streamlined shape and straight edges have an art-deco vibe that you can back up. Alternatively, it could be one of the many users who insist on a circular clock. It could be that you hate the Great Gatsby. Or maybe the rectangular shape just screams “sport,” and you’d hate for people to think that you enjoy cardio.

If you choose your device based solely on the look of its case, this article may not influence you. Aesthetics is deeply personal and rarely up for debate. That said, you’re buying a tool, not just an accessory, so it might be worth the compromise to get the best experience.

Related: The best running watches you can buy

Going back to the old square designs

< type="image/webp"/>An Apple Watch Series 7 on a user's wrist displays an image of the Chrysler Building on the Photo watch face.

Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

The argument for wanting to imitate a traditional watch opens another door for discussion. I fell into a charming den of wristwatch history researching this debate. However, I recognize that not everyone is as nerdy as I am, so I’ll spare readers the details. The important thing to note is that Apple did not reinvent the wheel (or, in this case, the clock).

Angular wristwatches may seem few and far between, but they have always had a place in history. Cartier’s square-shaped 1904 Santos is regarded as one of the world’s first wristwatches. Its successor, the Cartier Tank (a rectangular watch inspired by the rolling lines of WWI tanks), is a truly timeless luxury watch that, at 100 years old, has clearly stood the test of time.

This means that users (including me) who want a device that looks like a real watch have more options than they might think. Apple’s rectangular silhouette has always been around. Eclipsed perhaps, but always present.

A clear break with tradition

< type="image/webp"/>A stack of smart watches includes an Apple Watch Series 6 and 7, as well as a Galaxy Watch 4, an Oppo Watch, and a TicWatch Pro 3 Ultra.

Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

More importantly, we are not talking about comparable purchases. Just like smartphones are not the same as old rotary phones, smartwatches do not serve the same purpose as a 20th century watch. Aside from the fact that smartwatches can make phone calls, track SpO2, store photos, and generally do a lot more than regular watches, they’re just not the same.

We don’t have the same relationship with smart watches as we do with traditional wristwatches.

Smartwatches are frequently updated, retired and changed compared to traditional watches. Nobody passes their Galaxy Watch 4 to their great-grandson as a family heirloom. These are utilitarian devices and as such it can be argued that form should follow function (says the writer who insists on a green device, a uselessly adorable watch face, and a loop band that is not waterproof).

Circular motion

< type="image/webp"/>A Galaxy Watch 4 on a woman's wrist displays a black and gold analog watch face.

Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

So why are so many devices following the circular trend? When the Moto 360 first brought a circular Wear OS watch to your wrists, it created a monster. Since then, the circle has been the most common choice for many, including Samsung, Garmin, and Wear OS users. This makes sense for brands like Fossil or Michael Kors, as fashion brands cater to an audience looking for a specific style.

Check: Your guide to the best fashion smartwatches

Circular displays are ideal for round analog watch faces and are often better suited to small wrists. They adapt more easily to an elegant style and combine perfectly with business attire. In other words, they offer a subtle contrast to the sporty look of square smartwatches. But what about its usefulness? A circular aesthetic doesn’t have to be the standard for a competitor like Samsung, and frankly, it might not be right.

If it’s not trendy, it’s at least useful to be a square smartwatch

< type="image/webp"/>An Apple Watch Series 7 and a Galaxy Watch 4 each display their General Settings screens, highlighting the space advantage of a rectangular display.

Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Beyond appearances, circular displays simply don’t have the same functionality as a rectangular display. It all comes down to real estate. Round clocks take up less space and only a few lines of information can use the maximum width. In other words, you’ll see a lot of cut off text and frustrating margins.

Circular displays are further behind with the new large Apple Watch Series 7. It’s hard to miss a full keyboard, bigger buttons, and more space than ever. With a constant trend towards advanced health and fitness tracking, square smartwatches also make more sense for displaying graphs.

Rectangular displays offer users more space to display information and interact with functions.

Also, there is an argument for consistency. Most of the screens we use on a daily basis are rectangular, including smartphones, monitors, e-readers, laptops, and televisions. The benefit of a similar user experience on all devices is worth mentioning.

Bottom line: circular vs square smartwatches

< type="image/webp"/>A Galaxy Watch 4 and an Apple Watch 7 hang opposite each other on a gold medal pedestal.

Kaitlyn Cimino / Android Authority

Advantages of square smart watches

  • More space for information at a glance
  • Intuitive information organization
  • A consistent experience across all devices

Square watch faces offer users the greatest amount of space to interact with their devices. That is the argument in a nutshell.

Cons of the square smartwatch

  • An overwhelmingly sporty aesthetic
  • People know that you are very likely an Apple user
  • The variety of sizes is limited

While we can argue that angular watches are historical, no one believes that you are wearing a fancy watch from the jazz age. You can be sure your boss knows that when you check your smartwatch, you’re catching up on a string of text, not just seeing if it’s half past nine.

Pros of circular smartwatch

  • Easier to dress up or down
  • Analog faces look like home
  • Available in a wide variety of sizes.

If your smartwatch is first and foremost a statement accessory with some notification support, the circular devices can fit the bill.

Cons of circular smartwatch

  • Limited space to display information
  • Less functionality and space for user interaction.

The space race is back, albeit a little different and much closer to home. If companies want to catch up, they probably need to think outside the box (or inside the box?).

Do you prefer round or square smartwatches?

40 votes

You can’t please everyone

The leaders of the smartwatch industry can’t make everyone happy, including this Apple user with a love affair with the Galaxy Watch. The ultimate solution would be to offer users more options. As a frequent Apple Watch user, I’d love to see a circular option to match formal outfits, particularly women’s clothing. Similarly, I can imagine that a square smartwatch would be a welcome change for many users of Garmin, Wear OS, Samsung, and other circular watches.

Keep reading: The best smartwatches for women

Above article first published by . We curated and re-published.

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