Future Apple Watch could have a built-in camera

Spotify app on Apple Watch
(Image credit: Future)

If you've ever wanted your smartwatch to be a bit less fitness-focused and more James Bond gadget-esque, then the idea of having a camera on a future Apple Watch could be rather appealing.  

This might sound a little odd, but Apple has been granted a patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office for the integration of a camera into a smartwatch that looks very much like an Apple Watch

The patent is titled "Watch Having A Release Mechanism," and details a smartwatch with a detachable camera module. It describes the ability to remove the watch housing — where the camera would be located — “without a need to remove the entire watch band from the wrist or to operate a clasp or buckle disposed on an opposite of the wrist.” After taking a photo with the watch, it can then be reinserted into the “nest section” using a “latch, magnet or another suitable mechanism."

In effect, this could mean the camera could be used apart from the watch, say to snap a selfie while running or take photos if your iPhone has run out of battery. It might sound a bit bizarre but it could be another step to help the Apple Watch exist as its own device, rather than more of an iPhone accessory. 

Of course, a patent being granted does not mean that the production of a product is guaranteed. But this would certainly be a way to make the next generation of Apple Watches stand out, beyond the Apple Watch Ultra

There is no word of which model this camera mechanism could come to, but with the next Apple Watch Ultra rumored to be coming with a micro-LED display, a camera would make sense for video calls and the like while on the move. 

Fig 6 from patent number US-11571048-B1

(Image credit: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Smartwatch cameras  

Taking pictures with your watch may have seemed the stuff of spy movies twenty years ago. But it is interesting that now, in the smartphone age, it hasn’t caught on among the best smartwatches. Samsung did once include a camera on the Samsung Gear 2, but that has never been repeated by the South-Korean giant. 

Although you can use your watch as a remote control/viewfinder for your phone’s camera via the remote app, there's currently no integrated camera on any Apple Watch. As it stands those looking to take pictures with their Apple Watch need to rely on accessories such as the Apple-Certified Wristcam, but this can add significant extra bulk and be cumbersome for those with smaller wrists. 

Some may have concerns about installing discreet cameras on everyone’s wrist but with smartphones everywhere, that horse has long since bolted. A watch camera could admittedly be useful as a GoPro-style device and for video calls, but some will argue why we need a camera on such a small device when phones can offer better cameras and call quality and we also carry them with us at almost all times. Time will tell if this patent bears fruit or gets consigned to the pile of concepts that never make it out of the depths of Cupertino. 

Andy Sansom
Trainee Writer

Andy is Tom’s Guide’s Trainee Writer, which means that he currently writes about pretty much everything we cover. He has previously worked in copywriting and content writing both freelance and for a leading business magazine. His interests include gaming, music and sports- particularly Formula One, football and badminton. Andy’s degree is in Creative Writing and he enjoys writing his own screenplays and submitting them to competitions in an attempt to justify three years of studying.