Apple's smart ring could be the perfect iPhone 12 accessory

Apple smart ring
(Image credit: USPTO via AppleInsider)

Apple is working on a wearable smart ring with an expandable design that could potentially offer similar uses as Apple Watch, except its worn around a finger rather than the wrist.

AppleInsider spotted a patent for an "Expandable Ring Device" granted to Apple by the USPTO, suggesting that when Apple does release a smart ring its size won't be static.

(Image credit: USPTO via AppleInsider)

The expandable design could let the ring stretch out in accordion style from the form of a piece of jewelry to something that looks like a finger tube. The larger setting would leave room for things like sensors or even a foldable display. No matter what powers it unravels, though, there's no denying this design is weird.

In other words, Apple has alternative wearable approach in mind than what we've seen from the Amazon Echo Loop, a chunky Alexa-enabled ring that lets you speak commands into your knuckle.

The Echo Loop is not a full consumer product yet, only accessible via an invite from Amazon itself, but it shows a push to experiment with wearables and it only makes sense that Apple would through their hat in the ring. (Sorry, truly.)

Apple ring

(Image credit: USPTO via AppleInsider)

Except in Apple fashion, the patent images we're seeing suggest something more forward-thinking. It appears the expandable ring could function as a controller of some kind for certain iOS devices. For example, the Apple smart ring might act as a haptic glove replacement that can communicate with the future iPhone 12.

Haptic sensors could be embedded within the extendable frame, and straining them with a bend of a finger could translate to gestures for operating external devices. In addition, Apple proposes in the patent that the ring could sport rotatable buttons and other physical input elements on the main ring housing.

Keep in mind Apple patents these types of ideas all the time, and very few actually make it to the consumer. But we already have the Echo Loop and haptic Tap Strap 2 Keyboard with gesture controls, so an Apple smart ring certainly can't be discounted as being the company's next big thing. 

Calling it a replacement for the Apple Watch 6, though, is probably a stretch. 

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.