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Camera updates

The iPhone is one of the most widely used cameras in the world. What's in store for this vital element of the iPhone of the future?

Here's where we see the iPhone camera heading in the next few years.

Triple lens

An Economic Daily News report sourced from the Asian supply chain predicts that in the second half of 2019, Apple will release an iPhone with three rear-facing camera lenses. It adds that the most powerful of these will be rated at 12Mp, which is the same as on the 2017 models.

EDN cites increasing competition (the obvious comparison point is the triple-lensed Huawei P20 Pro, which tops out at 40Mp) and the need to stand out in a crowded marketplace for the move, which in practical terms should offer improved low-light performance and high-powered zoom but may be more valuable for its wow factor.

This was backed up by a brief and relatively throwaway comment at the start of May 2018, in which analyst Jeff Pu of Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting Co (discussing the financial prospects for lens companies) predicted that Apple will release an iPhone with triple camera lens in the second half of 2019.

Anti-recording patent

In June 2016, Apple filed a patent to prevent people from recording at concerts through an infrared signal. This is to address the complaints made by artists that fans are uploading bad quality videos of their performances, quality control being the issue here.

iPhone 9 rumours & patents: Apple anti-recording patent

The patent has been met with some critics; with some saying it invades their privacy. Others have seen it as a good move for artists and those who want a non-smartphone environment. This can also be used in an educational way, with an infrared signal used to give more details about a certain object, such as a plant.

It's still not clear how the technology will really be utilised, but it's clear that Apple is thinking about it.

Light splitter

Lucky iPhone owners of the future may get their hands on a feature currently offered only by premium video cameras.

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.

Interchangeable camera lenses

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

iPhone 9 rumours & patents

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.

It's already possible to use detachable iPhone camera lenses, of course, but at present those are exterior accessories made by third parties. You can read about our pick of the best iPhone camera lens accessories here: Best iPhone camera lenses.

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