Patent application shows Apple Watch with Touch ID sensor in Digital Crown

February 10, 2020

An Apple Watch with Touch ID sensor has been on the wishlists of many people for quite some time now. A new Apple patent application published today shows that Apple is at least considering the idea.

It follows a similar patent for embedding a Touch ID sensor into an iPhone power button…

The iPhone application was made back in 2015, and granted in 2017, while the Apple Watch application was filed in November 2018 but only published today.

The patent is written in the usual broad and vague patent language.

An electronic watch includes a housing defining a side surface of the electronic watch, a transparent cover coupled to the housing and defining a front surface of the electronic watch, an image-sensing element, and a crown extending from the side of the housing and defining an imaging surface. The crown may include a light-directing feature configured to direct, onto the image-sensing element, an image of an object in contact with the imaging surface.

It later gets a little more specific.

The features that are analyzed may include features of a user’s skin (e.g., fingerprints, hair follicles), or any other optically detectable feature, texture, surface irregularity, image, or the like, of any object. In this way, the device may be responsive to skin (e.g., the skin of a user’s finger or hand), a stylus, a gloved finger, or any other suitable object with optically detectable features. As used herein, analysis of an image by an image sensor and/or other components of an electronic device may refer to an analysis of a stored image (e.g., the stored multidimensional array, which may be a digital photograph or a video).

But the patent illustrations make clear the thinking here: that the Digital Crown could read a fingerprint and compare it to a stored image, aka act as a Touch ID sensor.

Currently, there are two ways to unlock an Apple Watch: enter a PIN on the touchscreen, or unlock your iPhone, which also unlocks the paired Watch. An Apple Watch with Touch ID would be more convenient than either.

There have also been suggestions that Apple plans to return to Touch ID in future notch-less iPhones, either with a sensor embedded beneath the display or on the power button.

Via Patently Apple