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What Apple patents say about iPhone 7, iPad Air 3, Apple Watch, new Macs & other future products

Ashleigh Allsopp | Feb. 5, 2015
We examine Apple's patent portfolio to uncover clues to future iPhones, iPads, Macs, the Apple Watch and unreleased products like the Apple Television.

Apple iPhone 7 patents: iPhone camera patents
Lots of Apple's iPhone patents relate to the smartphone's camera, some of which we've listed below.

Apple patents: 'Super-resolution' photos
Apple seems to be keen to improve the camera capabilities of its iOS devices, and one patent published by USPTO in May 2014 suggests we could soon see iPhones that are able to capture "Super-resolution" photos thanks to optical image stabilisation, which is already a feature of the iPhone 6 Plus.

The patent describes a system that takes a series of slightly differently angled photographs and then stitches them together to create a higher resolution (or super-resolution, as Apple calls it) photograph.

Apple doesn't suggest that a device would capture every photo this way. Instead, the user would have the option to turn the super resolution mode on, like with HDR and Panorama modes.

There have been several rumours to suggest that Apple plans to introduce a feature like this with its next iPhone, with reports pointing to a "DSLR-quality" capability that would represent the biggest camera jump in iPhone upgrade history.

Apple patents: 3D photographs
iPhones could also soon be able to capture images that appear to be 3D. An Apple patent published in December 2013 describes a method of capturing stereoscopic image data, which can be used make a photograph appear to have depth. Future iPhones could be capable of selecting two suitable photos and combining them to create a stereoscopic image, which replicates the way humans perceive depth to create a 3D illusion.

Apple patents: Interchangeable camera lenses
Apple is also investigating the possibility of making interchangeable iPhone camera lenses.

In January 2014, the company was issued two patents that describe methods of attaching lenses and camera modules to devices such as the iPhone and iPad.

The first patent, titled "Back panel for a portable electronic device with different camera lens options" does pretty much what it says on the tin. It describes a portable electronic device, namely an iPhone, that has a removable case that would allow camera attachments such as wide-angle or fisheye.

The second patent, titled "Magnetic add-on lenses with alignment ridge," offers an alternative method of attaching new camera lenses to the iPhone using magnets.

Apple patents: Refocusable photographs
A patent published by the USPTO in November 2013 reveals that Apple is interested in technology that will allow users to refocus a photograph after it's been taken. Such technology is already used in the Lytro camera, with which you can take a photograph and later choose how you want that photo to be focused.


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