9to5Mac recently learned from sources in the know that a second-generation Apple Watch will integrate a tiny camera into the top bezel for conducting FaceTime video conversations from your wrist. The report, short on details, has left many questions unanswered and prompted watchers to scratch their head in curiosity.
The logic goes: if Apple couldn’t develop a non-protruding camera for the latest iPhones, how on Earth is the company supposed to fit one into such a tiny wrist-worn device?
Having faced the very same engineering challenges, rival Samsung has taken the easy route by embedding a camera into a Gear’s band rather than the smartwatch’s body.
Though not the prettiest of solutions, it is in fact functional—to a certain extent. But can you really imagine a camera bulge on an Apple Watch band? Yeah, me neither. Thankfully, Apple appears to have shrunk a high-resolution camera into a tiny module that could fit inside an Apple Watch.
If Apple’s new patent application is anything to go by, the next Apple Watch could indeed integrate a camera into its bezel because Apple has developed a tiny sensor just 2 mm long and takes high-resolution photos.
An Apple patent filed for last September and entitled “Small form factor high-resolution camera” surfaced in the United States Patent & Trademark Office’s (USPTO) database yesterday.
The invention describes using a spherically curved photosensor and a lens system with the effective focal length of the lens system within about 20 percent of the radius of the curvature of the photosensor.
This enables a module that’s just 2 mm long, without making huge compromises in terms of image resolution and quality. The camera described in the patent application has a small spot size, allowing small pixels to be used in the photosensor.
“Total axial length of the camera may be 2.0 mm or less,” notes the document. Despite its small package, the camera is capable of capturing “sharp, high-resolution images,” making it “suitable for use in small devices.”
Here’s a camera on Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smartwatch.
Apple stops short of specifying what those “small devices” might be so there are no guarantees that the invention will ever show up in an Apple Watch. For all we know, this could be Apple’s solution to the protruding camera lens on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, an unfortunate solution that Jony Ive himself described as “a really very pragmatic optimization.”
On the other hand, now that we know for a fact that Apple is trying to make as small a camera as possible, how far of a stretch would it be to assume that the company will use it in the next Apple Watch?
To be clear, the biggest technological hurdle stemming from putting a camera for video calls inside an Apple Watch is that it might drain battery life much too quickly.
Would strapping a camera onto your wrist make sense, do you think?
Samsung Galaxy Gear photo courtesy of CNET.