Fact check: Apple has patent for smart rings, not location-tracking wedding bands – USA TODAY

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Apple is always developing new gadgets, from a fall-detection sensor in its smartwatch to tags that can be attached to your keys to avoid losing them.
Social media users seem to believe the company is working on another unique product: smart wedding rings that can track one’s location and share it with their partner.
“Apple is working and developing smart marriage rings, which connect with the couple and allow you to know everything about the spouse’s trajectory and the places he or those (sic) visited,” reads text over an image of the purported rings shared Jan. 31 on Instagram.
The post received over 20,000 likes in three days. The caption details other functions of the purported ring.
“If it’s deleted or locked it reports off on the other ring, so the other person will know if it’s been turned off!” it reads.
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But there’s no evidence any such product is in development.  It appears the narrative first appeared years ago on a satire website.
The concept of a smart ring, however, isn’t so far-fetched – Apple has had a patent for one since 2019. 
USA TODAY reached out to the Instagram user who posted the image for comment.
The Instagram post states the smart ring has been called “iDo,” playing on Apple’s characteristic use of the letter “i” before a device’s name.
The earliest reference USA TODAY could find online of the purported “iDo” ring is an article published in September 2016. 
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The website, Faking News, no longer exists. But an archived version of the article shows a disclaimer stating the “content of this website is a work of fiction.”
“Readers are advised not to confuse the ‘news reports’ of Faking News as being genuine and true,” the disclaimer reads.
The claim appears to have regained traction online when a news outlet from Nigeria wrote about the ring in January. The post, which doesn’t cite any sources, uses language that’s almost identical to what Faking News wrote in 2016.
It’s an example of “stolen satire,” in which made-up claims published and labeled as satire are reposted in a way that makes them appear to be legitimate news. As a result, readers of the second-generation post are misled, as was the case here.
USA TODAY reached out to Apple for comment.
Even though there’s no evidence Apple has developed location-tracking wedding bands, the company has been filing patent applications for a smart ring for almost a decade.
One patent application filed in 2015 was for a “wearable electronic ring computing device.” The Patent and Trademark Office granted the patent in October 2019.
A more recent patent application, which was filed by Apple in April 2020 and is still under consideration, is described as a continuation of the previous patent. 
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Neither application mentions any of the uses described in the Instagram post, such as sharing one’s location with a partner.
Ring wearers could use the product to access their devices with finger motions, the 2020 document explains. For example, the ring could use a motion sensor to detect when the user is writing. The ring could then transfer that writing to another electronic device, according to the summary of the patent.
Apple wrote in its application that the ring could increase the “effectiveness, efficiency and user satisfaction” with other devices.
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“For example, the ring computing device is more portable than a mouse, doesn’t require a computer, doesn’t require eye contact with the touch screen, … reduces the inefficiencies of mode switching by not requiring a user to move his or her hand off a keyboard to move a mouse or touchpad,” the patent says.
The ring may also be capable of receiving messages or images on a touchscreen, according to the document.
We rate the claim that Apple is developing a smart marriage ring that shares the wearer’s location with their partner FALSE, based on our research. The claim stems from a satire website. Apple has been filing patent applications for a smart ring since at least 2015. However, the device descriptions don’t mention any of the uses mentioned in the Instagram post.
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Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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