The Apple Watch Series 4 could feature a haptic side button and Digital Crown

Say goodbye to physical feedback
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After featuring pretty much the same design for three generations, the Apple Watch could be set to move away from its physical buttons for the first time.

That's according to Fast Company, who reports that Apple is gearing up to replace the traditional Digital Crown and side button on the smartwatch with solid-state equivalents. Such a move would essentially be the same change made to the iPhone when the physical Home button was ditched for one with haptic feedback.

Read this: Apple Watch tutorials and guides

The outlet references a source with "direct knowledge of Apple's plans," noting that while the company does plan to keep the same configuration of buttons, neither will physically move, and will be powered through Apple's so-called Tapic Engine.

So, instead of that physical feel you now get from pressing the side button or the crown of the Apple Watch, it would instead work by vibrating under the fingertip. However, despite the two buttons becoming less physical, the report does indicate that users would still be able to rotate the Digital Crown in order to scroll through the likes of apps and menus.

But, why now, and what benefits does moving away from the current setup bring? Well, firstly, it's one less thing to potentially break on the Watch, and it could also further bolster the waterproof design first introduced through the Series 2. As ever, shifting around the internal arrangement could potentially help create more space for additional sensors or a bigger battery, too.

But, naturally, none of this is close to being confirmed just yet. The report indicates that the changes could make their way onto the Apple Watch Series 4, projected to land this September, but, if not, it could also appear in 2019.

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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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