Future Apple Watch bands may be ‘dynamically adjustable’

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20160255944) for for “dynamic fit adjustment for wearable electronic devices.” If the invention ever sees the light of day, we could have Apple Watches that allow users to “dynamically adjust” the wearable device’s watchband without having to remove it.

For example, the Apple Watch itself could control one or more actuators that are mechanically coupled to either the housing or to a band attached to the wearable electronic device. In one example, in response to a signal to increase the tightness of the band, the tensioner can cause the actuators to increase the tension within the band.

Some watch bands have an incrementally user-adjustable size (e.g., a buckling clasp, pin and eyelet, etc.) whereas other bands have a substantially fixed size, adjustable only with specialized tools and/or expertise (e.g., folding clasp, deployment clasp, snap-fit clasp, etc.). Still other bands may be elasticated expansion-type bands that stretch to fit around a user's wrist. 

However, in many cases, conventional watch bands may catch, pinch, or pull a user's hair or skin during use if the band is overly tight. In other cases, watch bands may slide along a user's wrist, turn about a user's wrist, or may be uncomfortable or bothersome to a user if the band is overly loose. These problems can be exacerbated during periods of heightened activity, such as while running or playing sports. 

What’s more, adjusting the size or fit of conventional watch bands often requires multiple steps, specialized tools, and/or technical expertise. In other cases, sizing options available to a user may be insufficient to obtain a proper fit. As a result, users of conventional wristwatches and/or fitness/health tracking devices may select a tolerable (although not optimally comfortable) fit, reserving tight bands for fitness/health tracking devices and loose bands for conventional wristwatches. 

However, some wearable electronic devices (such as smart watches) may be multi-purpose devices, providing in one example both fitness/health tracking and timekeeping functionality. Accordingly, a user may prefer the fit of a smart watch to vary with use. For example, a user may prefer a looser fit in a timekeeping mode and a tighter fit in a fitness/health tracking mode. These are the reasons that Apple is looking into dynamic fitting watch bands. 

In a related patent filing (number 20160255922) Apple talks of an “expandable band” that includes one or more expandable links and one or more expansion mechanisms. The expandable link is movable between expanded and contracted positions.

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.