1. Understanding Apple patents: Expert view
  2. Apple Watch blood pressure monitoring
  3. Built-in Apple Watch camera system
  4. A touch-enabled Digital Crown
  5. Apple Watch smart bands
  6. Face ID on the Apple Watch
  7. Modular Apple Watch
  8. Apple Watch driving features
  9. Apple Watch touch bands
  10. A round Apple Watch
  11. Expandable Apple Watch battery
  12. Bendable, curved display

Patents that could shape future Apple Watch features – and how likely they are to happen

Smart bands, advanced health features and a new case design are all on Apple's mind
Wareable apple watch patents
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The Apple Watch is constantly undergoing development, with new features and technology arriving with each passing generation of the smartwatch.

When you look at features such as ECG readings, Fall Detection, AssistiveTouch, and Low Power Mode, a theme also begins to emerge: they all arrived in patents years before officially debuting on the device. 

It's true, then, that Apple Watch patents do give us a glimpse into the future, even if they're not always totally an indicator of what's to come. There are filings that detail a round watch case, after all.

In the spirit of looking forward, we've collected some of the most high-profile patents the company has filed relating to the Apple Watch - and asked patent experts whether they think they're likely to happen.

Some, we think, could actually even arrive on the Apple Watch Series 9, while others just feel like downright no-hopers. Let's explore them.

Update: This feature was originally published in May 2018 and has since been updated to include more recent Apple Watch patents.

Understanding Apple patents: Expert view

Jack Purcher, owner and editor of Patently Apple, points out how hard it is to guess which patents will turn into a product "because patents are a living thing at times - in that they could take 10-plus years to come to market."

He notes that, for example, the iPhone was couched in iPod-like patent filings that didn't exactly describe the product Apple was working on as a mobile phone.

Eric Slivka, editor-in-chief at MacRumors, also told Wareable that Apple is so protective about what it's working on that it tends to patent a wide range of stuff.

"There's some question as to when you see a patent whether that's something that's coming up, or whether it's something they decided not to do, or something they filed a patent on just in case or to try to shut somebody else out," Slivka says.

However, it's also possible to see what Apple is working on when looking at its patents. Even though Steve Jobs famously came out against the stylus, causing people to adamantly believe Apple would never make a stylus, Purcher reported on Apple's patented idea at the time for an advanced smart pen that had low latency. That smart pen eventually turned into the Apple Pencil.

So, while it may be impossible to tell which patents will directly turn into actual products and features, it can be fun to take a look at some of the latest Apple Watch patents and see which could be applied to Apple's future lineup of software, services and hardware - and which are simply there just in case.

Apple Watch blood pressure monitoring

Patently AppleIncredible future Apple Watch features – as told by genuine Apple patents photo 14

Blood pressure monitoring through the Apple Watch is an idea that's been on the company's brain for a very long time - with one of the more recent patents landing back in 2020.

Unlike other blood pressure wearables we've seen launched, though, Apple's patents largely detail a different kind of system for taking measurements. 

Specifically, it looks at the idea of a pressure sensor providing a non-invasive tonometric reading - and even references the idea that readings would also have a secondary correction metric to check accuracy.

As is a consistent theme in Apple Watch patents, which you'll discover below, the device's band could also play a crucial role in this process. 

Naturally, as with many features that eventually come to the device, it's likely the many patents it's filed in the area of blood pressure monitoring will all contribute in some way to an eventual feature.

And given that Apple hardware partner Rockley Photonics recently reported successful blood pressure monitoring trials, we'd say this could arrive soon.

  • Rating: Likely to happen in the near future

Built-in Apple Watch camera system

USPTOIncredible future Apple Watch features – as told by genuine Apple patents photo 11

The concept of an Apple Watch camera just refuses to go away - with one patent uncovered in 2019 detailing a system that could be built into the band

It's still an idea that's on the minds of Apple engineers, as well, with a 2023 patent filing describing a detachable Apple Watch camera system.

As shown in the sketch above, the Apple Watch's display would be able to act as the viewfinder, while the Digital Crown would likely act as the shutter. Once you were done taking photos, the case could then be placed straight back into the strap.

We still don't think the core idea of a smartwatch camera really makes sense - especially after testing the third-party Wristcam for Apple Watch - but that's not to say it won't eventually be worked into the Apple Watch.

  • Rating: Unlikely to happen any time soon

A touch-enabled Digital Crown

USPTOIncredible future Apple Watch features – as told by genuine Apple patents photo 13

The Digital Crown has been an iconic design feature of the Apple Watch since the very beginning, though Apple may have plans to eventually move away from the current look.

It wouldn't be scrapped entirely, if the sketches within the touch-enabled Digital Crown patent are anything to go by, with a new crown appearing to protrude much less on the case's edge.

"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 suggests in the patent.

No credible reports have ever emerged regarding a change to the Digital Crown ever, but this shows us that Apple does have the idea in its back pocket for future generations. 

  • Rating: Likely, but not any time soon

Apple Watch smart bands


The idea of a smart Apple Watch band has been bubbling around in patents for many years - in the form of a smart band that can gauge the correct fit, one that could prolong battery life and also the one detailed above, which includes sensors.

Specifically, this concept for a smart band would see it filled with advanced pressure sensors that could check how much effort you were putting forth with your hands, like if you were doing a bicep curl or something.

It also could fit alongside more recent filings, like the blood pressure patent discussed above.

"If there are some medical sensors Apple wants to include in the Apple Watch, this could be one way to do it," Slivka says.

The other possibility is specialized sensors that not everyone might need and which might take up too much room in the watch itself. Moving them to the band perhaps gives you a new contact point on the body for measurements and can be sold separately only to those users who need that specific sensor."

  • Rating: Unlikely to happen any time soon

Face ID on the Apple Watch

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Face ID has been a staple feature of the iPhone for many years now, and a patent has also shown have shown that Apple is interested in bringing its facial recognition technology to the Apple Watch, as well.

But how likely is it?

"It's a possibility, obviously they had to miniaturize things a lot for the iPhone X so you have to go even a lot further to get it down to an Apple Watch size," Slivka says. "Then you have the tacked-on battery life, that was the concern for the iPhone X."

Plus, Slivka points out that putting a camera on the front of the Apple Watch would likely just be for Face ID, as people may not take to FaceTiming and taking selfies from their wrist. Would Apple spend that much for Face ID?

With the Apple Watch increasingly being used as a vehicle for contactless payments, it depends on how much pressure the company feels is placed on the PIN security method. With Face ID used to secure sensitive apps, there's a case that the lack of security could hamper the Apple Watch from being used to biometrically access bank accounts, health records and more.

We've seen patents for Touch ID both on the screen and the Digital Crown – although with the Apple Watch already secured by PIN, we feel the company would opt to integrate Face ID rather than take a backward step in older security technology.

In a way, we have seen development in this area, with users now able to unlock their iPhone with their Apple Watch, but there's still no front-facing camera, obviously.

  • Rating: Unlikely to happen any time soon

Modular Apple Watch

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Apple has secured a patent for modular technology that would allow users to upgrade parts of the Apple Watch, perhaps with more sensors. Modular technology has failed quite spectacularly on a consumer scale – see Blocks and Project Ara – and it seems way off-piste to see it arrive on consumer Apple technology.

However, let's not dismiss it out of hand. We've seen Apple patent technology such as gas sensing technologies, which could have enterprise applications. Also, the long-standing speculation regarding blood glucose monitoring could be added on, rather than being built into the Watch's design itself.

  • Rating: Unlikely to happen any time soon

Apple Watch driving features

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Looking at your wrist for notifications while you're driving is just as dangerous as looking at your phone.

Apple has a patent that describes a feature that would use the Watch's sensors to determine if you were driving and then limit your notifications. 

This is a feature already available on the iPhone, called 'Do Not Disturb While Driving'. 

Since this is already available on iPhone, Purcher believes it's likely to become reality on the Apple Watch.

  • Rating: Likely to arrive in the near future

Apple Watch touch bands

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This Apple Watch smart band patent would see the company create woven fabrics that are touch sensitive, which you would then use to play music, adjust the volume or other similar functions.

Purcher doesn't think this is a priority for Apple, but may invest in it to keep pace with competitors. Slivka says cost and technological hurdles may mean this one is a long way off from actually happening.

Clever, yet extraordinarily over-engineered. Given the price of standard Apple Watch bands, the price of a touch-enabled one would be astronomic, we think.

  • Rating: Unlikely to happen any time soon

A round Apple Watch

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The squircle that is the Apple Watch isn't exactly the most beloved design of all time. It certainly works well enough if sales are your only barometer of success, but some people just want a round Apple Watch. Well, this patent certainly goes for that.

Slivka doesn't see Apple going in that direction, however.

"That's been something that's been discussed for a while," he says. "Obviously, that's the traditional shape of a watch face but it's not always ideal for displaying information like text."

  • Rating: Unlikely to happen

Expandable Apple Watch battery

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Every Apple Watch user would want more battery - even those with the Apple Watch Ultra

Well, this patent would create an external portable charger you could use while wearing it. The bendable, possibly graphene battery would attach to the band while the connector would attach to the bottom of the Apple Watch.

Slivka says there was a company that was trying to do something similar, and that it's technically feasible. However, he also points out a better solution would be to make a smart band with a built-in battery that plugs into a diagnostic port of some kind where the band connectors are - kind of like the system detailed in another patent above.

  • Rating: Unlikely to happen

Bendable, curved display

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Another patent for the Apple Watch that's been floating around for a long time is the idea of a flexible display that wraps around the wrist.

Here, at least, you've got a bendable display that wraps around the wrist and a round face that flows into the display bands.

The patent was actually acquired by Apple and is a utility patent rather than a design one. That utility is painted in a broad stroke, rather than pointing to something specific for the future.

"Apple Watch is unlikely to ever have that specific design, but they could design a future watch with a wraparound display as they've hinted in a patent filing here," Purcher says.

With flexible displays advancing as quickly as they are and taking on very creative form factors, a completely different Apple Watch form factor could arise. Samsung is also working on a similar idea."

  • Rating: Unlikely to happen any time soon

How we test

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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