In a week when Samsung unveiled a (currently dormant) temperature sensor for its new Galaxy Watch 5, we now have the biggest indication that Apple will be following suit when the Apple Watch 8 launches next month.
This week, an Apple patent entitled “Temperature gradient sensing in electronic devices (opens in new tab)” was spotted by MyHealthyApple (opens in new tab). Though it doesn’t specifically mention the Apple Watch, it does highlight the tech’s possible application in smartwatches, and indeed the only device depicted in the diagrams looks an awful lot like an Apple Watch.
“The temperature probe is configured to generate a voltage corresponding to a temperature gradient between a first end of the probe and a second end of the probe,” the patent reads, adding that it can be applied to “any suitable surface, whether internal or external, of the electronic device.”
While that means it could be used to measure the temperature of internal components, the patent adds that the external probe could also be placed on a “back surface such as a back crystal of a smart watch.” The temperature sensor itself is apparently accurate too, with Apple describing it as “high-precision and high-accuracy.”
That’s good, because accurate temperature measurement from the wrist has proved a tricky nut to crack in the past. Indeed, the analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that Apple intended to include a temperature sensor in last year’s Apple Watch 7 but was foiled by attempts to make it accurate enough.
The difficulty, Kuo explained, is that the wrist isn’t an especially good place to measure body temperature from, meaning an overall figure would have to be extrapolated algorithmically. Kuo claims that the algorithm wasn’t reliable enough in 2021, and thus the sensor was sidelined for another year.
But Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman believes that “the feature is a go” for this year’s Apple Watch 8 and Apple Watch Pro models, suggesting that the problem has been resolved. That said, the resolution may just be an obfuscation of the actual numbers, with Gurman predicting that the watch will simply alert you to big temperature changes that might suggest a fever, so you can get a second opinion via doctor or thermometer.
It could also be used to help with fertility tracking, or possibly to help athletes inform their recovery. And, assuming Apple opens the sensor for developers, there’s no telling what third-party app makers could do with the tech.
This likely won’t be the last sensor Apple looks to add to its wearables. Alongside the long-term rumors of blood glucose tracking, last year it was revealed that Apple was the largest customer of Rockley Photonics, which builds mobile sensors tracking everything from alcohol to carbon monoxide levels.
But for this generation, the temperature sensor is expected to be one of the biggest changes, alongside the introduction of a new, rugged and expensive Apple Watch Pro. There’s not long to wait, now: we’re expecting both of these and an updated Apple Watch SE to arrive alongside the iPhone 14 next month.