Apple Anklet, anyone? Apple’s smart ring plans aren’t limited to your fingers

Apple Ring device patent image showing a 'ring-shaped device' in black ink on white paper
(Image credit: Apple (via ISPTO))

Rings on your fingers and bells on your toes? Add anklets on your lower leg, chokers around your neck, or even longer lanyards, and, according to a freshly granted patent, Apple's long-rumored plans for a smart ring now seem to have broadened considerably.  

There's no question the Cupertino giant is finally taking the possibility of an Apple Ring seriously – something to rival the Oura Generation 3 or Ultrahuman Ring Air, perhaps. But ever since Tim Cook's behemoth started expanding its outlook on the possibilities of wearable tech (I might point you towards an August 2023 filing for AirPods charging cases that can be worn like jewelry), a newly granted patent, first reported by Apple Insider, has made it undeniably clear that there is much more to the idea than rings on fingers. 

As long as your appendage can accommodate it, Apple seemingly wants to put a ring (shaped-device) on it.

The "Electronic system with ring device" in the Apple patent does propose a smart "finger-ring housing having a finger-shaped opening", but the fact that it could slip over a digit is now being listed purely as an example among several possibilities. 

The key bit in the patent is: "The ring device may have a ring shape that allows the ring device to be worn on a body part of a user (eg. around a user's wrist, arm, leg, ankle, neck, head, and/or other body part)." 

So, you know how people wear rings on chains as charms or pendants? Quite possibly that. Apple's patent illustrations to accompany the text also show physical controls on the side of an octagonal smart ring device (labeled 48), but the application doesn't detail what these little "components" buttons might do. 

Opinion: a malleable Apple Ring wearable is an open goal

Apple Ring device illustrations, showing a cross-section of a ring-shaped device and several components, including buttons, in black ink on white background

What might these 'components' buttons do? Time will tell (Image credit: Apple (via USPTO))

So the device itself is still conceptual: ring-shaped but not necessarily for your finger. The real meat within the Apple filing is the "companion devices" your ring-shaped Apple wearable could play nice with. The wearer could, for instance, use "hand gestures, pointing input... involving the position of the user's body" while going about their daily business – and remember, pointing and gestural controls using a ring device is something that's already been patented by Apple back in 2020

Because Apple anticipates you'll wear its ring-shaped piece of kit throughout the day, the patent continues that it "facilitates interactions between the ring device and objects in the user's environment."

For example, if you happen to pass an interesting item bearing an NFC tag while walking through a mall, your wearable might notice your curiosity has been piqued, and display necessary information about it (on a screen-toting Apple lanyard around your neck, perhaps?) – especially if you pause and/or point at the thing that interests you. 

Of course, these words should not be taken as gospel. This isn't cold, hard truth that a malleable multi-use Apple Ring is in the pipeline. I've mentioned it prior to today but Apple is typically granted upwards of 4,000 patents per year, every year (thank you, Insights – although according to this data, there's been a notable drop off in applications filed by Apple this year hasn't there?).

A quick scan of our Apple patent coverage proves we're still waiting on much of the pioneering conceptual tech to squirrel its way into our gadgets, handsets, and audio headgear. That said, the inaugural 2015 Apple Watch was a milestone piece of tech – and the fact that we're now into the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 proves that particular lineup is only getting bigger. 

You don't have to be a tech expert to predict that any Apple Ring containing top sleep tracking and NFC tech, but with proprietary Apple gestural tech (see the Double Tap move for starters) plus all the whistles and bells included in an iOS ecosystem, would certainly be a contender for our best smart rings roundup. 

For now, we wait...

A ring-shaped device in an Apple patent filing, on white background

A slightly different, rounder concept (Image credit: Apple (via USPTO))

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Becky Scarrott
Senior Audio Staff Writer

Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.