The iPhone and iPad may seem like an odd place to find an Apple Watch-like Digital Crown, but that’s exactly what a just published patent application shows. The patent shows the Digital Crown controlling volume, snapping photos, and locking the display. That doesn’t, however, mean your next iPad will look like a giant Apple Watch.
According to Patently Apple, the patent application also describes using the Digital Crown for other tasks such as resizing text. Presumably it could handle other Apple Watch-like features like scrolling through browser windows.
A Digital Crown on an iPhone or iPad seems like an odd fit with Apple’s current product designs. Where it could make sense is on a device that doesn’t include a bezel, which is also mentioned in the patent. Designing an iPhone or iPad where the display runs edge to edge on the device takes away the space currently reserved for the physical Home button. Assuming Apple wants a physical button to control certain device functions, moving to a crown on the side, just like the current volume controls, could be an option.
Still, a Digital Crown on an iPhone or iPad seems like an awkward technology mashup at best. Not so much toaster-fridge, but more like bottle opener belt buckle: It sounds like a clever idea until you try to use it and your pants fall down.
The crown positioning in the patent implies it’s designed to be used when your iPhone or iPad is in portrait orientation, meaning with the narrow sides at the top and bottom. It’s also in the way of the hinge on the iPad if you use a Smart Cover. Again, it’s just awkward.
While Apple could put a Digital Crown on more than just the Apple Watch, it doesn’t make sense. Instead, this patent feels more like a tactical move to prevent the Digital Crown from showing up on competitor’s products, whether they’re smart watches, smartphones, or tablets. This isn’t about putting a Digital Crown on a smartphone; it’s about blocking Samsung, HTC, and everyone else from putting one on a smartphone.