First look: Digital Crown on Apple Watch ushers in new era of UI control

Posted:
in Apple Watch edited April 2015
With Apple Watch, Apple was presented an opportunity to reimagine and improve upon the ways in which a user interacts with ultra-small format devices. It delivered in spades with Force Touch, haptic feedback, a custom UI and a keystone tactile technology called the Digital Crown.




Digital Crown takes its cues from traditional wristwatch design, but instead of a mechanical linkage of gears, Apple's version uses an electro-optical system to translate rotation into UI data. As seen in the video below, Apple's solution offers stepless operation for fluid control of a range of functions.





Instead of using multitouch gestures like iOS devices, Apple tapped Digital Crown for zooming, scrolling and general user interface navigation. This not only brings tactile feedback to the Watch experience, but affords users an unobstructed view of the small screen.

Since dial turns are recognized and processed with software, Apple was able to bake in dynamic scrolling speeds. The faster the crown spins, the faster Watch's UI scrolls on screen. The feature can be used to quickly navigate long lists or lengthy emails, but is sensitive enough for detailed work like zooming in a map.

In addition to rotation-based input, Digital Crown is a button that can be used to call up Siri or return to Watch's home screen view. Like scrolling, button functionality is intuitively based on user interaction. For example, pressing once invokes the home screen, two clicks calls up recently used apps and three clicks toggles accessibility options. A press-and-hold gesture activates Siri.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 111
    Impressive piece of technology. ????
  • Reply 2 of 111
    analogjackanalogjack Posts: 1,064member
    I hope the rumoured ipod touch update, is going to include apple watch support, I'd definitely be tempted.
  • Reply 3 of 111
    frugalityfrugality Posts: 410member

    A knob.  Absolute genius.  What won't those folks in Cupertino think up next?  Buttons, maybe?  Oh, what a joyous time to be alive.  If only our great-grandparents could have seen these days....

  • Reply 4 of 111
    rickersrickers Posts: 62member
    It's NOT just a knob! It's a DIGITAL CROWN! My grandparents said that when they were children, digital crowns were just a dream. And now, they are science fact!
  • Reply 5 of 111
    frugality wrote: »
    A knob.  Absolute genius.  What won't those folks in Cupertino think up next?  Buttons, maybe?  Oh, what a joyous time to be alive.  If only our great-grandparents could have seen these days....

    Indeed, simplicity is a hallmark of usability. The idea of using the knob to affect the screen without obstructing it is truly so simple it is ingenious. I was on the fence before its release due to a preconceived lack of ease of use and practicality, but now seeing the ? Watch in use, and seeing how easy and effective it is to use, I am definitely strongly considering this purchase.
  • Reply 6 of 111
    Indeed, simplicity is a hallmark of usability. The idea of using the knob to affect the screen without obstructing it is truly so simple it is ingenious. I was on the fence before its release due to a preconceived lack of ease of use and practicality, but now seeing the ? Watch in use, and seeing how easy and effective it is to use, I am definitely strongly considering this purchase.

    I love sarcasm wars
  • Reply 7 of 111
    desuserigndesuserign Posts: 1,316member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by FlashFan207 View Post

    Indeed, simplicity is a hallmark of usability. The idea of using the knob to affect the screen without obstructing it is truly so simple it is ingenious. I was on the fence before its release due to a preconceived lack of ease of use and practicality, but now seeing the ? Watch in use, and seeing how easy and effective it is to use, I am definitely strongly considering this purchase.

    Hardware wise, it's basically a 1 axis mouse. Software wise, they've clearly done a lot of work to optimize how it works. I imagine every wearable will be following Apple, now that they've blazed the trail. Now we'll hear about how the apple watch really got all it's ideas from the Moto360 and the FitBit etc.

    I wonder how much they'll be able to protect it (seeing as many particulars of their iPhone work has been copied ad nausium.)

  • Reply 8 of 111
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    OT: I'm seeing a lot of motion faces on Instagram. Many more than Apple has shown off so far. Mostly flowers and butterflies. Also someone on MacRumors slept with the watch on and said they lost about 20% over 7 hours so it seems like you could top it off before bed and wear it while sleeping for sleep tracking and taptic alarm.
  • Reply 9 of 111
    idreyidrey Posts: 640member
    ?Watch is freaking awesome! And yes the use of the "knob" was a brilliant idea ! Simple yet powerful
  • Reply 10 of 111
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    desuserign wrote: »
    Hardware wise, it's basically a 1 axis mouse. Software wise, they've clearly done a lot of work to optimize how it works. I imagine every wearable will be following Apple, now that they've blazed the trail. Now we'll hear about how the apple watch really got all it's ideas from the Moto360 and the FitBit etc.
    I wonder how much they'll be able to protect it (seeing as many particulars of their iPhone work has been copied ad nausium.)
    I know deferring to content on such a small screen is vitally important but I wonder if there might be a software update giving you the option to show the scroll bar before you start turning the crown - at least so one could use it while they're still figuring out when to use the crown and when not to. Unless it's always obvious when there's more content see?
  • Reply 11 of 111
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by DESuserIGN View Post

     

    Hardware wise, it's basically a 1 axis mouse.


     

    Hardware-wise, it's basically a rotary encoder, commonly found on car radios, home receivers, and music keyboards.  But in this case, it's the tiny-ness that amazes.

  • Reply 12 of 111
    desuserigndesuserign Posts: 1,316member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by PScooter63 View Post

    Hardware-wise, it's basically a rotary encoder, commonly found on car radios, home receivers, and music keyboards.  But in this case, it's the tiny-ness that amazes.


    And in previous gen mice

    [the kind with balls! ;-) ]

  • Reply 13 of 111
    I like how the original iOS 8.2 version used in the Watch is fluid, or at least in the watches in the store that I used. Odd that 8.2 runs less smoothly on the iPhone 4S, which is thought to have a similar A5 chip. Maybe Apple wrung some extra performance out of the S1 version of the A5.
  • Reply 14 of 111
    desuserigndesuserign Posts: 1,316member
    It looks like a very small, straightforward optical quadrature encoder in this photo from iFixit:




    (click it to see full res)

    [Looks to be pretty darn high resolution cog. The text says it has a dedicated processor, which probably accounts for the the buttery performance.]

  • Reply 15 of 111
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    I hope this thing works well because it was the most stupid idea that was announced and made the watch look outdated.
  • Reply 16 of 111
    migehomigeho Posts: 1member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DESuserIGN View Post

     

    [Looks to be pretty darn high resolution cog. The text says it has a dedicated processor, which probably accounts for the the buttery performance.]


    This is not a processor. Just a decoder that converts the signal from the rotating crown into a digital representation for the software.

  • Reply 17 of 111
    mstonemstone Posts: 11,510member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DESuserIGN View Post

     

    Hardware wise, it's basically a 1 axis mouse. Software wise, they've clearly done a lot of work to optimize how it works. I imagine every wearable will be following Apple, now that they've blazed the trail. Now we'll hear about how the apple watch really got all it's ideas from the Moto360 and the FitBit etc.

    I wonder how much they'll be able to protect it (seeing as many particulars of their iPhone work has been copied ad nausium.)


    Nope, it will be expressed as logical evolution of watches,  hence not patentable.

  • Reply 18 of 111
    foggyhillfoggyhill Posts: 4,767member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post



    I like how the original iOS 8.2 version used in the Watch is fluid, or at least in the watches in the store that I used. Odd that 8.2 runs less smoothly on the iPhone 4S, which is thought to have a similar A5 chip. Maybe Apple wrung some extra performance out of the S1 version of the A5.

     

    Is the chip in the watch really an A5?

  • Reply 19 of 111
    cali wrote: »
    I hope this thing works well because it was the most stupid idea that was announced and made the watch look outdated.

    ...no, it wasn't. Timex had a series of digital watches about fifteen years ago with an electromechanical crown for navigation, and they were brilliant.
  • Reply 20 of 111
    kit_ckit_c Posts: 16member

    I had my "try on" session earlier this week, and my impression of the crown is that it's features have been softened up too much.  I have a number of mechanical watches, and the size of the Apple watch crown and depth of the gnurling seem insufficient.  I'm sure I will adapt to the digital crown, and that they Apple adapt it over time to make it more substantial.

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