Polar Clock Compared To Apple Watch Activity App

1 April 2015

Dane Baker, Twitter:

@eli_schiff Also the Activity app design is identical to 8-yr-old PolarClock screensaver, equally hideous colors

I don’t care that a cool calendar visualisation from 2007 bears a resemblance to Apple’s fitness tracking visualisation from 2014. Design is as much about how it works as how it looks. These two pieces of software behave very differently.

Unlike Polar Clock, the rings in the Watch’s Activity app can go round the circle more than once, to indicate more than 100% percent completion. It’s not clear from static screenshots1 but the Activity app is actually three-dimensional. The more intense shadow denotes that a particular ring is ‘stacked up’ on itself, like a coil.

The Polar Clock is a very different metaphor. The rings fill to 100 and then reset to 0 on a two dimensional plane. The labels are inscribed into the rings. In contrast, the Apple Watch labels statically float at the top centre of the screen and animate outwards, leaving small symbols that are also fixed in place.

My aim is not to ‘defend’ Apple or vilipend Dane Baker’s criticism, whether you believe Apple ripped off Polar Clock or not is immaterial. On pure aesthetics, I think the Activity app colour choices are poor and very generic. That’s beside the point, though.

I’m just trying to convey a sense of the things that makeup application design which are not represented by motionless screenshots. It’s not a simple matter of aesthetics and functionality. I call it ‘behaviour’ but that’s not an encompassing term. A better word eludes me.

Apps can look good, have many features but behave poorly. iOS 7 is an example of the opposite; something that behaves well but looks ugly in many places.

1 In most images, Apple shows the Watch with unfilled bars … meaning no shadow is displayed as none of the Move, Exercise or Stand goals have crossed 100% completion.