Cameras are an essential part of any smartphone or tablet, but so far they’re rarely seen on a smartwatch and never before on an Apple Watch. That could change, however, now that Apple has received a patent for an Apple Watch camera system.
The patent filed with the USPTO (opens in new tab) (United States Patent and Trademark Office) and granted February 7, 2023, has now been discovered by Phone Arena (opens in new tab) and others, and it describes both a camera built into an Apple Watch and an unusual strap to help you use it.
The camera described here is on the bottom of the Apple Watch, which of course means you can’t use it while wearing the watch – at least, unless you just want an extreme close-up of your wrist. But that’s where the strap comes in.
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The case of the watch connects to the strap with an extendable attachment mechanism, such as a magnet or latch, so you can remove the watch from the strap quickly and easily. Then you can hold it up to take a picture, use the screen as a viewfinder, and just as easily snap it back into the strap when you’re done.
Of course, you could also use this camera with a regular strap by taking the whole thing off your wrist, but that might be more fiddly than this solution.
However, this still sounds more cumbersome than just using your phone and will likely yield worse results. But if your phone’s battery died or you left your phone at home – which you might even do on purpose if you have a cellular Apple Watch – then there would definitely be a use case for it.
However, whether it would be worth the extra cost of adding a camera to the wearable, and the potentially larger size of the watch as a result, is less clear.
If you like the idea of a camera on your Apple Watch, however, you don’t have to wait for Apple to add one. A third-party wristband called Wristcam (opens in new tab) has built-in cameras, and you don’t even have to remove the Apple Watch from the strap to use it. However, this makes the strap itself quite chunky.
Analysis: Not the first Apple Watch camera patent and likely not the last
Apple has long explored the idea of a camera in the Apple Watch, with a number of other patents offering alternative solutions to the above. For example, we’ve seen a patent for an Apple Watch with an under-display camera and one with a camera built into the Digital Crown.
So this is just the latest in a long line of Apple Watch camera ideas and there’s no reason to think this one will come out if the others haven’t.
In fact, most patents like this go unused, so there’s a chance we’ll keep seeing new patents for new versions of the idea without a finished product.
The fact that it’s something Apple continues to explore gives hope that one day we’ll see an Apple Watch with a camera, though, it probably won’t take that form – and it almost certainly won’t be in time for the Apple Watch happen 9 or Apple Watch Ultra 2, which is expected in 2024