When Apple created the Apple Watch the firm introduced a new control method for interacting with the device; the Digital Crown. Designed like a traditional watch crown, the Digitial Crown acts as both a button for selecting items or returning to the Home screen, and allows the user to scroll through interface elements or zoom while rotating it. But a new patent from the company suggests it may be considering adding this control feature to other devices, including the iPhone and iPad series.
Previously Apple has already transferred Apple Watch features to its other devices, including the 3D Touch pressure sensitive display technology. The new patent (picked up by Patently Apple) shows a number of possible uses for the control method on the iPad and iPhone, including as a volume wheel, resizing on-screen text, a touchscreen lock, or a camera control for photo and video capture. The patent states, "In some examples, the device may not have a border region and may instead have a surface composed only of touch screen," a situation which may see the removal of a physical Home key on the front of the handset; feasibly a Digital Crown could take its place on the sides of the device. There are a few rumours that the 2017 iPhone model may feature such an edge-to-edge display design and multiple rumours have also discussed the notion of ditching the existing Home key design. The only caveat is that a Digital Crown is unlikely to solve the issue of removing the Home key with regard to Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner technology, as it seems unlikely a scanner could fit inside the smaller Digital Crown dial. There are some rumours, however, that Apple has plans for a fingerprint scanner design hidden under the display glass and which can read a fingerprint through it.
As innovative as the idea sounds though, we should point out that the patent was filed in 2014, perhaps a little too far forward for it to be related to Apple's 2017 catalogue, and also Apple patents stuff all the time which doesn't see the light of day. Lastly, we also think it might be a little too avant garde having a watch dial on a phone or tablet; Apple users like cool quirky things, sure, but there's a limit!