Apple filed their first patent application for a camera lens accessory back in 2009 that surfaced in 2010. Then last month Apple filed for a second camera lens accessory patent that would use a sensing technology interface. While Apple is working on their own solution for adding camera lenses, there are some on the market today from developers like Moment, Olloclip and others.
In the bigger picture, there are a few oddball smartphone competitors, namely Essential and Red that have introduced new methods of connecting camera accessories to their smartphones as noted in the photos below.
Red’s Hydrogen One smartphone presented above includes a new high-speed data bus to enable a comprehensive and ever-expanding modular expanding system for future attachments for shooting higher quality motion and still images. Essential’s system allows for a 360 degree camera that would be cool to have for iPhone users.
Now Samsung is weighing in via a granted patent issued in February that illustrates that they too see this idea being viable for their Gear 360 degree camera down the road as they could scale it down to fit a future Galaxy smartphone.
Samsung’s dual display design patent figure 8 illustrates a new top side connector never seen before and one that resembles those from Essential and Red, except it being a new slot rather than using magnets alone.
Apple’s patents noted earlier support a camera accessory system without mention of supporting a 360 degree camera. While Apple may decide to enter this area of photography for future iPhones, there’s nothing yet in patent form to suggest it’s even on their radar screen.
Unlike their competitors, Apple has designed the Lightning connector in addition to the iPad Pro’s Smart Connector. Should Apple decide to thrill future iPhone fans with an attachment system to support an attachable 360 degree camera, I’m sure they’ll deliver a superior attachable mechanism to make it happen.
Yet for now, this tiny advantage is limited to smartphones that may sell in the dozens, so it’s not a threat to the iPhone for the foreseeable future. However, with Samsung now working on this interesting feature to support a future version of their Gear 360 camera, the race may be on.
The convenience of quickly snapping such a camera accessory into a future iPhone would definitely be something I’d love to have and I’m sure I’m not alone.
Over the past few years, upgrading smartphone camera features has been one of the driving forces by all premium smartphone OEMs. All major competing smartphone OEMs are now racing to catch up with Apple’s TrueDepth camera and we know that their lead could easily expand by possibly introducing gesture recognition features and more later this year.
Yet having a means of conveniently snapping in a 360 degree camera accessory into a smartphone could be a future killer feature in the hands of competing smartphones from Google, Samsung, Huawei or other Chinese vendors. So I’m hoping that it’s the iPhone that gets to deliver this feature first in volume before a major competitor does.
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