Skip to main content

Is the Apple Watch’s Digital Crown dial really heading for the iPhone?

iphone digital crown ipad
When Apple unveiled its first-ever smartwatch back in September 2014, the company made much of the device’s Digital Crown. A turn of the side wheel lets you quickly and easily zoom and scroll through content, while a gentle press takes you back to the home screen.

A side wheel on a watch, smart or not, surprises no one, but what we’re about to tell you might – the Cupertino company has apparently also been considering adding that wheel to its iOS devices.

Related Videos

An Apple patent published this week by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) shows the Digital Crown – or as the filing describes it, a “rotary input device” – on the side of an iPad.

The tech giant suggests that for iOS devices, the Digital Crown could be used “as a volume controller or locking the touchscreen, turning on the touch screen, taking a picture, resizing text, and other actions,” reports Patently Apple, which first spotted the filing.

The filing for the patent was made in early 2014, at least six months before Apple unveiled its Watch. While it may be suggested Apple was merely using the iPad as cover in order to avoid referencing its at-that-time unconfirmed smartwatch, the filing does actually mention, and show, a smartwatch. Also, by early 2014 it was already widely expected that the company was prepping its first-ever wrist-based device.

Truth be told, the idea that Apple might add physical components to the iPad and iPhone seems rather far fetched. Indeed, there’s been plenty of talk over the years suggesting a future iPhone design will replace the physical Home button with a touch-only alternative – the next iPhone could be the first to do so. Anyway, while we can see the point of a wheel on a watch, adding one to a handset to perform functions we can already do with ease seems like a pointless move, and it’d also be an additional component ripe for malfunction.

Of course, no patent-related article would be complete without including the message that this is just a patent and so the design may never see the light of day. And with this particular filing, we’re pretty sure this cautionary note applies more than ever.

What do you think about the idea of a side wheel on your iPhone or iPad? A stroke of genius, or a dumb idea? Let us know in the comments below.

Editors' Recommendations

6 years later, the iPhone X still does one thing better than the iPhone 14 Pro
iPhone X.

I’ve been an iPhone user since the very beginning, starting with the original iPhone. You know, the one with the 3.5-inch display that was perfect at the time, making it super easy to use a phone with one hand? As the years go by, the iPhone — and every other smartphone out there — just get bigger and bigger. We now have phones that with almost 7-inch displays, and honestly, I don’t understand how anyone can comfortably use these giant phones — especially if you have smaller hands!

With the iPhone, we’ve gone from 3.5-inch to 4-inches, then 4.7-inches to 5.8-inches, and now the standard 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch of the iPhone 14/iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Plus/iPhone 14 Pro Max, respectively. I personally use an iPhone 14 Pro as my primary device, and while I have gotten used to the 6.1-inch size over the past few years, I still think it’s too big. In fact, the last perfect size iPhone was the iPhone XS with the 5.8-inch display ... and I really wish Apple would bring it back.
5.8 inches was a perfect middle ground

Read more
I love the Galaxy S23 — here are 5 things the iPhone still does better
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and Apple iPhone 14 Pro

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 has arrived to the masses, and it’s one of the best Android phones you can get right now, especially the S23 Ultra. However, for those who don’t need all of the fancy bells and whistles, like the S Pen and 200MP main camera, the regular S23 is also plenty powerful for the average person, especially if you prefer smaller devices.

I’ve been using the Galaxy S23 for the past few weeks, and so far, my experience has been delightful. I know that it’s still early on in the year, but for me, the S23’s small size is perfect and comfortable. Android also does a lot of things better than iOS, like individual volume controls and notifications, for example. But I am still primarily using my iPhone 14 Pro — despite Apple having some big flaws, such as overprocessing images after you capture them.

Read more
The one thing the iPhone 14, Galaxy S23, and Pixel 7 all get wrong
Apple iPhone SE (2020) being plugged in to charge.

At Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year, new smartphones broke cover as one would expect. I won't bore you with all the details; Digital Trends' Joe Maring and Jacob Roach wrote an excellent roundup of all the best MWC 2023 announcements already.

One key quality-of-life-improving feature we picked up on as a theme was charging speed. Apple, Samsung, and Google, the mainstream phone brands by coverage (even if not all by sales), stick to a fast-charging average speed of just over an hour — even with the latest iPhone 14, Galaxy S23, and Pixel 7. By comparison, a phone from Xiaomi, Oppo, or OnePlus can get you moving in 30 minutes or even less. It's time to demand more from our phones.
Fast charging exists — just not for you

Read more