Apple may include lens mounting system in future iPhone, new patent reveals

A patent granted to Apple this week detailing a lens-mounting system for the iPhone comes during an intense hiring period for the tech giant for positions connected with the iPhone camera’s hardware and software.

The patent, which was filed back in 2012 and granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, refers to a bayonet lens attachment mechanism that would allow iPhone users to attach a variety of lenses offering keen shooters greater creativity possibilities, MacRumors reported this week.

apple camera lens patentSuch a bayonet mount is common with DSLR cameras, allowing the lens to slot securely into position, precisely aligning mechanical and electrical features of both the the lens and the camera body to help ensure reliable and efficient performance.

In its filing, Apple discusses various solutions for bringing interchangeable lenses to its handset, among them cases which incorporate a lens attachment which fits over the handset’s camera lens. However, the Cupertino company says that such an accessory “alters the form factor of the electronic device….which may be undesirable to a consumer.”

It also talks of an attachment in the form of a magnetic ring that fits around the phone’s lens, but says that such a component may not be secure enough to deal with everyday handling of the phone, or may be “unsightly.” According to its patent, Apple’s suggested bayonet mechanism would be much more secure as it’d be built into a cavity around the camera lens. In addition, you’d be unlikely to notice it when a lens wasn’t attached.

While Apple continues to explore various ideas for interchangeable lenses for its handset, other companies have wasted little time in offering their own solutions in the last few years, among them the well regarded Ollo Clip 3-in-1 lens, the iPhone Lens Dial, and this intriguing one capable of holding the biggest DSLR lenses on the market.  

A step up

Apple’s latest camera lens concept is certainly a step up from the one that surfaced in a patent granted to the company two years ago. That one, called “Back Panel for a Portable Electronic Device with Different Camera Lens Options,” described a removable back that would allow a user to attach alternative panels, each one holding a different lens. One diagram even showed a panel with two lenses – on opposite corners – that you’d spin around to swap lenses.

Not surprisingly, the ‘panel’ idea has never seen the light of day, and likely never will, and as with anything that turns up in a patent, we can’t say for sure if Apple’s bayonet mechanism will make it onto its handset either.

However, a steady flow of camera-related patents from Apple in recent months – plus the fact that the company has, in just the last few weeks, advertised for nearly 25 camera-related positions covering everything from sensor design to lens metrology to camera module integration – indicates a handset’s camera is more than ever a key battleground in the ongoing fight to secure a greater share of the smartphone market.

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