Apple Watch patent points to Touch ID – but don’t get your hopes up

Apple Watch 6 review
An Apple Watch 6 (Image credit: TechRadar)

Upcoming Apple Watch models such as the Apple Watch 8 and the rumored Apple Watch 8 Rugged Edition could have bigger screens, body temperature sensors and more, but one thing we’re not currently expecting is a fingerprint sensor. However, there’s some evidence to suggest future models might include this feature.

Patently Apple has spotted that Apple was recently granted a patent for such a sensor. Specifically, the patent details a Touch ID fingerprint sensor built into the side button of the Apple Watch.

This button is currently used for – among other things – Apple Pay, so building a fingerprint sensor into it could make sense, as it could securely and seamlessly verify your identity without adding any extra steps to the Apple Pay process.

Diagrams from an Apple Watch patent showing a fingerprint sensor

(Image credit: Patently Apple / USPTO)

The patent highlights all the typical fingerprint sensor applications as possible use cases, including unlocking a device, identifying the user, and authorizing transactions or the downloading of apps.

This seems an obvious feature to add, and one that would be a lot slicker to use than a passcode for securing your Apple Watch; however, we wouldn’t count on seeing it soon – if at all.

Analysis: don’t count on seeing this

A fingerprint sensor would be a handy Apple Watch addition, and probably a lot more viable to add than Face ID, but we’d be surprised if we see one soon.

For one thing, Apple files an enormous number of patents, and many never come to anything. Indeed, this isn’t the first one we’ve seen relating to Apple Watch fingerprint sensors – we reported on similar patents back in 2020 and 2019.

You could argue that having filed numerous patents related to this feature it’s something Apple might be seriously looking into, but it’s also seemingly something the company is in no hurry to implement.

So, given that we’ve not heard any talk of a fingerprint sensor coming to the Apple Watch 8 we almost certainly won’t see one this year; and with patents dating back to at least 2019, yet still no sign of the tech, we’d be surprised if the Apple Watch 9 had one either.

Maybe the Apple Watch 10 will finally get the feature, but don’t count on a fingerprint-sensing wearable making it onto our list of the best Apple Watches anytime soon.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.