Apple patents a new crown for fingerprint support on the Apple Watch

Despite continuing to issue iPhones equipped with facial recognition over other forms of biometric recognition (such as the classic TouchID, which previously served aboard a Home button-mounted fingerprint sensor in older iPhone models), Apple has now patented a new digital crown for its Apple Watch lineup that could offer TouchID support in the near future.

Though the Apple Watch’s existing crown has an existing side-surface which could feasibly house a fingerprint scanner, the Cupertino firm has instead taken the option of integrating the sensor with the top-mounted rotary dial the unit possesses instead – meaning that users wouldn’t need to try and fit their finger alongside the broader part of the watch, and could instead simply tap to the right-hand side of the watch face to verify their identity.

As the patent itself outlines:

“An electronic watch includes a housing defining a side surface of the electronic watch, a transparent cover coupled to the housing and defining a front surface of the electronic watch, an image-sensing element, and a crown extending from the side of the housing and defining an imaging surface. The crown may include a light-directing feature configured to direct, onto the image-sensing element, an image of an object in contact with the imaging surface.

The features that are analyzed may include features of a user’s skin (e.g., fingerprints, hair follicles), or any other optically detectable feature, texture, surface irregularity, image, or the like, of any object. In this way, the device may be responsive to skin (e.g., the skin of a user’s finger or hand), a stylus, a gloved finger, or any other suitable object with optically detectable features. As used herein, analysis of an image by an image sensor and/or other components of an electronic device may refer to an analysis of a stored image (e.g., the stored multidimensional array, which may be a digital photograph or a video).”

The move is an interesting one, given that Apple is now one of the last major device manufacturers that is yet to offer an in-screen fingerprint scanner with any of its existing devices. Though TouchID may yet make a comeback aboard the iPhone 9 (or the iPhone SE 2), the firm hasn’t – up until now – offered the technology on any new product besides its iPad range.

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