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Apple's compact telephoto lens patent hints at a dual-lens future for the iPhone

Dual-lens cameras are all the rage, and while Apple might be a little late to the dual-lens party, that doesn’t mean it has forgotten about the concept altogether. In fact, its latest patent hints at quite the opposite.

Apple has been issued a patent called “folded telephoto camera lens system,” and it describes a telephoto lens that is shaped a bit like a lowercase “r.” Light comes in through the main lens, bounces off a mirror, and is then sent to the secondary lens, which focuses the light onto the image sensor. What does this mean? Well, it could either be a hint at what the second lens in a dual-lens setup would look like, or it could signal a non-protruding camera from Apple.

Related: How to use the Huawei P9’s superb dual-lens camera

The secondary lens in the setup can be moved up or down, something that would produce telephoto results, even if it’s moved by small increments.

Perhaps even more interesting than this patent is that Apple discusses allowing you to choose between this lens and a standard wide-lens when you want to take a photo. This supports rumors that Apple has been considering offering a dual-lens setup on the iPhone camera. In fact, rumors suggest that Apple may include a dual-lens setup in its next phone, the iPhone 7.

Apple has even filed patents that show a dual-lens setup, something that some suggest could completely change the game for smartphone cameras.

Alternatively, if Apple decides to only incorporate the telephoto-style camera lens, it could do away with the protruding camera on the iPhone. At the release of the iPhone 6, which was first iPhone to feature a protruding camera, many were a little taken aback — especially because of the fact that Apple is known for its design prowess and for overcoming technological challenges in order to suit design. Still, it seems more likely that the protruding camera will remain, and we’ll be getting two lenses, for different uses, rather than one lens. This could make the camera in the iPhone more useful than it already is, but may be somewhat frustrating for the design-conscious.