Circular Screens: Finally Time to Literally Think Outside the Box

Finally, a smartwatch that doesn’t look like a vintage Casio calculator. If it lives up to the promise of its design, the Moto 360 powered by Android Wear – the first serious operating system for smartwatches by a reputable tech giant – will untie the hands of web, app and mobile designers and developers and start a wave of consumer adoption in the smartwatch category. 

Advanced smartwatches are nothing new. Suunto and other manufacturers have been putting complicated computers that can predict the weather, measure your vitals and navigate you out of remote snowstorms for years, all in a watch. The trouble and lack of widespread consumer adoption until now hasn’t been a problem of functionality, but one of design.  If Android Wear and the Moto 360 provide a simple, elegant and useable interface (not unlike the iPhone did for mobile phones), then consumers will respond eagerly (it also helps when big players like Google enter the space).

Aside from the mobile ecosystem and infrastructure that were previously lacking, what earlier smartwatch attempts have yet to fully realize is that a watch, like many accessories, is as much a social statement as it is a functional piece of equipment. The issue with designs that look like square and/or clunky computers is that they reflect only a limited subset of values of the potential wearers, early adopters and athletes. Now finally, a round smartwatch opens the door to designs and values of form and functionality. We can expect the demand for customization to be even more important than for smartphone cases. Who should take note? The luxury market.

What does the Moto 360 smartwatch mean for you?

Wearables will be coming down the pipeline in all shapes and sizes. If you are not yet investing in responsive design for relatively straightforward mobile phones, tablets and computers, now is the time to start. Designers and developers accustomed to rectangles and squares can finally think outside the box, and you can expect them to be eager.

As an agency doing content marketing, our imagination runs wild thinking of the ways content can change too. Just like it adapted to mobile (think 140 characters and photo-centric infinite-scroll feeds), we can foresee it adapting to round, triangular, [insert shape] smartwatches, "smart mirrors" (one for the ladies), and other yet-to-be-invented devices. Just think of a YouTube video in a circular shape!?

More importantly, we will have to start thinking about the ecosystem of mobile devices: phone, tablet, computer and watch. None of those will go away, but the question is how to segment your marketing, content and social media strategy for each user case. Just the right information at just the right time will be even more critical in the context of watches. So while you are waiting to get your first round smartwatch, there are some key principles behind Android Wear that you can start applying today: making experiences contextually aware, glanceable, zero/low interaction and helpful.

Without doubt, the first wave of marketers to take advantage of the watch trend will reap that all so important early adopter buzz. Yet only those who adopt the above principles will see long-term benefits in addition to the initial buzz. We'll all have to think outside the box.