updated 12:53 pm EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
Potential device plans still a mystery
A newly-published Apple patent application would allow people to swap out parts on mobile devices, specifically lenses, notes Patently Apple. "The digital imaging subsystem is typically enclosed within the case of the device to protect the digital imaging subsystem," Apple writes. "The enclosure generally prevents direct access to the lens of the digital imaging subsystem for the purpose of providing any sort of supplementary optics, especially if the supplementary optics must be precisely aligned with the image sensor...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."
Apple's solution is relatively simple in concept, involving a removable back panel on devices and parts designed to be popped in and out. A device could for instance be upgraded with zoom or macro lenses, or feature additions such as better shutter control, motion sensors, or flashes. An IR cut-off filter could theoretically allow black-and-white photos at extremely low light levels.
What if any devices Apple might be considering applying the concept to is unknown. Diagrams depict an iPhone-like device, but the company could also be considering a dedicated camera; former Apple CEO Steve Jobs once claimed that he wanted to revolutionize photography. Many Apple patent ideas never make their way into commercial products, however.