The Apple Watch can do many things. It can monitor your physical activities, track your heart rate and even make sure that your heart is beating normally. But one thing it can not do is take pictures; after all, the device does not have a camera. But Apple Watch users might soon be able to take photos based on a patent spotted by Patently Apple that was awarded to the company by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The patent covers a camera that can be manipulated independently of the Apple Watch. This will allow the user to take pictures and shoot video at different angles irrespective of the position of the timepiece on the user's wrist. This will allow a camera on the Apple Watch to work with and even replace the cameras found on an iPhone. The user, for example, could hold the part of the band with the camera and point the sensor at the subject of a photo or video.
The watch band camera would be placed at the far end of the band, away from the side that is actually attached to the device. And there must be a data connection between the optical sensor on the band and the smartwatch (or another device like an iPhone). The band itself will be flexible enough to bend so that the camera can be pointed in the right direction. The patent adds that a malleable metal core might be inserted into the band to help it return to its original shape after being released by the user. The camera also could be placed inside a rigid housing on the band. In another configuration, the camera could be removed from the strap and placed on the body of the watch itself.
The Samsung Gear 2 featured a 2MP camera
The patent envisions users taking photographs or videos by pinching the camera band, pressing a button placed on the strap or the watch body, or by saying a particular hot word or phrase. Apple even mentions the possibility of a dual-camera setup with a sensor positioned at the distal end of each side of the strap. In yet another configuration mentioned in the patent, the watch is attached to the band through the use of a rotating hinge. Today's patent differs from one that Apple previously filed in which dual sensors were actually placed on the parts of the band closer to the body of the watch.
Apple is expected to unveil the Apple Watch Series 5 later this year, and reliable TF International analyst Ming Chi-Kuo has told clients not to expect any noticeable difference in design compared to the Series 4 model. Previous patent filings indicate that Apple is working on a navigation system for the timepiece that will be driven by gestures such as making a fist or opening a palm. Sleep tracking, found on many other wearables, most likely won't be made available to Apple Watch users until 2020. But that might not stop Apple from adding the functionality to the Series 5 watch so that it will be ready once the company does rollout software with this feature.
Apple wouldn't be the first company to put a camera on a smartwatch. For example, the Samsung Gear 2 (not to be confused with the Gear S2) featured a 2MP camera. But Samsung has not added such a sensor to its subsequent smartwatch models. Also, keep in mind that Apple applies for and receives a number of patents over the course of a year. Not all of these inventions are going to end up being used immediately, and some never at all.