Optical zoom, based on multiple cameras (patent)
On 7 January 2016, an Apple patent was published that may have a bearing on future iPhone developments - although almost certainly not on the iPhone 7, except in the very general sense of 'this is the sort of development Apple has been considering recently'. (The application was published on 7 Jan; it was applied for back in June 2015, but it isn't likely to be granted for a good while yet, with another 6 to 18 months a reasonable ballpark figure.)
Apple is looking at ways to implement optical zoom in its iPhone (and possibly iPad) cameras.
Patent 20160007008, entitled MOBILE CAMERA SYSTEM, describes the use of "multiple cameras to provide optical zoom to a user". Needless to say, this means multiple cameras facing in the same direction, rather than the front- and rear-facing cameras already present on the current range of iPhone and iPad models.
"Increasingly," explains the patent, "as users rely on these multifunction devices [smartphones and tablets] as their primary cameras for day-to-day use, users demand features, such as zoom photography, that they have become accustomed to using in dedicated-purpose camera bodies. The zoom function is useful for capturing the details of a scene or alternatively capturing the context in which those details exist. The ability to change focal length to achieve zoom effects is sufficiently compelling to users of dedicated purpose cameras that it compels them to carry bags with an array of removable lenses, each of which weighs more and takes up more space than many common examples of a multifunction device, such as a phone."
In order to achieve this, Apple proposes the use of side-by-side cameras, potentially with different focal lengths, and adds that it may be desirable to store the images taken by each camera separately.
iPhone 7 specs rumours: How will Apple respond to the big hitters at MWC?
Apple doesn't go to the big trade shows, but all of its rivals were at Mobile World Congress showing off new products. The Barcelona conference always gives an idea of the smartphones that will be big in a given year, and the kinds of mobile technologies that customers will buy.
Two of the highest-profile smartphones on show this year were the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the LG G5, and both have substantially better specs than Apple's flagship iPhones; there's more to life than specs, but it will be interesting to see how Apple responds when the iPhone 7 is unveiled.
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