There is no denying that the Apple iWatch is a remarkable product of brilliant engineering. It is waterproof, for instance, tracks your heart rate and location, and more. But if recent filings from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are to be considered, the upcoming version will be even more proficient, and more importantly, ‘circular’ in shape, unlike its previous versions.
Apple would not be the first to have launched a circular smartwatch. Companies like LG, Motorola, Huawei, Samsung, and others have long since beaten the Cupertino, California-based company to the punch. But Apple describes a solution a bit different from what its competitors have adopted, a display that sits in a frame surrounded by an inactive border concealing circuitry, sensors, and other hardware. Pixels would be arranged in columns and rows of different lengths to accommodate the frame’s circular shape, and the electronic lines of the gate driver, the silicon component that powers the watch’s display, would overlap and criss-cross to save space.
“Pixel arrays often have rectangular shapes,” Apple engineers noted in the patent. However, rectangular pixel arrays will not fit efficiently within a device having a circular shape. Circular displays can have bottleneck regions in which signal lines become crowded, leading to inefficient use of display area. It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved displays such as circular displays or displays with curved edges.
If you think that’s enough, in addition to the change of shape, a patent describes “limb detection,” or a future Apple Watch’s ability to detect the affix it is wrapped around; think a soccer-tracking app that measures each kick of your leg, for instance, or a fitness mode that records pull-ups. Apple proposes an algorithmic solution. Data from “position sensing devices” like tachometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers could be offloaded to a “processing device’’ like a phone, for example, that would suss out a wearer’s limb position and recognize the arm or leg wearing the watch.
Both the original Apple iWatch and the Apple iWatch Series 2 feature a similar rectangular display as the watch face, almost as if you took an iPhone, shrunk it down and wrapped it to your wrist. Other wearables like the Samsung Gear S3 and Huawei Watch opt for a circular display, making the devices look more like a traditional watch. So while circular smartwatches are nothing new, it would be interesting to see Apple switch up its design.
Despite the patent filing, it is unknown if Apple will ever bring this design into materialization. Apple is scandalous for patenting all sorts of things.