Apple May Be Testing A Waterproof Extreme Sports Watch

For the past few months, rumors of a rugged Apple Watch variant have been floating around, painting the picture of a smartwatch targeted at extreme sports enthusiasts. A new Apple patent that was first spotted by PatentlyApple gives us a glimpse of what Apple's ingress protection solution might be all about. Titled "Stand-Alone Water Detector," the patent application filed with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) talks about using a dielectric membrane layer between electrodes that detects the blockage of ports by water.

The standalone water detector in question relies on a membrane made out of expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE). The water detection sensor includes a parallel plate capacitor with the ePTFE membrane fitted in between the plates. The patent explains that the current-gen wearables employ gel-filled sensors for ingress protection against sand and debris, but they are prone to pressure-related errors due to capillary pressure generated by water on the gel surface and orientation-related variables. 

For example, jumping in a pool from different heights exerts higher pressure on the innards and can lead to errors in measurements taken by a wearable like the Apple Watch — and that's where the ePTFE membrane comes to the rescue. The water detection system will alert the wearable device's system of errors related to capillary pressure so that it doesn't record faulty environmental readings.

Promising, but keep your hopes in check

Interestingly, the whole apparatus is a standalone design and can be implemented in various forms, one of which is improving the Lightning-cable interface on iPhones. Apple's patent application mentions both smartwatches and smartphones as the devices on which the aforementioned water-detection hardware can be applied. For example, replacing the system-level pressure venting material with an ePTFE-based system could allow the device to more proactively make decisions like shutting down or alerting users. 

But the focus on wearables is a clear sign that the tech is being developed with the Apple Watch in mind. Bloomberg has previously reported that Apple is working on a third Apple Watch model that will offer a rugged build with a protective exterior for better shock absorption. The upcoming device will reportedly be sold as the "adventure" or "explorer" edition of the upcoming Apple Watch Series 8. 

The Apple Watch Series 7 is only suitable for shallow-water activities such as swimming in a pool or ocean. The patented tech could allow future Apple Watch users to engage in high-velocity water activities such as scuba diving or waterskiing. But do keep in mind that the standalone water detector described above is a patent and there is no guarantee it will ever make its way to a commercially available product. Alternatively, Apple might take some time and implement it on Apple Watch variants launched a few years from now.