Technology

Apple Watch Series 4: New Digital Crown To Feature Prominently

The latest reports suggest that the Apple Watch Series 4 will have a Force Touch Digital Crown when it is released. A new patent outlines a ‘force-detecting input structure’ that will revolutionize the way that the Apple Watch series operates.

Apple Watch Series 4 Digital Crown
StockSnap / Pixabay

New digital crown

Patent application number 20180024683, published by Fletcher Rothkopf, ‎Director of Product Design, Technology Investigation at Apple, outlines a new digital crown that seemingly offers similar functionality to the Force Touch system that has already been included in both the Apple iPhone and Apple Watch ranges (albeit under a different name in the smartwatch).

“An input mechanism, such as a crown, detects amounts of applied force. In various examples, an assembly including an input mechanism has an enclosure; a stem coupled to the enclosure such that the stem is rotatable, translatable, and transversely movable with respect to the enclosure; a sensor, coupled between the stem and the housing, to which force is transferred when the stem moves with respect to the housing; and a processing unit coupled to the sensor. The processing unit is operable to determine a measurement of the force, based on a signal from the sensor,” the patent, rather lengthily, explains.

Force Touch

Force Touch has been used in Apple Watches previously, but only as part of the display mechanism. This gesture-based sensor technology has proved particularly popular with both smartphone and smartwatch users, and evidently Apple intends to extend its functionality still further. It is notable that Force Touch is already utilized on all native Apple Watch applications, including such big hitters as Music, Maps and Workout.

So the Apple Watch Series 4 will offer a revolutionary version of the digital crown that will make the next-generation smartwatch a much more flexible performer. Current Apple Watch models enable users to tap or double tap the digital crown in order to access features, the crown can be held down to access the Siri personal assistant, and rotated in order to operate zoom features.

Release date

The Apple Watch Series 4 is expected to be announced in September, in which case it will go on sale ahead of the key holiday season. Evidence has indicated recently that wearables are beginning to have a significant market impact, after the original Apple Watch was considered rather mediocre, and met with a lukewarm reception both critically and commercially.

But the performance of the Apple Watch Series 4 is set to be excellent, as Apple has steadily solved the problem of delivering features that actually attract consumers. The health-tracking functionality has certainly improved in recent Apple Watch releases, and the new digital crown will probably deliver new features in this area as well, or at least enable consumers to access them.

New features

The Apple Watch Series 4 is also expected to deliver advanced sleep tracking, following the acquisition of Beddit by Apple. Again, whether the digital crown will play a role in enabling users to access or operate this functionality remains to be seen.

Bloomberg, though, suggests that the Apple Watch Series 4 will feature an electrocardiogram (EKG) heart rate monitor, and that this will be accessible by squeezing the frame of the Apple Watch. This does suggest that the digital crown could also be used in order to access this feature.

One big advantage of the Apple Watch Series 4 over other similar mobile technology is its pricing structure. With the smartwatch now more independent of an attendant iPhone, the likely $329 starting point for the next Apple Watch makes it rather affordable compared to the iPhone X, for example.

New features

There isn’t quite the same rigmarole or rumor mill for the Apple Watch series for as for iPhone releases, but there have still been some interesting patents to accompany the expected digital crown.

Firstly, a band has been unearthed that could incorporate batteries in order to enable the Apple Watch Series 4 to deliver extra runtime between charges. Considering that the rather paltry lifecycle of the early Apple Watch releases has been a real sticking point for the series, this would certainly be a welcome feature.

Elsewhere, it has also been suggested that the Apple Watch Series 4 will feature a self-adjusting strap, meaning that the wristwatch will be considerably more comfortable for users. Not only will it make the device easier to put on, it will also enable sensors included in this feature to be as accurate as possible.

With health-tracking functionality critical to the future of the iPhone series, it is notable that measuring heart rate is particularly challenging. Current optical methods have proven to be a little insufficient in this area, which explains why Apple has been tinkering with the self-adjusting straps that could appear alongside the digital crown in the Apple Watch Series 4 generation.

Other improvements

There will probably be camera improvements included in the Apple Watch Series 4 as well. Respiration tracking is also a possibility, while Apple could include the Face ID security system that it introduced this year with the iPhone X.

It will be difficult for Apple to introduce a feature as esteemed as the LTE that debuted last year, but this functionality could be improved with the Apple Watch Series 4. It would be wonderful if the smartwatch could become a completely standalone unit, but its independence could at least be improved in 2018.

Apple celebrated the best ever quarter for the Apple Watch in the first three months of 2018, indicating a 50 percent sales growth in this niche. The reports of the digital crown for the Apple Watch Series 4 suggest that the Californian corporation is looking to extend this success further still with its new wearable, and this seems absolutely achievable as the market and public adjusts to the concept of smartwatches.

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