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iPhone 8 and beyond: The future of smartphones

David Price | June 24, 2016
Future smartphone developments, from graphene and lithium-air batteries to holograms, OLED and motion charging

In March 2015 Apple was granted a patent for a "digital camera with light splitter". Its project is to create a light splitter system (which for now exists only in high-end video camera) small enough to fit in an iPhone.

In essence, a light splitter system consists of a cube that splits received light into three colours: red, green and blue. The cube provides three image sensors, each of which receives one colour component. In recent iPhones, the camera system is such that its pixels capture the three component colours which end up occupying only a single image sensor; this means that they can fill only one third of the image sensor and colours are not as accurate as they could be.

The light splitter system would be a big coup for Apple. Its iPhone would be able to capture high-quality pictures with more precise colours, especially at night.

'Super-resolution' photos

Apple seems to be keen to improve the camera capabilities of its iOS devices, andone 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 photographs at slightly different angles and stitches them together to create a 'super resolution' photograph.

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

Several rumours suggest that Apple plans to introduce a feature like this with an iPhone in the near future, with reports pointing to a 'DSLR-quality' capability that would represent the biggest camera jump in iPhone upgrade history.

Apple iPhone camera 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 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", describes a portable electronic device that has a removable case that would allow camera attachments such as wide-angle or fisheye lenses.

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.

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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