Future Apple Watch bands could be equipped with NFC tags for color changing, authorization purposes

Image source: Jon Prosser & Ian Zelbo

Apple has been granted a patent (number US 11611372 B1) for a “band identifier system for wearable devices.” It involves using NFC technology on an Apple Watch band that would allow it to change color and control apps.

What is NFC?

NFC, or near field communication, allows devices which are equipped with the technology to share data when they’re in very close proximity (around four inches). Devices equipped with NFC chips can be used to exchange small amounts of data between one another.

The main difference between NFC and, for example, Bluetooth is that it doesn’t require device discovery or manual pairing to share information. NFC enables two-way communication between devices once they’re within that four-inch distance. That’s without the use of WiFi or 4G. NFC is an evolution of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, which uses readers to decode data transmitted via radio waves.

About the patent

So what does this have to do with the Apple Watch? Per Apple’s patent, a smartwatch band could be equipped with a NFC tag that would allow it to identify a NFC band. Then device operations such as the color, theme, or content displayed on the device can be based, in part, on the identified band. The band’s color could be matched with the current watch face display on the Apple Watch.

The NFC tag could also be used to detect “unauthorized” (by Apple, of course) bands. The user would be informed and have the option of disabling some features on the band. 

Summary of the patent

Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “Wearable electronic devices, such as smart watches, can be provided with a band for securing the device to a wearer. The device and the band can include near-field communications (NFC) components that allow the device to uniquely identify the band. Device operations such as the color, theme, or content displayed on the device can be based, in part, on the identification of a particular band. 

“The band may include a miniature NFC tag in an attachment portion of the band that is configured to be received in a recess in a housing of the device. An NFC module for reading the NFC tag can be provided within the recess of the housing, so that the attachment portion of the band and the recess in the device housing position and align the NFC tag with the NFC module when the band is attached to the device.”

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.