The Apple Watch is one of the company’s most notable product success stories in recent years. So it would make sense for Apple to continue exploring the potential of new wearable accessories. And, if a new patent application published this week is any indication, Apple is continuing to develop wearable tech. More specifically, the patent describes what it essentially an “Apple Ring.”
Apple Ring Patent
The patent, “Devices, methods, and user interfaces for a wearable electronic ring computing device,” basically describes a small computing device you wear on a finger. In other words, a smart ring.
While that form factor may be well-suited for an accessory to control a larger device, Apple’s patent actually describes what is essentially a tiny Apple Watch — complete with its own touchscreen display, processor, power supply and wireless components.
Users would interact with the device using hand gestures, which the ring would pick with accelerometers and other sensors. A dial-like component on the ring itself could function essentially as a smaller Digital Crown.
The touchscreen would, of course, be pretty small. But Apple notes that users could input characters on it similar to the Scribble feature on the Apple Watch.
It could also pack a Taptic Engine for haptic feedback and Apple Watch-style directional information; motion sensitivity; biometric sensors for fitness tracking and security; and NFC communications.
While the patent itself is dense, it’s pretty much describing an Apple Watch you wear on your finger — complete with Apple Pay, fitness tracking and the ability to communicate with other devices wirelessly.
Past ‘iRing’ Rumors
One of the more interesting things about the idea of an “Apple Ring” is that it isn’t new. In fact, rumors of a similar wearable device can be found as early as 2013.
At the time, Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White theorized that Apple would launch a “full-blown television set” later that yet. Essentially, an Apple-produced smart TV instead of a set-top box.
That rumor never panned out, but it did contain an interesting tidbit concerning wearables. White predicted that Apple would also debut an “iRing” accessory that could be used as a “navigation pointer” for the TV set. (Amusingly, he also accurately predicted that an “iWatch” could replace the need to carry around a smartphone.)
The idea of a finger-worn smart accessory has also popped up elsewhere over the years, including in a 2015 patent that describes a “ring computing device.”
That patent details a smart ring with a display that could be used to control larger devices. (Today’s patent is a step beyond that, describing a much more independent device.)
Apple, of course, patents a lot of technology that it doesn’t end up using. But with the success of the Apple Watch, other smart rings entering the market and its continued interest in the area, it’s looking possible that an “Apple Ring” may be just over the horizon.