A forthcoming iPhone could feature two camera lenses instead of one, allowing users to zoom in at high resolution and record two types of video simultaneously before seamlessly splicing them together. Apple outlined the potential plans in a patent application for a dual-lens smartphone camera design filed earlier this year.
An artist's impression of an iPhone with two cameras. Photo: YouTube: MacRumors
It would feature a regular, wide-angle camera lens — the kind seen on current iPhones — and a new telephoto lens whichcan zoom in at long distances without reducing picture quality.
Users could switch easily between both cameras by tapping a part of the regular camera's image on the screen to open a split screen with the zoom lens next to it, according to the filing.
An artist's depiction of what an iPhone dual camera zoom system could look like. Photo: Matt Gonzalez/YouTube: MacRumors
The cameras could be used simultaneously and separately. For instance, one could record video while the other took images; or one could take standard video while the other recorded in slow motion.
The footage would be saved as two separate files with a time-stamp so the phone knows they are linked. That means it could then be viewed and edited together using the iPhone's video editing software.
Anyone who's tried to capture images or video at full zoom using a smartphone will know how much quality is lost when zooming in with software rather than a specifically designed lens.
The addition of a telephoto lens could put the iPhone back in front of rivals like Samsung, whose brand new Galaxy S7 smartphones have been receiving rave reviews thanks to their vastly improved vastly improved dual-pixel camera. (Dual-pixel is not the same as dual-lens; dual-pixel allows the camera to read more of the image when focusing, resulting in much faster auto-focus.)
In its patent application, Apple said users had come to demand high-quality camera specs on their phones for everyday use, but that features like zoom were just not cutting it.
"Providing the zoom feature in a camera unit of a multifunction device has traditionally required moving mechanical parts that increase complexity and cost of the device," the application reads.
"Such moving parts also reduce reliability of the device and take up valuable space inside the device, which puts the desire for zoom functions in direct conflict with the desire for smaller camera units."
Apple acquired an Israeli camera technology company called LinX Imaging last year, which specialises in designing high-quality, thin camera lenses and imaging software.
MacRumors believes the dual-lens camera technology could be a direct result of Apple integrating LinX's existing technology into its phones.
The website believes a dual-lens set-up could ship with the larger "phablet" version of Apple's next flagship smartphone, the iPhone 7 Plus. The new flagship, along with the smaller iPhone 7 model, is expected to be unveiled later this year.
An even more compact – and more affordable – "iPhone SE" handset is also rumoured to be revealed in a matter of weeks.