It’s been a little over three years, and four generations of Apple Watch have so far hit the market offering increasingly powerful components, improved speed, and new features like S.O.S., GPS and more.
What we haven’t seen in Apple Watch yet, however, is much in the way of a physical design change since the original (Series 0) was unveiled back in April 2015.
While Apple Watch is already proven powerful and advanced enough to save lives, over the years, it’s been alluded through patents, rumors, and insider speculation that Apple has much bigger, broader and clearly more health-centric uses in mind.
Now, citing “a source with direct knowledge of Apple’s plans,” a new Fast Company report out this week claims that a future Apple Watch model will be equipped with flush, solid-state buttons, which instead of moving around within their fabricated cut-out chamber simply respond to the touch of a user’s finger resting on them.
While the next Apple Watch is expected to retain the same twistable Digital Crown and side button as the current Apple Watch design, neither of those buttons will “physically click” as they currently do.
While the Digital Crown will keep its twistable nature for scrolling through content on Apple Watch, Fast Company’s sources confirmed those primary buttons will otherwise “vibrate slightly under the fingertip,” relying on the same force-touch feedback effect made possible with the Taptic Engine.
Apple’s Taptic Engine is essentially a “specialized linear actuator” designed to transform “advanced control signals” into a range of feedback responses, from light taps to extended, curated vibrations. The company introduced the technology on the original Apple Watch, prior to bringing it over to the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus in 2016, and more recently to the trackpad on newer MacBook models.
Here is an example of solid-state touch capacitive buttons you might already be familiar with, on the Samsung Galaxy S6. Image: Gadget Hacks
According to the report, not only will the introduction of solid-state buttons on Apple Watch allow the company to completely and thoroughly waterproof the device (since there’d no longer be a need for button cut-outs in the chassis where water can seep through), but their integration will also free up additional space inside, which Fast Company’s source said Apple plans to fill with a larger battery.
In addition to the button’s aforementioned physical changes, today’s report reiterated that Apple is working to incorporate advanced health sensors into the buttons, themselves, which would allow them to gather crucial health data in addition to control the wearable.
While the report stops short of speculating on what these sensors could be utilized for other than measuring heart rate, it’s worth pointing out that Apple has indeed been working closely with medical professionals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and has filled a myriad of patents suggesting that a future Apple Watch could be capable of capturing electrocardiogram (EKG) recordings.
There’s also been rumors of an Apple Watch model featuring a modular, customizable form-factor with in-built Blood Glucose monitors/sensors for Diabetes patients — but who knows, maybe we’ll end up getting all of the above?
Either way, Fast Company’s source indicated this new Watch model could be revealed later on this fall, or possibly in 2019 at the latest, echoing multiple earlier reports.