Newly-granted Apple patents suggest that the tech giant is exploring the implementation of additional biometric capabilities in a future version of the Apple Watch wearable device.
One of the patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes how Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanning system could be implemented in a button on the side of the Apple Watch face. This is the same approach that Apple has taken with its most recent version of the iPad Air tablet device, which allows users to authenticate with a fingerprint scan on the power button.
Traditionally, Touch ID has been housed in the home button on older Apple mobile devices, but with Apple’s pivot to 3D facial recognition in recent years, the home button has disappeared to make way for larger screen sizes. A side-mounted fingerprint sensor offers a solution to keep Touch ID in the mix, and would seem a natural move on the much smaller Apple Watch now that it has been implemented in the iPad Air.
Meanwhile, another newly-granted patent concerns technology that would allow Apple to put a camera under the display of the Apple Watch. It describes a two-layer display setup in which a “light modulator” on the outer layer can be made transparent to let the camera underneath function.
The patent appears to be mainly concerned with bringing the same kind of camera functionality to the Apple Watch that is found on modern smartphones. But it also theoretically opens the door to in-display Face ID, enabling selfie-based biometric authentication on the Apple Watch. This is the groundbreaking approach to selfie authentication that ZTE took with its Axon 20 5G smartphone launched a few months ago, and may be one that Apple tries to emulate down the line.
Of course, as is always the case, the technologies detailed in patent filings won’t necessarily ever make it to a commercial device, and that’s perhaps especially true with respect to Apple, which files all kinds of patents as a product of its relentless R&D efforts.
Still, as MacRumors’ Hartley Charlton notes, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested in a recent interview that Apple has ambitious plans for its Apple Watch line, stating at one point, “Think about the amount of sensors in your car.” That certainly adds weight to any speculation these patents may prompt.