The Apple Watch Series 4 could debut Face ID and sports tracking smart bands

The smartwatch may follow the lead of the iPhone
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It appears as though the Apple Watch Series 4 could be used to debut Face ID unlocking from the wrist, following in the path of the iPhone X.

A filing uncovered by Patently Apple suggests the Cupertino giant is looking into the possibility of bringing its latest unlocking technology to the smartwatch. Currently, the feature is only available through Apple's top-end smartphone, and works by identifying the user through the front-facing camera.

In-depth: Apple Watch Series 3 review

This means that if the feature were to make its way to the wrist, the Apple Watch would also have to include a camera, as described in the patent. It would also mark a significant shift away from the current method of unlocking the Watch, which works largely by sensing if it's being worn by the user.

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That's not all, though, with the patent also alluding to a new sensor-packed strap that could be used to track and analyse sports performance. Interestingly, this relates to sports such as baseball, American football, golf and weightlifting, in which something is being gripped.

This isn't the first time we've seen the possibility of smart bands hinted for the Watch, with this example describing a system whereby elastic sections of the strap will feature flexible sensors that can pick up on expansion or contraction of muscles around the wrist and determine a movement.

As Patently Apple describes, some examples feature one or more electromyography (EMG) sensors that can be included to measure the user's electrical signals and muscle activity. Measurements from the EMG strap could potentially also be used alongside different sensors, such as those from a photoplethysmogram (PPG) sensor, to determine specific user movements.

Of course, while this patent describes two fairly substantial changes to the Apple Watch, whether they do indeed make it to a future iteration of the device remains to be seen. After all, the company has a patent list a mile long with unused ideas. This one though doesn't sound too outrageous to think it will at some point turn up on Apple's smartwatch.

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Conor Allison

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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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