Not many of you agreed with me when I wrote an opinion piece a year ago saying that I could see a role for an Apple Watch-style digital crown on an iPhone, but a patent application published today shows that Apple is at least toying with the idea of introducing it to iOS devices.

Patently Apple spotted the patent application which shows a ‘rotary input’ device on an iPad …


While I liked the use of the digital crown for ease of scrolling content without covering any of the screen with a finger, the patent talks of using it for such tasks as adjusting the volume and resizing text, with the push-button function doing things like locking/unlocking the screen and taking a photo.

In our poll on the opinion piece, only 16% of you wanted a thumbwheel on an iPhone, 30% of you were a ‘maybe’ while the majority opted for ‘no way.’ Also, as I noted at the time, Apple appears to be headed in the opposite direction, seeking to dispense with physical controls as much as possible. We’ve since seen growing rumors of a touch-only Home button.

Our usual patent disclaimer, then, applies particularly strongly in this case: much as I still see an argument for it, this one probably won’t make it into a real-life product.

One sentence in the patent application also hints at future bezel-free devices.

In some examples, the device may not have a border region and may instead have a surface composed only of touch screen.

The images above were concept renders by Antonio De Rosa, while the more mundane illustration from the patent documents can be seen below.


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