The US Patent and Trademark Office has showered Apple with 53 new patents, one of which could bring fingerprint authentication to the Apple Watch. The patent specifically concerns a new form of Touch ID, and involves a sensor that would be placed beneath a button on the side of the device.
In concept, the system is comparable to the side-mounted fingerprint sensors that are now offered in some smartphones. The sensor would obviously have a smaller form factor if deployed in a watch, though it would provide a similar utility. For example, owners would be able to unlock their watches with a fingerprint scan, or use the sensor for biometric authentication when accessing an app or making a payment.
Of course, there is no guarantee that the technology will ever make its way into an actual consumer product. Apple has patented other Touch ID methodologies for watches in the past, including one detailed in a 2018 patent application that would have turned the crown of the watch into a Touch ID sensor. That particular solution eventually gave rise to a rumor that Apple was ready to roll out the technology for the public with the Apple Watch 6 in 2020.
The Apple Watch 6 has since come and gone, and shipped without any fingerprint recognition capabilities when it made its debut. With that in mind, it is worth taking any speculation about future features with a grain of salt. The fact that Apple keeps filing patents suggests that the company is indeed interested in pursuing some kind of fingerprint authentication option. There are simply too many variables in play to say more about what form that will take when it does come to pass.
Apple is currently gearing up for the debut of the Apple Watch 8. One rumor has suggested that the device’s new biometric feature will be a body temperature sensor.