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Apple patents reveal new force sensors for Apple Watch, MacBook, iPhone, and more

3D touch in your ears, wrist, iPhone and MacBook
By Roland Udvarlaki March 29, 2022, 8:15 am
Apple 3D Force Touch Source: Pocketnow

Ever since Apple killed off 3D touch on iPhone, we’ve been wondering if it will ever make a comeback. For years, it looked like Apple was done with the 3D touch technology that introduced pressure-sensitive haptic feedback when long-pressing on various UI elements. New patents reveal that Apple might not be done with the idea just yet.

Apple Watch, and AirPods

The US Patent & Trademark Office published (via Patently Apple) multiple patents related to the force-pressure technology. As with every patent, it’s very vague about how it can be used on Apple devices, but it gives us an idea of what the company may be thinking of doing implementing in the future.

Apple Patent force sensor Apple Watch Source: Patently Apple

The patent described the next-generation force sensor technology designed for “small form factor devices.” The technology is so small that it could even be used in devices such as Apple Watches and AirPods wireless earbuds. The previous 3D touch technology reportedly took up a significant amount of space inside the iPhone, which is why it was discontinued and eventually killed off by Apple.

The new patent shows the Apple Watch with a pressure-sensitive side button, which suggests that Apple might want to replace the button with the new technology. Weheard several rumors of a more rugged version of an Apple Smartwatch, and having less physically moving parts could result in a more rugged device.

Pressure-sensitive smart band

Apple Patent smart pressure sensitive band Source: Patently Apple

A different patent shows a smart band that could incorporate the pressure-sensitive sensor in the band itself, providing health measurements such as blood pressure, heart rate, pulse wave velocity, and more. We’ve seen that Apple was testing similar functionality in the past on prototypes, and some rumors suggest we could see it on the next-generation Apple Watch.

MacBook Trackpad

Apple Patent Macbook pressure sensitive trackpad Source: Patently Apple

The patents also suggest that such pressure-sensitive technologies could be used in the trackpad to provide better haptic feedback. Apple already has one of the best trackpads on the market, and improving the feedback could result in a more enjoyable technology. It would be interesting to see this also arrive in other Apple peripherals such as the Magic Mouse or Magic Trackpad.

iPhones & iPads

Apple Patent force sensor for future iPhones Source: Patently Apple

Other patents also show the assembly diagram of a group of multiple pressure sensor modules. The different figures show the filling materials, the groups of pressure sensor modules, and how they can be arranged to increase a device's sensing area. Patently Apple provides more detailed explanations of the newly discovered patents, and you can find out more on their website.

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