The Apple Watch is designed to remain dark until a wearer raises his or her arm...under normal circumstances, the screen will then show one of nine watch faces, each customizable. One will show the time alongside a brightly lit flower, butterfly, or jellyfish; these will be in motion, against a black background. This imagery had dominated the launch, and Ive now explained his enthusiasm for it. He picked up his iPhone 6 and pressed the home button. “The whole of the display comes on,” he said. “That, to me, feels very, very old.” He went on to explain that an Apple Watch uses a new display technology whose blacks are blacker than those in an iPhone’s L.E.D. display. This makes it easier to mask the point where, beneath a glass surface, a display ends and its frame begins. An Apple Watch jellyfish swims in deep space, and becomes, Ive said, as much an attribute of the watch as an image. On a current iPhone screen, a jellyfish would be pinned against dark gray, and framed in black, and, Ive said, have “much less magic.”
Alan Dye later described to me the “pivotal moment” when he and Ive decided “to avoid the edge of the screen as much as possible.” This was part of an overarching ambition to blur boundaries between software and hardware.
- Ian Parker: The Shape of Things to Come
I must have noticed this in the pre-release images, but I didn't really internalize what it meant. Pull out your iPhone and open any app, it's drawn from edge to edge. Every pixel is being utilized, even if it's not needed from a user interface perspective.
Compare that to the Apple Watch interface below. Every part of the screen that isn't showing text or a graphical element is simply black, blending so seamlessly into the frame of the watch that you can barely perceive the black bezel surrounding the screen.
I've been sitting here for the past five minutes trying to find a word other than "magic" to describe this but I can't.