I’ve been thinking a lot about the iWatch lately. Particularly in terms of the screen, and the UI. I said a long while back (over a year ago), that if Apple ever does release a watch, that I think it’ll have a 240×320 display at 2.5″ (2.45″ to be exact). The only change I would make to that prediction would be that I think that the resolution will be doubled to 480×640, to make it a Retina Display. This would have the same pixel density as the iPhone, or the Retina iPad Mini. In fact, it would be exactly half the size of the iPhone 4/4S. The screen will be convex (perhaps even somewhat flexible), and follow the contour of the wrist.
With the iWatch, I don’t think Apple will include a physical home button. I think that the home button will take up the bottom 80px of the display, leaving a 240x240px space for apps — the same as the old 6th Generation iPod Nano.
Some of you may be thinking that using up 80px at the bottom of a display that will already be somewhat cramped is a waste of space. And I can completely see where you’re coming from. However, I think in this case it’s an either/or situation. I don’t think Apple would do both a physical home button, and a 2.5″ display: there’s just no room on a wrist for both.
If there’s a physical home button, the display would more likely be 2″ at 480×480. I think a context aware home-button that can disappear when it’s not needed (such as the lock/home-screens) and a larger display is better than an omni-present home-button.
I’ve put together a couple of mockups as to what the iWatch’s UI could look like.
The home and lock screens are practically identical to iOS 7. Because these screens don’t need access to the home button, the home button isn’t shown. Accessing Siri on these screens is accomplished by a long-press in the centre of the screen. This could cause issues with discoverability. And it could cause issues on the home screen, with users accidentally entering edit mode. I don’t have a retort for that — I’m just acknowledging that these are issues.
The status bar shows the current connectivity of the device that the watch is connected to. If it’s connected to an iPhone, it shows the iPhone’s cellular and wifi signal strengths. If it’s not connected to a device, it just says “iWatch”, much like iPods (and iPads without cellular) do.
The music app is pretty simple. There is no back-button: to go back to the previous screen, you swipe from the left (as iOS 7 has been training users to do for almost a year). The “Now Playing” screen has the album art in the background, blurred, and has nice big controls for pause/play, next and previous. There is no volume control: I feel that’s better handled by controls on headphones.
The settings app, and incoming call screens are literally just iOS 7.1. And why not? They works.
These screens also the home button. The home button takes up the same space as the dock on the home screen. When an app is launched, the icons in the dock would slide to the left, and the home button would take their place in the centre. Likewise, when an app closes, the home button would slide right and the dock icons would take it’s place. To be honest, I’m not a fan of the home button, but Apple has already shown us what their on-screen home button looks CarPlay, so I tried to stick with how that looks, only changing it slightly to add some translucency, and reducing the size of the icon inside.
I’m not sure what Apple’s going to do with the iWatch in terms of UI. I’ve seen some pretty mockups, but the vast majority of them are straying so far from Apple’s design language that they’re really nothing more than a pipe-dream.
I’ve tried to stick as closely as possible with what Apple has already shown us. When Apple introduced iOS 7 to us, they told is in no uncertain terms that this was the direction Apple’s design was taking, going forward. “We see iOS 7 as defining an important new direction, and in many ways, a beginning”.