The thumbwheel was the signature feature of BlackBerry’s original handsets, and while touchscreens have made them mostly obsolete, the Apple Watch proves there’s still a place for physical dials. But is Apple finally planning to introduce that rotating crown to the iPhone or iPad? A recently published patent suggests that the company might be considering it.

As spotted by Patently Apple, today the United States Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from the company— number 20160216801—revealing the use of a digital crown on the side to facilitate scrolling, control volume, resize text and images, and other mundane tasks like locking or unlocking the touchscreen.


A wheel makes sense on a device like the Apple Watch whose tiny touchscreen can be completely obscured by fingers as they interact with it or a device like an older BlackBerry with no touchscreen at all. But on an iPhone or iPad with their generously-sized screens? It sounds more like another thing that can easily break than a genuinely useful addition.

[United States Patent and Trademark Office via Patently Apple]