This Apple selfie patent could mean group shots without the selfie stick

Taking a selfie is easy, but taking a good selfie, on the other hand, isn’t always so simple. Apple, however, was recently awarded a patent for technology that would make it hard to snap a bad selfie by automatically detecting whether the smartphone is snapping a group selfie or just one person and adjusting the settings accordingly. The Apple selfie patent was filed back in 2015 but was officially granted on Tuesday.

Apple’s idea stems from the field of view (FOV), or the perspective that the camera covers. A wide-angle FOV is required to fit everyone inside a group photo. However, wide camera angles tend to exaggerate size and distances — which means taking a portrait with a wide angle lens can make the nose look larger than it really is and the eyes look farther apart, typically not the most flattering look for a selfie. Using a narrower field of view (or, essentially, zooming in) tends to create a more flattering look for portraits and, yes, selfies.

Apple’s patent describes a technology that would automatically select the best FOV based on the camera’s orientation. Hold the smartphone horizontal and the system will recognize that you are probably trying to fit more people in that selfie. Recognizing that, the phone would automatically switch to a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is a wider format that would help fit everyone in the frame, without using a selfie stick.

When the smartphone is held in the vertical position, the software automatically assumes you are not trying to fit multiple people in the group. With that assumption, the smartphone camera would switch to the more standard 4:3 aspect ratio. Along with that perspective switch, however, the image would also crop the image to a FOV that is closer to a 50mm lens on a DSLR, which is a favorite among portrait photographers because the lens does not have those distortions of a wide angle. By automatically cropping the frame, the user would have to hold the camera farther from their face, helping to create a better selfie through perspective.

The automatic cropping would force users to hold the smartphone at a more flattering angle, adjusting for group and individual selfies. However, the camera is just scaling or cropping the image, according to the patent, not adjusting through an optical zoom lens. Whenever an image is cropped, the resolution is lost so whatever megapixel count the iPhone that adopted the technology might have, the photos taken using the feature would lower that number.

Patents don’t always turn into actual technology, so it is unclear if the feature will ever make its way into a future iPhone. But, patents offer a glimpse at what companies are researching and introduces a few more “what ifs” to add to the rumors for future iPhones.