Apple on Thursday was awarded a patent that could hint at future control options for the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown, specifically the addition of a Force Touch-like control mechanism.
The Digital Crown, of course, is the small wheel-like button on the side of Apple’s flagship wearable. According to the company’s Apple Watch instructions, you can click, double-click, press and hold, or turn the Digital Crown to access or control various features.
But a new patent published today by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office suggests that Apple could be exploring other user interface control options for the Digital Crown. The patent, 20180024683, specifically describes a “force-detecting input structure.”
Because of the language of the patent, it seems that it’s describing an input that’s more advanced than the simple click, hold or turning that the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown already provides.
Additionally, it’s worth noting that the patent seems to be describing an analog control input structure — like a Digital Crown — rather than the Force Touch technology already built into the Apple Watch’s display.
One part of the patent details a crown-like structure that could “interpret different amounts of force as different inputs.” The crown described in the patent would use a variety of force sensors that could be used to receive and differentiate between a “variety of different inputs from the user.”
On the other hand, the patent doesn’t describe what other types of functions a user could control by applying different amounts of pressure to such a structure.
Of course, since it is just a patent application, there’s no guarantee that a variable-force-detecting Digital Crown will even show up in a future Apple Watch. Similarly, it’s unclear when such a feature would make it to the market.
But the patent does suggest that Apple is exploring alternative input controls for at least one of its products. In the meantime, only time will tell if it will apply the patent to a future wearable or other device.