Apple just filed a patent for an Apple Watch with a camera in it. Could this be the end of passcodes and the dawn of Face ID on a watch? Maybe, but it’s so much more than that.
Widely rumored to have been in the works since 2016 (and proven with a couple of patents over the years), Apple’s been trying to work a camera into the Apple Watch design without needing to significantly change the form factor.
And personally, after looking at rotatable cameras in watch straps and quick release mechanisms to get your watch unit and take a picture, in my opinion, this is the closest the company has got. Let’s get into it.
Getting snap happy
In the patent, published today by the US Patent & Trademark office, Apple talks about a housing attached to the watch that contains the digital camera assembly.
Beyond the assembly featuring a camera and microphone, the technical details are very thin on the ground, but we do know more than I anticipated in this patent. For context, we've pulled out the patent illustrations and highlighted where the camera module is in each of them.
Potential functions here aren’t just limited to being able to take a quick snap or video — they could include FaceTime, Face ID, monitoring biometrics, Touch ID, QR code scanning, and much more than the patent discusses.
As for where to put the camera, Apple’s got a couple of ideas:
- Most likely seems to be an extension of the vertical dimensions of the watch, as the camera unit slightly protrudes out of the top — forming part of the watch strap slot.
- The strange option here looks like a protrusion on the side. Think like the bulge added on the right edge of the Apple Watch Ultra, but with a camera in it.
Either way, it looks like Apple is not remotely interested in dabbling with any under-display camera technology, which could be both a blessing for picture quality and a curse to the watch form factor.
The idea of having a camera on a smartwatch has always been a baffling one to me. Whatever the circumstances, I could never see myself taking a picture using the device on my wrist.
However, for device security through Face ID or even Touch ID, quick FaceTime calls while on the go, or even scanning QR codes rapidly, there’s potential for this to be a game changer in the usability of an Apple Watch.
My only concern now would be the placement of the camera module, which through Apple’s own illustrations seems to be placed in a way that elongates the frame. This could be a peculiar choice, especially as certain options can already look pretty large on medium to small wrists.
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Jason brought a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag, and he is now the Managing Editor of Computing at Tom's Guide. He takes a particular interest in writing articles and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.