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Future Samsung Galaxy Watches could be real square

The Samsung Galaxy Watch 7 series isn’t likely to be the company’s most exciting wearable this year. That’ll be the Galaxy Ring. Maybe that’s why rumor has it that Samsung is looking to shake up its watch design. According to SamMobile, the company wants to go back to a squarish design a la the original Galaxy Gear.

This reminds me of the Samsung rumor mill back in early 2022. Then, there were murmurs that the company would be ditching the much-beloved physical rotating bezel. Which was, in my opinion, a stupid, stupid, stupid idea. It was baffling. No other smartwatch maker had the physical rotating bezel, making it Samsung’s signature calling card. Brands kill for iconic designs — why would it voluntarily throw that away? And yet, that rumor turned out to be true. The Galaxy Watch 5 series debuted with only the digital touch bezel.

The Samsung Galaxy Gear had a squarish display.
Photo: Vlad Savov / The Verge

Then, last year, Samsung furiously backpedaled and reintroduced the rotating bezel with the Galaxy Watch 6 series after enough customers demanded its return. You’d think Samsung would’ve learned something after switching up the bezel didn’t go over well. But now, it’s trying to switch up the shape? Also, we just established how beloved the physical bezel is. Would a rotating physical bezel even work on a square display? Are we really doing this again?

It’s true that Samsung started off with a square display on the Galaxy Gear. But starting with the Gear S2, Samsung went all in on a circular display — so much so that when I think of Samsung smartwatches, I immediately envision a circular watch with a rotating bezel. Over time, it’s helped Samsung’s devices stand out from the pack. I ought to know, given that I just reorganized my smartwatch collection, and among a sea of Android watches, it’s always easy to pick out Samsung’s.

The Galaxy Watch 6 series brought back the rotating bezel due to popular demand.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Circular displays also feel like a tangible link to the past. It’s not that there aren’t rectangular analog watches. But if you were to picture a wristwatch, I’m willing to bet most people think of a circular face. That’s why so many people tend to find circular smartwatches more aesthetically appealing. Hell, I still get the occasional disgruntled commenter who laments that they would buy an Apple Watch, if not for the rectangular display. Conversely, the Galaxy Watches are effortlessly elegant — especially now that they’re not quite as thick as they used to be.

I can’t lie. There are benefits to a square display. It’s slightly easier for reading notifications, and it’s easier on app developers given the shape is closer to a phone. Since Wear OS 3, many Android watches don’t even work with iOS anymore — meaning Samsung doesn’t have to set itself apart from the Apple Watch. It has to differentiate itself from other Android watches, most of which are circular. On paper, these are sensible reasons for wanting to make the switch.

Wearable design isn’t always about what makes business sense

But wearable design isn’t always about what makes business sense. When you wear something on your person, there’s an emotional attachment that’s hard to quantify. For years, the combination of a circular face and a physical rotating bezel has been embedded in the brains of Galaxy Watch fans. While I’m sure some folks will embrace a square Galaxy Watch, I have a feeling there’d be a visceral backlash, too.

Granted, SamMobile’s report was light on details, only citing unnamed internal sources as saying the switch was “very much in the cards.” It could also be that Samsung is mulling this over not for the Galaxy 7 but future Galaxy Watches. If that’s the case, I hope the folks at Samsung are thinking long and hard about why they want to do this. I’m as guilty as the next reviewer for griping that each Galaxy Watch looks the same. But when you have an iconic design, any significant change has to be a thoughtful one. In this case, changing to a squarish display risks the Galaxy Watch losing a core part of its identity… for what exactly?

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