Patent applications imagine the Apple Watch without the digital crown

The digital crown has been a staple on the Apple Watch since the first version launched in 2015. Modeled after the crown on traditional watches, the digital crown is a physical button that can be pressed or spun to assist with navigating watchOS. Future versions, however, could ship with an optical sensor in place of the digital crown, should an idea from a recent patent filing find its way into a finished product.

In a recently published patent application, Apple envisions an implementation of the watch with an optical sensor in place of the digital crown. As Patently Apple highlights, the sensor could be used for gesture controls and assist with biometric measurements.

Eliminating the digital crown would free up valuable real estate inside the wearable for things like a larger battery. It would also reduce the number of moving parts and further enhance water resistance, just like removing the SIM card slot from the iPhone would do.

One pressing concern is whether or not gesture controls are reliable enough to replace a physical button, especially one with the history that the crown has on traditional wristwatches. Gesture controls have always felt a bit gimmicky – would Apple be willing to gamble with the watch’s reputation for a gimmick?

What are your thoughts? Should Apple ditch the digital crown and make its smartwatch a bit more streamlined, or is this a feature that Cupertino has no business tinkering with?