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Apple Watch 7 could unlock with new 'Wrist ID'

apple watch blood oxygen app
(Image credit: Future)

The Apple Watch 7 or later models may get "Wrist ID" to let you more easily unlock your smartwatch.

Spotted by TheNextWeb, Apple's new smartwatch patent seeks to tackle a big problem with wearables — they're too small to fit in modern unlocking mechanisms like a fingerprint scanner or facial recognition. And that means you need to enter a PIN to get in. But his could soon be a think of the past. 

The patent, titled Wearable Electronic Device Having a Light Field Camera, describes an Apple Watch-style wearable with a light projector and sensor on the bottom face. The light projector shines light into a small area of your wrist, which allows the sensor to capture images. This could include the layout of blood vessels, capillaries or bone shape within the wrist, or a pattern of pores, hair follicles or pigmentation on the skin itself. Assisting these is a tilt sensor, which allows the watch to detect the angle at which the watch is being worn.

Apple Watch "Wrist ID" patent

(Image credit: uspto.report)

Whatever image is taken, this is then used to authenticate the wearer's identity when unlocking the watch, with the light projector and sensor taking a new image and comparing it to the one saved on the Watch. The tilt sensor instructs the software to compensate for changes in the angle of the images accordingly. Overall, it's similar to how the iPhone 12's Face ID works with its IR projector/sensor system, effectively making it Wrist ID, as TNW describes it.

Apple Watch "Wrist ID" patent

(Image credit: uspto.report)

Currently, when using an Apple Watch, you can only unlock it by entering a passcode onto the touch screen, or by having your iPhone unlocked and nearby. It's not much of a bother given that you only have to do this whenever you're putting the watch on, but this Wrist ID system would be a far quicker and convenient method if you don't have your iPhone on hand.

Apple Watch "Wrist ID" patent

(Image credit: uspto.report)

Patents are never guaranteed to become features of real, purchasable products. However, even if it takes a few years to develop the idea, this particular patent seems like a plausible feature we could see on future Apple Watches.

The Apple Watch 7 is expected to arrive in fall of this year, costing around the same $400 mark as previous models. While there are no specific rumors about its features yet, we're hoping it will address the sub-24-hour battery life, as well as adding new health features like blood pressure monitoring. Whatever it does gain on top of the Apple Watch 6, it'll still likely be one of our picks for the best smartwatches.

Richard Priday

Richard is a Tom's Guide staff writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, gaming, audio and whatever else people need advice on. He's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.