Future Apple Watch could have 'joystick' Digital Crown and automatically adjusting strap

Future Apple wearables are gearing up for some major improvements, these patents reveal.

Next Apple Watch
(Image credit: Apple)

It arguably already produces the number one smartwatch on sale today, but that doesn't mean Apple is resting on its laurels. Far from it, in fact.

A set of freshly published patents belonging to Apple show how the California company is working hard to keep its Watch ahead of the competition.

In mid-December, the US Patent and Trademark Office published 46 newly granted Apple patents, with one detailing a new type of Digital Crown for a future Apple Watch.

Spotted by Patently Apple, the newly updated patent describes a 'capacitive gap sensor ring for an input device'. Translated from patent-speak, this refers to a way in which the Apple Watch's Digital Crown could be moved like a joystick, as well as being rotated and pushed.

(Image credit: USPTO / Apple)

This function was first detailed in an Apple patent from 2016, so the joystick idea has been floating around the company's design studio for a while now. The newly updated patent expands on this, adding that the new crown can "detect inward translation movement of the cap towards the housing".

This potentially means future versions of Apple Watch - and perhaps even the Watch Series 6, expected in September 2020 - could feature a Digital Crown which moves in more directions, and as a result does more. This in turn suggests new features and a more complex user interface could be coming to the Apple Watch.

In other Apple Watch patent news this week, it looks like Apple is also experimenting with straps containing new sensors and the ability to adjust themselves. Also spotted by Patently Apple, the newly published patent describes a system where the strap automatically tightens when running a specific health-monitoring app.

(Image credit: USPTO / Apple)

This would push the Watch up against the wearer's skin, ensuring a good contact for taking medical data, like a heart rate or ECG. We wonder if this would also help Apple record more data, not yet captured by current Watches. Glucose monitoring has long been a rumoured future feature of Apple's wearable.

As ever, we must point out that companies like Apple file patents on a regular basis, and often the technology these documents describes never sees the light of day. However, it is always interesting to see what direction Apple is taking with the Watch, and what it hopes to achieve with future wearables.

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Alistair Charlton

Alistair is a freelance automotive and technology journalist. He has bylines on esteemed sites such as the BBC, Forbes, TechRadar, and of best of all, T3, where he covers topics ranging from classic cars and men's lifestyle, to smart home technology, phones, electric cars, autonomy, Swiss watches, and much more besides. He is an experienced journalist, writing news, features, interviews and product reviews. If that didn't make him busy enough, he is also the co-host of the AutoChat podcast.