The Apple Watch might be getting a camera – and that's an amazing idea

Apple Watch Ultra with map on woman's wrist
(Image credit: Future)

A newly registered patent suggests that a future iteration of the Apple Watch might have a built-in camera – and that would be amazing.

As Gadgets & Wearables reports, patent US-11571048-B1 (spotted by the eagle-eyed sleuths at Patently Apple) describes a strap with a central cradle that holds the watch itself in place. A quick-release mechanism would allow you to quickly pop the central unit out, and use it as a tiny camera.

Personally, I think that photography and running are natural partners. Running (particularly trail running) is a way to escape the city and explore new, beautiful places. It was while running beside a river that I got my first ever glimpse of a tiny, jewel-like kingfisher, one of my favorite club runs takes us past a smallholding that's home to a trio of adorable pygmy goats, and I've lost count of the number of beautiful sunsets I've seen during an after-work 5k.

Sure, you can stop and capture these moments on your phone (except for the kingfisher, which was gone in an azure flash), but it would be so much easier if you could simply use your watch to take a snap without digging a cumbersome handset out of your backpack first.

Couple pausing to look at smartwatch during hike at sunset

Imagine the moments you could capture with a camera built into your GPS watch (Image credit: Getty)

There might a risk of dropping the detachable central watch unit if you're not too careful, but a tiny little camera within arm's reach would make it so much easier to save and share those special sights. 

I'm not just thinking of Instagram, either. Garmin Connect has a feature for sharing photos with your workout stats laid out on top, and Strava has a function for adding snaps to your workouts too.

Snapping happy

Of course, the idea of a smartwatch with a camera has been tried before. Back in 2015, the Samsung Gear arrived on the scene – a chunky device that was designed to compete with Apple and had a camera built into the strap.

I didn't have the chance to test the Gear at the time, but my colleagues on Advnture's sister site TechRadar tell me it wasn't great. It was convenient, sure (it could even record a few seconds of video) but the picture quality wasn't great, and it made the watch much more expensive than it would have been otherwise.

To be honest, the quality looks pretty decent to me (check out the sample shots in TechRadar's review), especially considering the Gear's camera was fixed in place so you had to manuever your wrist awkwardly to take a shot.

Apple's proposed system would be a lot more ergonomic, and digital cameras have come a long way in the last eight years. Action cameras in particular are smaller than ever, and capable of shooting heaps of 4K, image-stabilized footage.

Of course, a patent isn't a guarantee that a particular technology is ever going to make its way into a commercially available product. but as The Verge notes, this isn't the first camera patent Apple has registered. Maybe something to look out for in a future iteration of the Apple Watch Ultra? Watch this space...

Cat Ellis

Cat is Homes Editor at TechRadar and former editor of Advnture. She's been a journalist for 15 years, and cut her teeth on magazines before moving online. She helps readers choose the right tech for their home, get the best deals, and do more with their new devices.