Apple Watch Series 6 could have a revolutionary new Digital Crown

Apple is working on a crown that responds to touch and light.

(Image credit: Apple)

It looks like Apple is increasingly considering alternatives to the Digital Crown of its Watch.

The component has remained largely unchanged since Apple’s first wearable arrived back in 2015, but for 2020 this could all change.

We have already reported on how the iPhone maker is exploring the option of a new crown, and now new patents reveal the company’s plans for a crown that is touch sensitive and able to judge exactly how you scroll and swipe at it.

According to the patent, spotted this week by Apple Insider, the patent would use a light sensor to work out how the wearer is touching it. The sensor would be sensitive enough to analyse details like your fingerprints, but this isn’t a biometric sensor to implement a new form of Touch ID.

Apple Watch patent

(Image credit: Apple / USPTO)

The patent states: “In order to detect motion using the image...the image sensor may analyze multiple frames to determine, for example, a speed and direction of one or more features in the image...The features that are analyzed may include features of a user’s skin (eg fingerprints, hair follicles) or any other optically detectable feature, texture, surface irregularity, image, or the like, of any object.”

This crown would not rotate freely, the patent says, as the Digital Crown on today’s Apple Watch does. Instead it would only turn a certain amount, then use the new sensors to work out what your movement of the crown is signalling the watch to do. If you’re thinking this all sounds somewhat complicated, then you aren’t alone...

Separately, the patent also talks about a light sensor which passes ambient light information to the watch’s processor. This could be to adjust screen brightness based on lighting conditions, but that isn’t entirely clear for now.

Apple is expected to reveal its new wearable, likely called the Watch Series 6, this autumn, so it has a good few months to finalise the design, and potentially incorporate a new form of Digital Crown for the first time.

Separately, the patent also talks about a light sensor which passes ambient light information to the watch’s processor. This could be to adjust screen brightness based on lighting conditions, but that isn’t entirely clear for now.

Apple is expected to reveal its new wearable, likely called the Watch Series 6, this autumn, so it has a good few months to finalise the design, and potentially incorporate a new form of Digital Crown for the first time.

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