It’s always interesting to see the different patent applications that Apple submits to the USPTO. Even though most of them rarely make it into consumer products, they give us a glimpse inside Apple’s top secret R&D labs.

The latest one to surface in the United States Patent and Trademark Office database covers a device with a removable back panel, which could bring about swappable camera lenses and other attachements…

Judging from the filing, users would be able to purchase these back panels, as they would any other accessory. They’d feature different lenses (zoom, macro, etc.), different flash sizes and other add-ons that would significantly improve the device’s picture-taking abilities.

So what is this device? Well, although it looks like an iPhone, the application doesn’t really say anything about the handset. PatentlyApple postulates that it could be a future iPod touch model, or perhaps even a standalone camera.

The iPod touch theory is particularly interesting. The line wasn’t updated last year for the first time since its inception, hinting that the company may be contemplating where to take it next. Perhaps it’s considering taking on the point-and-shoot camera industry more directly with the product, in which case these removable back plates would actually make a lot of sense.

Realistically, we don’t expect to see this invention pop up in Apple’s products anytime soon. We all know that the company is extremely interested in the field of photography. But just how far it’s willing to take that interest is still unknown.

What do you think? Would you be interested in such a device?