The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent for Apple that allows it to include a rotatable camera on its Apple Watch products—a revolutionary innovation to the smartwatch market.
Other brands have teased about introducing a built-in camera on their smartwatches before. However, that entails maneuvering the user’s wrist in a challenging position — proving that the technology is far from ready for launch.
Apple secured a patent that would solve the problem. The Apple Watch patent comes along with 63 newly granted patents for Apple Inc.
The new patent opens the possibility of future Apple Watches with the ability to capture images and video via a rotatable, pull-out camera.
The patent describes the invention as similar to an extension of the Apple Watch band, where the built-in camera can be pulled out to expose and use it. Primarily, this will enable the Apple Watch user to avoid the tricky wrist-maneuvering.
“Such functionality can replace or at least meaningfully augment a user’s existing camera-enabled iPhone.”
Notably, cameras on smartwatches were initially introduced with similarities to the conventional smartphones where it is stationary on the screen. The patent describes it to have a pull-out functionality where a user can point towards the desired direction.
Furthermore, the built-in camera can even be rotated at a 360-degree angle. Meaning, a single camera can function both as a front and back camera, allowing Apple to save more space, as it is compacted on a very small device.
As described, the camera is placed on the tip of an extendable band where “an optical sensor [is] attached to or integrated within the distal end portion of the camera watch band […] and a data connection between the optical sensor and the watch body.”
The band, where the camera will be placed, is told to be flexible enough that users can manipulate it into any form via twisting and bending. A combination of a “malleable metal core” with “magnetorheological fluid,” and “mechanical links” will comprise the band to help maintain its form. This combination may also help prop the camera end to a fixed position such as bending towards the user to make FaceTime calls.
Users can take photos or record videos by pinching the camera watch band, asking Siri to do it, or by clicking on the Apple Watch screen.
The latest report comes along with Apple’s plans of marketing the Apple Watch Series, as a more independent device from the rest of the company’s products such as an iPhone.
“A smartwatch with the capability of capturing images or videos may enable a user to forego carrying a smartphone when doing some activities, especially activities or environments where it would be difficult to take a smartphone (e.g., hiking, running, swimming, surfing, snowboarding, and any number of other situations),” says in its patent report.
Furthermore, Apple recently announced in its Worldwide Developer Conference that the Apple Watch is getting its own App Store with its own set of dedicated applications mainly focused on its Health functionalities.
Notably, the recent release remains to be a patent. There is no guarantee when we’re exactly going to see the built-in camera function in the Apple Watch or if we are ever going to witness it (at all).
It could yield similar results to Apple’s infamous AirPower—a wireless charging pad that can simultaneously power three devices without the need to place it in specific areas to work. The product never went into production as it proved to be challenging after all.
The future still holds the answer whether or not Apple will be able to make the camera feature with up-to-par quality. Questions regarding the camera’s quality, its strength, and durability of the camera band remain as a mystery.
On the other hand, if Apple does decide to push through with the invention and follow Apple’s standard with product quality, it could easily win over the current market, which is already dominating.
As of 2018, Apple’s Apple Watch Series still takes first place on the market for smartwatches with a total of 51% global market share. It is selling like hot pancakes as Apple’s shipments increased by 1.4 million units compared to the same quarter in the previous year, for a total of 9.2 million units shipped in Q4 2018.