The next Apple Watch could be getting in-screen Touch ID

Apple patent also reveals plans to fit antennas to the watch strap…

Apple Watch
(Image credit: Apple)

The next Apple Watch could feature Touch ID on its display and antennas for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4G in its straps.

This is what’s proposed by a newly published Apple patent discussing potential changes to the best-selling smartwatch.

Currently, the Apple Watch is secured with a PIN which the wearer taps into the display. As long as the Watch stays attached (and can sense your heartbeat) it will automatically unlock your Mac, and let you make contactless payments with Apple Pay.

Although entering the PIN only takes a moment, it can be fiddly on the watch’s fairly small display, and certainly isn’t as quick and seamless as using Touch ID on a Mac or Face ID on the iPhone and iPad Pro.

(Image credit: Apple / USPTO)

To fix this, Apple wants to bring Touch ID to a new generation of Apple Watch. What’s more, instead of the fingerprint reader sitting on top of a button, as it does on the entry-level iPad, it would be located beneath the display.

This suggests Apple is making progress on under-display fingerprint reader technology similar to that used on smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S10. It has previously been rumoured that Touch ID under the display could join Face ID on a future iPhone.

The patent, which was published on 7 November and first spotted by Patently Apple, states how the watch display may “provide an input surface for one or more input devices such as a touch sensing device, force-sensing device, temperature sensing device, and/or a fingerprint sensor.”

However, the main focus of the patent is relocating some Watch components to the strap, which would free up space inside the case for a larger battery, or other, new components. This is an interesting move and makes us wonder how durable the antennas would need to be to live with the constant flexing of a watch strap. We also wonder what this will mean for third-party watch straps, and how the straps will connect to the Watch itself.

As ever with patents like this, we must stress that companies like Apple produce patents describing future technologies on a regular basis. Their publication does not necessarily mean the feature described will arrive imminently, if ever. Despite that, it is still interesting to see Apple exploring new features and designs for the Watch.

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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.