The Next Apple Watch Could Have a Built-in Camera

Do you think an Apple Watch could ever replace your iPhone?

If your jerk reaction is “obviously not,” then you haven’t paid attention to the accumulation of standalone features Apple has integrated one-by-one into its smartwatch. Apple Watch Series 3 offered LTE connectivity. Apple Watch Series 4 came with an-FDA approved ECG monitor. And with watchOS 6, you’ll be able to download apps to your Apple Watch without the iPhone, as well as listen to audiobooks and podcasts.

Based on a patent discovered by 9to5Mac, a future version of the Apple Watch — possibly the Apple Watch 5 — could poise the device for complete autonomy.

Credit: Apple (USPTO)

(Image credit: Apple (USPTO))

The patent, filed today, suggests Apple is exploring ways to add positionable cameras to the Apple Watch. It appears to protect the concept for an Apple Watch band with some type of camera or optical sensor embedded into the end of the strap. This would allow the watch to take photos and video, with the Apple Watch's main display acting as the viewfinder.

MORE: Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Series 4: Which Watch Should You Buy?

According to the patent, the lens can rotate on the band, and “allow the smartwatch to capture images and video at angles and orientations that do not depend directly on the angle and orientation of the rest of the smartwatch.”

The extension intends to be FaceTime-friendly, too, with a band that “may maintain its form after being manipulated and released by a user.” They propose the band be made of “malleable metal core, a core of magnetorheological fluid, mechanical links, or any combination of these features,” to help keep it fixed in the desired position. 

The patent also mentions the potential for multiple optical sensors, suggesting a future Apple Watch band with both front and rear cameras. It would allow users to switch views like on the iPhone and iPad. The best part? When you’re done taking pictures, the camera looks like it will wrap unobtrusively around your wrist with the rest of the band. 

Apple says in the patent that the proposed watch upgrade would eliminate the need to have an iPhone on us at all times, like we do now. In their words, a camera-outfitted Apple Watch “may enable a user to forego carrying a smartphone when doing some activities, especially activities or environments where it would be difficult to take a smartphone.” Think: jogging, swimming, skiing… you get the gist.

While not everything Apple patents makes it way into keynote announcements, we’re interested in seeing this device in action. We didn’t ask for a smartwatch with a camera on it, but this innovative band system sounds promising and very Apple-esque. 

This proposed Apple Watch may require some degree of iPhone connection for full functionality; but it proves a future with smartphones on our wrist may be closer than we think. 

Check out our entire list of Apple Watch 5 rumors for more Apple Watch news.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.