Apple files patent application for a smaller, high-resolution iPhone camera

Apple files patent application for a smaller, high-resolution iPhone camera
Apple has filed a patent application with the USPTO for a high-resolution camera for the iPhone or iPad that would take up less space. The application, aptly titled "Small form factor high-resolution camera," reveals a spherically curved sensor that would work with three different lenses (two of which are convex) to focus light onto a sensing surface.

This results in "sharp, low-distortion images." Using a curved array allows Apple to employ a small photosensor with tiny pixels. The axial size of the camera is 2mm or less. Although pictures can come out looking warped, Apple intends to come up with a software solution that would remedy this problem.

The patent was filed in 2013, and there is no reason to think that Apple would be willing to replace the Sony built imaging system it already uses. The Apple iPhone is usually considered to have one of the best smartphone cameras year-in, year-out. On the other hand, Apple has been looking for ways to make the iPhone thinner and add a higher capacity battery. The Apple iPhone 7 is expected to come sans 3.5mm earphone jack which could open up some space inside the device. There could come a time when Apple will need to use a smaller camera module on the iPhone.


source: USPTO via AppleInsider

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28 Comments

1. Joulukas

Posts: 113; Member since: Jun 05, 2013

Well if Apple focused on developement like this instead court-cases and wearing out USPTO with pointless patents, I would even consider a iDevice.

6. darkkjedii

Posts: 30971; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Just take a second, and do the math.

2. raerae

Posts: 56; Member since: Jul 30, 2015

Boring. Another patent topic again. IYawn.

3. Jimrod

Posts: 1605; Member since: Sep 22, 2014

Another pointless "i" comment. iHope you don't read the Samsung one they just posted and get disappointed. iDon't know what's wrong with people clicking on stories they know they won't like...

18. Brewski

Posts: 672; Member since: Jun 05, 2012

"The Apple iPhone is usually considered to have one of the best smartphone cameras year-in, year-out." HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! Since when has this ever been the case? I have a few friends who are Apple exclusives but whenever I hang out with them they always say "Man, I wish my phone took pictures as good as yours. They always turn out so good!!"

23. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

Yes, because your personal experiences are the same as most people's.

26. AlikMalix unregistered

That's funny, because my android using friends say that about my iPhone. Hmmmm...

27. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Oh sure, all of your friends must be professional photographers.

28. AlikMalix unregistered

I wasn't serious. Just stating that what he said was anecdotal.

25. AlikMalix unregistered

Eventually they will create a digital mimick of the human eye.

4. pegasso

Posts: 285; Member since: Nov 27, 2011

i thought the curved image sensor was invented by Sony?

7. hadilev

Posts: 6; Member since: Jan 26, 2016

Sony has patent for FF sensor, but Apple's patent is more important since compact lenses will have huge advantage in the mobile world, for FF cameras not so much.

9. Macready

Posts: 1817; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

No, Sony holds patents for all sensor sizes. In fact, they have a camera in production with a small curved sensor.

12. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

well... its USPTO that we talk here, they just accept everything even if its already patented (as long as you add some tiny change over it), or some imaginary stuff, u can even patent some common stuff that already applied by other manufacturer, as long as you have the money of course

14. Genza

Posts: 576; Member since: Mar 12, 2014

The patent that Sony filled in 2011.2.28 is talking a manufacturing method to make curved image sensor (not only FF sensor). In 2013 Sony also awarded a patent for a number of lens designs 4 lens for FF sensor and 1 lens for 1" sensor the patent was also filled in 2011. In 2014 at the VLSI symposium in Hawaii, Sony device manager Kazuichiro Itonaga showed a curved full frame sensor and a smaller, curved 11mm diagonal sensor (which would be classed as 2/3"-type). Also in 2014 Sony released Cyber-shot DSC-KW11 a selfie camera with 1/2.3" Curved sensor and a bright 21mm f/2 wide-angle lens. So i don't think Apple patent is more important and i'm also not agree with you about FF cameras because it will be great to have FF compact cameras like RX1 series with compact 35mm F1.8 lens

11. Genza

Posts: 576; Member since: Mar 12, 2014

The idea of the curved sensor itself isn't new - the image sensor array at the Kepler space observatory is curved to match the field curvature of the telescope, and John A Roger's group at the University of Illinois showed a prototype hemispherical electronic eye camera back in 2008. But Sony is the first to show working curved image sensors integrated in an imaging system.

5. Mitsjke

Posts: 29; Member since: Mar 28, 2015

Why is Apple so obsessed with smaller and thinner? Everybody wants to keep the headphone jacket, a bigger battery and LARGER camera sensor...

15. oozz009

Posts: 520; Member since: Jun 22, 2015

I'm no expert but that's probably because smaller and thinner makes them a more "green peace" friendly company and that gives them a good image to the public. Plus it helps them to keep costs down. Same is true for other companies.

19. AlikMalix unregistered

Is it possible that apples goal is paper thin foldable screen devices. The only way to make the tech work in real world is force it and hope it works. So far so good.

8. Baracus

Posts: 223; Member since: Sep 15, 2012

With Apple's obsession with being smaller you'll have to be on the surface of the sun to get enough light to take a decent photo.

10. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

Agreed. But maybe the extra room could be used for a better a battery?

16. JumpinJackROMFlash

Posts: 464; Member since: Dec 10, 2014

A battery won't help with taking low light pictures.

24. BradyCrack

Posts: 835; Member since: Dec 29, 2015

I know that

13. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

they cant even make camera for their device :-/

22. AlikMalix unregistered

"Can't make" or "will not make" are completely different things. Make the little guys do all the work - basically if you think about it, Apple buys manufacturing from others in a way they find R&D for Samsung, LG and so on. Think about it.

17. talon95

Posts: 994; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

I thought to defend a patent that you had to be actively working on it. That it can't just be a random idea that was shelved. Apple doesn't make sensors so how they prove that they are developing an idea outside their core competency, I don't know. Plus we all know this has already been worked on by others, so what is new must just be some details of the implementation. Since Apple mostly just implements other manufacturer designs anyways, that's the most likely claim they can make. It should really be unique to their device and/or non-obvious. Why don't they just patent harnessing dark matter as a levitation and propulsion mechanism for the iCar while they're at it. That's the only way it's getting off the ground.

20. Iodine

Posts: 1478; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

How do you know that they aren't working on such a design ? How could they make some huge fully-custom-tech rollouts, like 64-bit processors, in a matter of months, if they weren't planning it years ahead and only use off-shelf components ?

21. talon95

Posts: 994; Member since: Jul 31, 2012

It's just highly unlikely, but i certainly don't know for sure. Their chips come from an external fab that they have simply specified the layout of. The capabilities are predefined by their supplier, just like with the machining on the chassis. Apple simply buys most of the technology they need, either by outsourcing or buying a company that does what they needed. That's why their R&D budget is ranked #20 when their profits are #1. If they're looking at a curved sensor the safe bet is because someone else is providing it to them and they are making a few custom modifications within the allowable design parameters. I'm no expert, just pointing out the 10 year trend. Samsung might be vertically integrated, but Apple certainly is not.

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