Affiliate Disclosure
If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Read our ethics policy.

Future Apple Watch bands could automatically launch apps or change face

A band's texture would stay the same, but the color could alter -- and the Apple Watch could launch specific apps to suit particular bands

Not content with its plan to make Apple Watch bands whose color can be changed, Apple wants those bands to change what the Watch displays — and to prove that they are "authorized."

In February 2023, Apple was granted a patent for an Apple Watch band that users could alter at will. Specifically, it could change color, and the principle was that a user could make the band match whatever they were wearing.

Rather than going through the now apparently burdensome business of changing Watch straps by hand, or even changing Watches, a simple control could alter the band's appearance.

Then in March 2023, Apple was granted the patent again. Typically this means that there was some change in the patent that meant it had to go through approval again, even if the difference is miniscule.

Now in yet a further granting of the patent, there is nothing apparently changed. But the continual re-filing and re-granting does show that Apple is putting some effort into this particular idea.

The idea is that an Apple Watch band could change color without the user even going to the effort of tapping or swiping on an app.

That's the aim of the "Band Identifier System For Wearable Devices" patent, and the process centers on near-field communications (NFC). An NFC component, or tag, could "uniquely identify the band," and that opens up everything.

"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," says the patent.

Apple is keen to not solely have a band change color, but the whole effect of the Watch to alter. "[Since] the home screen and user interfaces displayed on the display of the wearable electronic device are also customised and/or thematic," says the patent, "the new band may clash or otherwise be contradictory or incompatible with the content displayed by the device..."

Consequently, it needn't be that the band changes color, though that was the point of the prior patent. Instead, it can be that a non-color-changing band causes the Apple Watch to switch to a watch face that color-coordinates with the band.

Detail from the patent showing Superman checking his watch is running his flying app
Detail from the patent showing Superman checking his watch is running his flying app

It also needn't be that the band prompts any visible alteration at all. Instead, NFC bands could be used to distinguish "authorized" bands. If a band is in some way "unauthorized," the Watch can prompt the user, or perhaps turn off certain features.

That's similar to the way that Face ID can be disabled if a third-party screen is used to repair an iPhone.

Apple says this means the Apple Watch can alert users to known problems.

"For example, third party bands may be unauthorized bands that are advertised for use with a particular wearable electronic device," says Apple, "but may not properly secure to the device, which can cause a risk of damage to the device."

"Upon determination that a band that is coupled to the device is not an authorized band, a warning may be provided," continues the patent. "In another example, a particular band may be associated with a particular application or service on the wearable electronic device."

So potentially this could mean Apple introducing a "Works with iPhone"-style authorization program. But it could also mean that putting on a band launches a Watch application to match.

This patent is credited to seven inventors, including Daniel J. Hiemstra, whose previous credits include work on Apple Watch antennas.