A future Apple Watch may feature easy, reliable and secure biometric identification via a dedicated Touch ID fingerprint reader built into the wearable device’s Side button.

According to the USPTO patent grant, first unearthed by PatentlyApple, a future Apple Watch may apply biometric identification with help from fingerprint scanning via the Side button.

A capacitive biometric sensor may sense fingerprint characteristics of a user touch that may be used to provide a fingerprint identification of the user. In addition to providing an output that corresponds to a biometric characteristic, the output of the biometric sensor may indicate whether an input (e.g., a touch, a press, or the like) occurs, an approximate location where an input occurs, and/or a measure of the input, e.g., a measurement of absolute capacitance or capacitance change.

The patent outlines potential Touch ID uses on a future Apple Watch:

  • User identification (implying multi-user support for the Apple Watch)
  • Device unlocking (faster than typing your passcode)
  • App authorization (for apps that use biometric authentication)
  • Transaction authorization (think Apple Pay)

App and transaction authorization is currently handled on the wearable device by pressing or double-pressing the Side button, with a paired iPhone acting as another security and authentication layer. But if Apple were to build Touch ID into the Side button, then a future Apple Watch would bring elevated security for such transactions without needing an iPhone.

And it wouldn’t be a precedent for Touch ID because the new iPad Air that Apple unveiled earlier this year features a Touch ID fingerprint sensor built into its elongated Power button. On top of that, Apple is surveying iPhone 12 owners about their feelings on Touch ID, which may imply that the Cupertino company is mulling adding Touch ID to the next iPhone as a second authentication step (for when you’re wearing a face mask, for example).