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Apple has explored adding camera to Apple Watch Digital Crown

Apple is continuing to explore ways to add a camera to the Apple Watch, according to a newly unveiled patent filing.

Rumours have circulated for years about whether Apple would add a camera sensor to its smartwatch, while observers like us have often pointed out that it would be unfeasible from Apple’s perspective.

Fears over adding girth to the device (or a specially-made band) and the resulting quality of such a sensor, have made official accessories appear unlikely. However, it has emerged. Apple has been working on a way to make that seem more feasible, for quite a number of years.

The patent filing from 2018 (unearthed by Patently Apple) explains that Apple is exploring placing a camera sensor within the Digital Crown – the rotatable dial and button used for navigating the user interface and taking ECG readings.

Users would be able to point their wrist as a target with the watch face acting as the viewfinder. There’d also be room for a light/flash to illuminate the scene according to the patent filing.

It reads: “A watch having a camera is disclosed. The watch can include a housing having a front side, a back side, and an attachment interface configured to couple to a watch band. A camera can be mounted to the housing and configured to capture a picture of a scene through the back side of the housing. A display can be visible through the front side of the housing and configured to display the picture.”

It also appears Apple is considering the potential privacy implications of such a move, because no-one would want a situation where users are serendipitously taking photos with their watches. In the patent Apple explains users may need to take off the watch in order to use it as a camera, because it would be loaded on the back of the device.

It writes: “Additionally or alternatively…a camera can be implemented as a back-facing camera configured capture pictures through a back side of a watch housing. Although the wrist may occlude the camera from taking pictures of a scene when the watch housing is worn on the wrist, the housing may be removable from the wrist via a release mechanism in the attachment interface, or by removing the housing together with the watch band, to capture pictures with the back-facing camera.”

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