Apple Awarded Patent For Interchangeable Camera Module In Smartphones

Interchangeable Lens Smartphone

The U.S. Patent office recently granted patent for a “Back panel for a portable electronic device with different camera lens options” and “Magnetic add-on lenses with alignment ridge” to Apple. The first patent basically covers the way in which one can interchange the imaging component of the mobile device. Imagine the ability to switch from a normal lens to wide-angle lens when needed. The second one is related to the same idea where the new imaging component that can be attached to the device will be magnetically attached and aligned to the existing imaging component of the device.

I think both of them are really interesting and essential patents for the future of mobile imaging. I wondered if Nokia already has patents in this area being a mobile imaging leader for more than a decade. On a quick research, I found out that Apple is referencing a Nokia owned patent titled “Mobile Terminal Device Having Camera System”. It was filed back in 2001 and basically defines the same concept of extra add-ons to improve imaging capabilities of mobile phones.

I’m waiting for Nokia and Apple to execute their patents in their respective products. What do you think?

Check out the Apple patents No. 8,638,369 and No. 8,639,106 from USPTO. And Nokia patent from 2012/0099015. Find the abstracts after the break.

Source: Apple Insider

Back panel for a portable electronic device with different camera lens options

A portable electronic device includes a digital imaging subsystem with a lens having an optical axis. A case encloses and supports the digital imaging subsystem in a first defined positional relationship to the case. 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. An optical component is supported by the removable panel such that the optical component is aligned with the optical axis and alters optical characteristics of the digital imaging subsystem. The device may include a power supply and an electronic control system coupled to the digital imaging subsystem and the power supply enclosed in and supported by the case. Electrical connectors may couple the power supply and the electronic control system to an electrical component on the removable panel.

Magnetic add-on lenses with alignment ridge

A camera system includes a housing with an aperture and an alignment feature surrounding the aperture to define an optical axis extending through the aperture. A camera module is mounted inside the housing and engages the alignment feature to align the camera module with the optical axis. A lens assembly that may have a moveable element is included in the camera module. A voice coil motor may support the moveable element of the lens assembly. A plurality of magnets are arranged on the camera module adjacent to the alignment feature to retain a detachable lens on the housing and engage the alignment feature to align the detachable lens with the optical axis. The plurality of magnets may be further arranged to minimize interference with the voice coil motor and movement of the moveable element of the lens assembly.

Mobile Terminal Device Having Camera System

The present invention is a camera system which is usable with a mobile terminal. The camera system includes a lens module and at least one mechanism for changing optical properties by interacting with the lens module. The camera system may be built into the mobile terminal or attached thereto as an external module