The Apple Watch is already the most popular smartwatch in the world. It’s also the most popular watch in general. But Apple isn’t done improving the device.
This week, the Cupertino tech giant filed a new patent application that could mean big changes for the Apple Watch. Or, more specifically, Apple Watch bands.
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The Apple patent application, No. 20190341677, was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Thursday. And it essentially describes the use of wearable watch bands that contain wireless connectivity components.
This is obviously a stark contrast to most watches and smartwatches, in which “neither the watch body nor any other device interacts with the watch band,” as the patent puts it.
“For example, an antenna and appropriate control circuitry can be provided in a watch band, rather than in a watch body,” the patent continues.
Apple’s patent writers note that the connectivity components could be hidden within a watch band both to protect them from the elements and to conceal them to “enhance the aesthetic appearance of the watch band.” As you might expect, the circuitry would also be able to “bend” and “flex” without any damage.
So, essentially, an Apple Watch band that allows an Apple Watch to communicate with the outside world. That may not make much sense at this point, but the update could have several intriguing features.
Potential use cases
While the patent may not seem all that interesting on its own, there are a few possible use cases that make it much more exciting for Apple Watch users.
Here are just a few of the ways that antenna-equipped bands could revolutionize the Apple flagship wearable.
- Aftermarket cellular. Currently, when you buy an Apple Watch, you have to make a decision between GPS only and GPS + Cellular. While this is just speculation, an Apple Watch band with internal antennae could open up the possibility of aftermarket cellular upgrades. Put another way, you could decide to add cellular functionally later just by slapping a new band on your watch.
- Heightened repairability. If something goes wrong with an Apple Watch’s antenna, technicians would need to actually take the Apple Watch apart to get to them. With these connectivity components in a band, fixing an antenna problem could be as simple as swapping the impacted band.
- More internal space. By embedding antenna and other components in a watch band, Apple could theoretically free up more internal space within an Apple WAtch’s actual body. That could mean a larger battery or other upgraded internals.
This is far from the only way that Apple is exploring using the Apple Watch bands for deeper features. The company has patented methods for embedding everything from health sensors to a camera in a watch band.
All of this makes it pretty clear that a so-called “Apple Watch Smart Band” may indeed be something that we’ll see eventually.
The usual patent disclaimer
Of course, Apple files a lot of patents that never actually end up seeing the light of day. More than that, a patent application doesn’t give any indication when we’ll actually see the technology it describes.
But, with all of Apple’s continued development of “smart” watch bands, we may very well see a more intelligent product enter the market fairly soon.
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.