Cameras have appeared on smartwatches before (the Samsung Gear 2, for example), but when that picture grabber is built into the watch casing, it poses a problem. What happens when you need to take a photo from a different angle? Do you really want to awkwardly raise your wrist in the hope of getting a good photo?
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Apple's patent looks to address that issue, giving you the freedom to point a wrist-based camera in a more intuitive way by baking the tech into part of the watch band. The flexibility of the band would enable users to move the lens around to help get that perfect shot.
The patent describes how moving the image capturing away from the watch body allows "the smartwatch to capture images and video at angles and orientations that do not depend directly on the angle and orientation of the rest of the smartwatch, including the watch body."
It also goes on to describe how this would be made possible through "an optical lens integrated into a distal end portion of a watch band that retains the device on a user's wrist."
There's even talk of the sensor having the ability to be mounted to the watch body, offering a closer fixed position that could be useful for features like FaceTime calls. The possibility of having optical sensors on either side of the band could deliver 360-degree photos while pinching the watch band or pressing a button on the watch case would be your means of taking that picture or video.
There is the debate to be had on whether we actually need a camera on a smartwatch, although there might be some scenarios when you do want to take a quick snap when you don't want to carry your phone with you. If you're a runner, hiker or a swimmer, for instance, you could see the appeal of having camera cleverly integrated into an Apple Watch.
We're already seeing the Apple Watch inherit features from the iPhone, enabling the wearable to become a more standalone device. Cellular support came back in 2017, and upcoming features in watchOS 6 will continue to see the Watch become less reliant on the iPhone for using key features.
Is it entirely out of the realms of possibility that Apple will make this particular patent a reality? It's probably a bit early to make into a Watch Series 5, but there could be an argument to add it further down the line, if Apple can find a solution that works perfectly.
Source: 9to5 Mac