Apple reportedly moving ahead with plans for ‘folded’ periscope cameras that will improve iPhone’s optical zoom

The iPhone 12 lineup has a ridiculously good camera system, but things can always get better. So it shouldn’t be a surprise Apple is reportedly looking for new ways to make that happen.

According to a report from ETNews (via MacRumors), Apple is moving forward with plans to adopt “folded” periscope cameras in future iPhone models. If implemented, the optical zoom in future Apple-branded smartphones could be significantly improved. According to the initial report, Apple has already ramped up conversations with potential suppliers. However, there have been complications up to this point.

As noted today by MR, Apple’s own plans to develop a first-party periscope camera system have run into roadblocks due to owned patents. Much of the technology involved with this sort of camera feature is well-guarded by other companies and their patent portfolios. That may lead Apple being forced to fork over some money to continue down this path if it feels like it’s a worthwhile move.

In a separate report today from DigiTimes (via The Next Web), this potential future appears to be corroborated. What’s more, that report indicates that Apple may need to work with Samsung to make it happen. Samsung picked up a lot of patents related to periscope cameras and multi-camera setups back in 2019, and the company has already introduced a periscope camera in handsets like the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

This means that Apple will need to rely on what Samsung has developed already, rather than develop its own in-house periscope camera system. That’s probably not the most exciting path for Apple, as it won’t be able to really branch out and make improvements where it feels some are necessary. Still, a much improved optical zoom would be a good thing for iPhone owners in the future.

However, it is worth noting that the report from ETNews cites analysts’ predictions that Samsung won’t be willing to work with Apple in this regard (despite working with Apple in other key areas). Samsung has a differentiating feature in its Galaxy lineup of smartphones, and that periscope feature is one of the reasons. Samsung may not be so quick to lose that perceived advantage anytime soon.

As such, Apple may find another way to reach its goals regarding optical zoom in future iPhones. That may mean working with other companies, as noted by some analysts. If that is indeed the case, we may just need to wait a bit longer before the feature sees the light of day.

Not a new rumor

We’ve heard this line of thinking before. In March of this year, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that the iPhone lineup would adopt a new and improved sensor stabilization option in 2020 (which turned out to be true with the iPhone 12 Pro Max), and also said it would adopt periscope camera technology in 2022. And then in July Kuo reiterated the same sentiment regarding periscope camera technology, which may be introduced in iPhones in 2022.

No matter how Apple releases the technology, it will be a great feature for future iPhone owners.