Future Apple Watch may ditch the Digital Crown for a touch-sensitive alternative

An entirely new design is potentially being cooked up in Cupertino
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The design of the Apple Watch has remained fairly consistent since its inception, but we could have our first hint that it will soon pivot away from the Digital Crown.

Apple's interactive watch crown has been a staple on the smartwatch throughout the first five generations, offering users a way to scroll through menus, return to the home screen and even take an ECG reading.

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However, a new filing - uncovered by Patently Apple - suggests that the Cupertino company could soon ditch the current Digital Crown in favour of a more svelte alternative.

It wouldn't be scrapped entirely, if the sketches within the patent are anything to go by, with a new crown appearing to rest on the case's edge - similar to how the Side Button fits in already.

Future Apple Watch may ditch the Digital Crown for a touch-sensitive alternative

Right now, it's not clear how such a design would work, but the filing does suggest the updated Digital Crown would be touch-sensitive and able to recognise gestures.

“The input component provides a user experience that simulates user interactions with a crown that is rotatable and/or translatable," the patent reads.

"The motions and gestures provided by the user can be directly detected with optical systems of the input component, so that the number of moving parts are reduced and space within the watch is more efficiently utilized," Apple suggest.

So, with what we can see from the patent, the idea of reducing the size of the Digital Crown is attractive to Apple because of the space it can save. With a smaller digital crown that comes built into the case, it's possible the overall case size could be reduced or more efficiently used.

Of course, it's important to keep in mind - like with any patent - that any changes are unlikely to make it to a final product in this specific format, or even at all.

However, Apple rethinking the Digital Crown is entirely possible, and it makes plenty of sense for it to go the same way as the Side Button, which once stuck out of the case before becoming built tighter into the watch case.

Will we see such a design shift in the Apple Watch Series 6? Well, that's unlikely, but don't rule it out of future generations.

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Conor Allison


Conor moved to Wareable Media Group in 2017, initially covering all the latest developments in smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR. He made a name for himself writing about trying out translation earbuds on a first date and cycling with a wearable airbag, as well as covering the industry’s latest releases.

Following a stint as Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint, Conor returned to Wareable Media Group in 2022 as Editor-at-Large. Conor has become a wearables expert, and helps people get more from their wearable tech, via Wareable's considerable how-to-based guides. 

He has also contributed to British GQ, Wired, Metro, The Independent, and The Mirror. 

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