As technology matures, it gets smarter and smaller. The iPhone 4 has the same processing power as a mid-80s supercomputer, and the Apple Watch is twice as powerful again. Could Apple possibly pack that tech into something that’s even smaller?
According to US patent application 20150277559, “Devices and Methods for a Ring Computing Device”, Apple’s working on a smart ring. As the application puts it, it’s a “finger-ring-mounted touchscreen that includes a computer processor, wireless transceiver, and rechargeable power source”.
If you think that sounds like a ring-sized Apple Watch, you’d be right. The Apple Ring would have a microphone for voice input, haptic feedback, inductive charging, biometric sensors and the ability to communicate with “at least one external electronic device” such as a Mac or an iPhone. You’d control the ring by tapping or swiping on its touchscreen, communicate with nearby devices via NFC – for example to make a payment – and it could respond to biometric signals too. The patent also details pressure sensitivity that sounds a lot like Apple’s Force Touch and 3D Touch technologies.
There are some key differences, though. The ring might be made with precious metals, but it might also be made from something stretchy, like silicone. It might have an auto-sizing feature, where it adjusts the fit based on the size of your finger. And it might even have a camera.
Why a ring? There are lots of applications. You could use it to control the mythical Apple TV set, or to control on-screen action in games. You could use it to control your automated home, or to verify your ID to other devices. The patent describes how you could transfer money to somebody simply by shaking their hand. And you could use it to control CarPlay, or the various systems in a future Apple vehicle.
Will Apple build it? Not yet. It had enough trouble cramming all of the Watch technology into a 38mm case; unless the ring was a knuckleduster there’d be hardly any room for its battery, let alone fancy ideas such as integral cameras. But perhaps Apple is indulging in a little bit of misdirection here, because cameras, control of multiple devices and self-adjusting straps sound awfully like Apple Watch features we’d like to see.
An Apple ring might be made from precious metals or something stretchy, and it might have an auto-sizing feature.