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Apple’s Force Touch might be making a comeback if recently filed patents mean anything

Rumor mill: Judging by patents published last week by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Apple could be considering giving Force Touch another try. The filings cover new pressure sensors for the Apple Watch, MacBook, iPhone, and more.

Apple began introducing Force Touch (aka 3D Touch) to its devices in 2014 with the Apple Watch. It later brought it to the MacBook’s trackpad and the iPhone 6S. However, in 2018 Cupertino engineers decided to start phasing it out, starting with the iPhone XR and then the Apple Watch Series 6. A hard press became a long press, and before we knew it, it was gone except on the MacBook trackpad.

Apple never explained why it removed the feature. However, the decision may have come down to a matter of space. Patently Apple notes that a series of patents indicate that the next-gen sensors are small enough to be used in AirPods. A modular design would also make them suitable for other applications like iPhone screens, trackpads, Apple Pen, and watch buttons.

Another use case mentioned implementing the sensors into the side button on Apple Watches. Currently, the wearables have a mechanical switch. These “microelectromechanical fluid pressure sensors” could replace them for fewer moving parts and better functionality. The current button can be hard to register a press, especially when using certain watch cases.

As we have seen, Apple is highly interested in expanding the medical and health functionality of the Apple Watch. The filings hint that it could embed the sensors in watch bands to monitor blood pressure and pulse wave velocity (PWV). According to Harvard Bioscience, PWV is “a highly reliable Prognostic parameter for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality” in older adults or patients with renal disease, diabetes, or hypertension.

Of course, this is pure speculation based on Apple’s patents. It has not announced that Force Touch is being reconsidered or has any other plans to use these sensors. It could be years until we see the tech, if at all.

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Image credit: Arda Savasciogullari

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