Skip to main content

Apple is dreaming up ways to put a camera on the Apple Watch

Apple is apparently dreaming about making a smartwatch that comes armed with a camera sensor. Titled “Watch having a camera,” a patent application filed before the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) describes multiple methods of putting a camera on a future Apple Watch.

One of the design schematics in Apple’s patent shows a camera embedded in the digital crown, which makes a lot of sense from a functional as well as engineering perspective. This position not only allows the camera sensor to easily capture a scene when the watch is strapped to the wrist, but also keeps it from standing out like an eyesore if it is placed elsewhere on the housing, especially on the top face.

However, the patent envisions multiple ways in which a camera can be put on an Apple Watch. One of the proposed implementations talks about a detachable housing that includes the camera hardware. Such an external camera system can stick to the rear panel using a form-fitting module, which also means it could be attached or detached at will.

Patent schematic of camera on an Apple Watch

Another example shows an expanding strap system with a clasp for attaching a camera module. Apple’s patent document is more inclined toward using a removable camera module, instead of putting it in the main body, which can prove to be an engineering challenge given the constrained space inside a smartwatch. The patent also outlines a scenario where the smartwatch’s main screen is used as a viewfinder, while the detachable camera module is used to take pictures.

Do keep in mind this is just a patent application we’re talking about here, and that means the chances of such a product actually making it to the market are unknown. However, Apple’s patent application does provide a glimpse into what the future holds for smartwatches.

Is this the future?

One might argue that putting a camera on a smartwatch doesn’t really make a lot of sense. But there are scenarios where a camera, even without a ton of pixels and tricks behind it, can prove to be useful.

Take for example fall detection, which is already available on Apple’s smartwatches. Putting a camera on the Apple Watch could provide critical visual information, which can be used in tandem with readings provided by other sensors such as the gyroscope and accelerometer, to further improve the accuracy. It can also prove to be a valuable asset for Apple’s rumored crash detection feature.

Camera imagined on an Apple Watch patent

Qualcomm Director of Product Marketing for Wearables Ally Choi also provided some valuable insights regarding the usage of cameras on wrist-worn wearables, telling Digital Trends’ Andy Boxall how we should focus more on use cases than the technology itself.

“When we talk about the camera providing more security for seniors, it starts to make sense. It’s all about coming up with new use cases that make sense, and once it’s more seamlessly integrated into a device, and it works well, then that’s when wider adoption will emerge.” Choi told Digital Trends.

The argument against

Irrespective of how useful cameras can prove to be for future smartwatches, there’s always a tangible privacy risk associated with them. Imagine someone covertly recording you without your consent with the camera fitted inside a smartwatch’s crown or side button? Yeah, it sounds horrendous, and there’s already some precedent for it out there.

Alleged render of Facebook's smartwatch

The Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses from Facebook, which come armed with a camera for taking pictures and videos, have already courted controversy because of their potential to intrude on someone’s privacy. Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC) has asked Facebook to ensure that the onboard LEDs are bright and conspicuous enough so that the person in the camera’s view can know that they are being recorded. Garante, the privacy watchdog in Italy, has flagged similar privacy concerns about Facebook’s sleek-looking smart glasses.

But Apple is not the only filthy-rich company envisioning a smartwatch armed with a camera. Facebook is reportedly working on a smartwatch as well, and if a leaked render is anything to go by, the camera will sit in a small notch right on the front face of the wearable. But that’s not all, as Facebook has reportedly chalked out plans for multiple iterations of a smartwatch to complement its ecosystem of wearables that include AR glasses and high-end AR/VR headsets.

Editors' Recommendations

Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
Apple Watch Series 9 may get a ridiculous performance boost
An Apple Watch Series 8 with the display turned on.

Apple might be prepping a big firepower upgrade for its upcoming smartwatches, after keeping them stagnant in terms of processing power boost for the past three generations. In his PowerOn channel on Discord, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman claims that the upcoming Apple Watch Series 9 models – and likely the next Apple Ultra, too – are “due for the updated SoC.”

To recap, Apple fitted the same chipset inside the current-gen Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra smartwatches as the Series 7 and Series 6. This was confirmed after the same processor identifier was spotted for the S8 chip as the two older generation wearables.

Read more
Samsung smartwatches are about to steal these Apple Watch features
Someone wearing the Samsung Galaxy Watch 5.

Samsung's Galaxy Watches are getting a major update that adds a slew of health-related features later this year. Announced today, One UI 5 Watch will be launching with a focus on helping Galaxy Watch owners understand more about their personal wellness, specifically by offering new insights into a user's sleep habits and sleep health.

The One UI 5 Watch update is broken into three main categories: sleep health, general health, and always-on safety features. And, yes, many of them are taken right from the Apple Watch.

Read more
Apple and Google are teaming up to make tracking devices less creepy
Apple AirTag lifestyle image.

Apple and Google are partnering to develop a new standard for Bluetooth tracking devices that seeks to stop malicious stalking and other abusive use of gadgets like the Apple AirTag. Essentially, this would be a universal, OS-level tracker detection and alert system that will work uniformly across Android and iOS. The two companies are inviting stakeholders to review the proposal and submit their feedback within the next three months.

Once the feedback period is over, all the involved parties will work together to finalize the technical standardization, with the hope of releasing a market-ready version by the end of the year. Following the release and adoption by makers of tracking devices, the tech will be generally made available via a software update for Android and iOS devices.
Better late than never

Read more