One of the defining features of the Apple Watch is the Digital Crown. Despite it being called the Digital Crown, it’s actually a physical dial that acts like a home button of sorts, or to access the list of apps. It also scrolls to allow users to go through the menu and make adjustments. Basically it’s another way for users to interact with the watch without using the touchscreen display.
However, Apple could be considering ditching it. According to a patent discovered by Patently Apple, it seems that Apple has filed for a patent for an Apple Watch that does away with the need for the Digital Crown. Instead, Apple will be replacing the physical digital crown with an optical sensor.
This sensor will offer up the same functionality as the Digital Crown, except that it relies on gestures to detect what the user wants to do. According to Apple’s description of the patent, removing the physical dial will allow the company to free up space internally which could be used for other components, while also making the watch more durable since it takes away moving parts.
It has also been suggested that by implementing an optical sensor, the new Digital Crown could also be used to measure things like heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and more, in addition to ECG which is currently used by the Digital Crown on existing Apple Watches.
That being said, this is only a patent and we don’t know for sure if this is something Apple plans to do in the future, but with the advantages they listed, we wouldn’t be surprised if it were to become a reality one day.