Will iPhone 5 Include Removable Camera Options?

What is going on with the iPhone 5? Apple, according to a patent filing, is working on an iPhone-like device that would let users swap out camera options.

Does Apple have its eye on cameras?

The iPhone 5 will find itself competing against the thin-and-light, sensor-laden Samsung Galaxy S III, the slightly smaller, audio-enhanced HTC One X and, by the time of its expected October release, who knows what else. For the Apple faithful, the name will be enough to guarantee an upgrade. But with so much featherweight carbon fiber on the market, sensors that can follow a user's eye (and intentions) and 12-megapixel cameras with overlays for rendering images sepia-toned or pixelated, it's a challenge to imagine what Apple has planned to impress an audience that the market has done everything it can think of to spoil and wow.

How about removable camera lenses?

According to a June 15 report from AppleInsider, which found patents Apple filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office June 14, Apple appears to be working on a camera system that could allow users to replace lenses, for more serious photographic endeavors.

Titled "Back Panel for a Portable Electronic Device with Different Camera Lens Options," the patent includes illustrations of an iPhone-like device, including one with the back cover removed but the innards of the phone still very much contained. (Apple, as iFixit was recently reminded, does not like users fiddling with the insides of its machines.)

"A removable panel is coupled to the case and held in a second defined positional relationship to the case that covers the digital imaging subsystem without the removable panel being directly connected to the digital imaging subsystem," the abstract of the Apple application explains.

The background information goes on to note:

The digital imaging subsystem is typically enclosed within the case of the device to protect the digital imaging subsystem. The enclosure generally prevents direct access to the lens of the digital imaging subsystem for the purpose of providing any sort of supplementary options, especially if the supplementary optics must be precisely aligned with the image sensor. Thus, it is necessary to offer a number of different models of a compact device if a range of camera features is to be offered. Further, the camera features of a model are limited to what can be provided with a single optical configuration.

It would be desirable to provide a structure for a compact device that allows the end user to reconfigure the optical arrangement of the device while retaining the benefits of assembling the device using a pre-assembled digital imaging subsystem," says the application.

Whenever it does arrive, the next iPhone is also expected to break the iPhone mold and€”indeed like its Android competitors€”feature a display of at least 4 inches. Meanwhile, it's anticipated that the iPad will shrink, with Apple offering a 7-inch version in time for the holidays.

"Apple constantly pushes the performance envelope, which is a key part of its ongoing success," Rhoda Alexander, an IHS senior manager, said in a May research note that included details on the smaller iPad.

"While not always first to market with a particular feature, Apple engineers are careful to select new attributes that are sure to improve the overall end-user experience," she added.

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