Apple Watch’s ‘Digital Crown’ Could Soon Come to iPhone and iPad, New Patent Application Suggests

Apple Watch's 'Digital Crown' Could Soon Come to iPhone and iPad, New Patent Application Suggests
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Earlier this year we reported on a number of input method-related patents that were granted to Apple, collectively suggesting that the company’s Digital Crown — the primary, physical tool by which users navigate their Apple Watch — could one day be incorporated into other devices, such as the iPhone or iPad, for example. However, while these former patent applications sought to describe the sheer concept of a Digital Crown on an iPhone or iPad, an even newer pair of patents that was granted the Cupertino-company late last week appear to add some additional details about “the many advantages” a Digital Crown could bring to the iDevice user experience.

The patents, U.S. Patent No’s. 20160378187 and 20160378189, respectively, are related to “an exemplary rotary input that can rotate in a rotational direction as well as be displaced in a direction orthogonal to the rotational direction for iPhones and iPads,” According to RedmondPie. In other words, while the previous patents may have detailed the physical concept of interacting with your iPhone or iPad via a Digital Crown, Apple’s newest patent filings add a great deal of substance and clarification to what the tool will actually bring to the iOS platform.

As it stands, the Digital Crown is Apple Watch’s most prominent input method. Instead of utilizing the typical, multi-touch technology, Apple Watch’s Digital Crown allows users to zoom in and out in certain watchOS apps by merely twisting the dial in whichever direction. Pressing, holding, and further interacting with the Digital Crown on Apple Watch will also trigger additional actions, respectively. However, as far as the input tool working in harmony with Apple’s iPhone or iPad is pertinent, the application goes on to detail several different embodiments.

For example, one part of the recent patent filing details how the Digital Crown would interface, by working in conjunction with an “interface cube,” on an iOS device. In practice, the Digital Crown (when rotated) will, in turn, rotate this so-called “interface cube” that appears on screen. In this way, users can view what’s written on either side of the cube without having to rely on multi-touch technology to navigate it.

Another part of the patent filings discusses the benefits of adding haptic feedback to the Digital Crown interface — thereby issuing a vibration response to users who’d like to receive confirmation that they’ve interacted with the device.

“Some electronic devices may include mechanical inputs, such as buttons and/or switches. These mechanical inputs can control power (i.e., on/off) and volume for the electronic devices, among other functions,” the patent application explains. “However, sometimes these mechanical inputs can fail to give a user tactile feedback, such as the ‘click-click-click’ feeling of winding a mechanical alarm clock with a knob.”

From the sound of those sentiments, it would appear that (if and when) Apple ultimately decides to launch an iDevice featuring a Digital Crown, the input method would be much more well-rounded, and further integrated into the iOS platform, than we’re currently being led to believe it’ll be. Though these applications are supplementary in nature, seeking to clarify above all else, it’s reasonable to assume Apple could enable a myriad of possibilities for the Digital Crown on iPhone or iPad. Of course, only time will tell what those possibilities truly are — if and when they come to play.

What could you see yourself doing with Apple’s Digital Crown on your iPhone or iPad?
Let us know in the comments below!

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