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Apple's future iPhones could hide FaceTime camera & flash inside earpiece grille

post #1 of 67
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The clean and simple design of Apple's iconic iPhone could become even simpler, thanks to a new concept that describes concealing the FaceTime camera within the earpiece speaker slot, and even adding a camera flash module that would illuminate forward facing pictures.




The idea was presented in a newly published patent application discovered on Thursday by AppleInsider, entitled "Electronic Device with Camera Flash Structures." The proposed invention describes a camera and accompanying flash that could be hidden under the speaker port mesh found on a portable device like the iPhone.

Currently, the camera and ambient light sensor for the iPhone are located to the top and left, respectively, of the speaker hole on the iPhone. And there is also no camera flash for the FaceTime lens to illuminate "selfies" and other forward facing shots.

While the spaces for the camera and light sensor can be seen at certain angles on the black front-glass panel of the iPhone 5s, these spaces are readily apparent on the white glass that is found on the white and gold versions of the handset. These black "dots" stand out on what is otherwise a clean and simple appearance.




As detailed in the new patent filing, Apple has experimented with addressing this by placing the camera inside the speaker hole found atop the front of the iPhone. In the application, Apple states that the lens, along with a camera flash, could be located under the speaker port mesh, making them essentially invisible to users and providing a cleaner design.

Apple even notes that the addition of a camera flash to the front of the iPhone could be beneficial for more than photos. In the filing, the company says that adding a small light to the speaker slot could serve as a "status indicator," notifying users when a message has been received.

In the filing, Apple notes that if camera components are "poorly mounted" within a portable device, the result can "detract from an otherwise aesthetically appealing device appearance." It describes its concept as a potential improvement that could make its way into future products.

The proposed invention, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed by Apple in February of 2013. It is credited to inventors Lee E. Hooton and Kelvin Kwong.
post #2 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Apple even notes that the addition of a camera flash to the front of the iPhone could be beneficial for more than photos. In the filing, the company says that adding a small light to the speaker slot could serve as a "status indicator," notifying users when a message has been received.

 

:wow:

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post #3 of 67
I'm assuming that they'd not have the grille obscure the area immediately in front of the camera lens (and probably also the flash if that interfered with even light diffusion).

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- Gordon Hinckley

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post #4 of 67
Yes lets patent that idea, because NOBODY has ever thought of such a thing before.

And people wonder what's wrong with the current patent system.

Frankly I'm stunned AI could get seven paragraphs out of this "story". Didn't there used to be a back-page area in AI to keep stuff like this off the main news flow?
post #5 of 67
Interesting idea- while the main benefit would be the aesthetics- it would clearly give you the ability to make the top bezel much smaller without compromising the odd look of a camera on the side- like the iPhone 4

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post #6 of 67

The only thing this camera will take a photo of is the sky since everyone has been programmed to look at the screen to take photos (or guess when taking selfies). This has to be for something else because it doesn't make any sense.

 

I looked through the patent and it's very extensive, even mentioning hiding the lens and flash behind an LCD window (like the fancy window shades). I think this patent is for something totally different than what we've seen from Apple and might actually be for something like an arm device (ok and iWatch). The design talks about an embodiment that could be a cellular phone but also an "other device." (Ref: Page 1, paragraph 0002, found after figures) Just because it shows something that looks like an iPhone doesn't mean that's the only embodiment it could go into. 

post #7 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post

Yes lets patent that idea, because NOBODY has ever thought of such a thing before.

And how many people are doing it and making it work?

Thinking of something and executing are two different things. I have no problem protecting people who come up with innovations and execute on them. Patent trolls and non practicing entities (NPEs) on the other hand....
post #8 of 67

I have friends that came from Android to iPhone and one thing they miss is the notification light so they don't have to wake their phone to see if they missed call or got a text message. I wish Apple would do that with iPhone.

post #9 of 67
I always thought the proxy sensor, at the very least, should be in the same slot as the speaker. Probably the camera too. It doesn't matter on the black models, but I'm surprised Ives had tolerated those scattered black holes on the white models. Just make the slot bigger and line those components all up in a row! There must have been some engineering barrier I can't imagine.
post #10 of 67
Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post
Yes lets patent that idea, because NOBODY has ever thought of such a thing before. And people wonder what's wrong with the current patent system.

 

Except they didn’t patent the idea. Pay attention.

post #11 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

I always thought the proxy sensor, at the very least, should be in the same slot as the speaker. Probably the camera too. It doesn't matter on the black models, but I'm surprised Ives had tolerated those scattered black holes on the white models. Just make the slot bigger and line those components all up in a row! There must have been some engineering barrier I can't imagine.

Ives? Burle Ives? That's the only Ives I know.

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Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

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post #12 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

 

Except they didn’t patent the idea. Pay attention.

 

Huh?

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

The idea was presented in a newly published patent application discovered on Thursday by AppleInsider, entitled "Electronic Device with Camera Flash Structures." The proposed invention describes a camera and accompanying flash that could be hidden under the speaker port mesh found on a portable device like the iPhone.

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post #13 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

I have friends that came from Android to iPhone and one thing they miss is the notification light so they don't have to wake their phone to see if they missed call or got a text message. I wish Apple would do that with iPhone.

You can - it's hiding in the accessibility settings: http://www.imore.com/how-use-led-flash-your-iphone-notification-alerts

I do miss the LED on the top of the phone that the Blackberrys had - that was far more useful.
post #14 of 67

The iPhone rear flash is way to bright to use as a notification, I'm not even sure why they bothered adding that in as a feature.

 

Plus, I think it only flashes for a little while doesn't it?  Would probably be a big battery drain otherwise.

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post #15 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by rob53 View Post
 

The only thing this camera will take a photo of is the sky since everyone has been programmed to look at the screen to take photos (or guess when taking selfies). This has to be for something else because it doesn't make any sense.

 

I looked through the patent and it's very extensive, even mentioning hiding the lens and flash behind an LCD window (like the fancy window shades). I think this patent is for something totally different than what we've seen from Apple and might actually be for something like an arm device (ok and iWatch). The design talks about an embodiment that could be a cellular phone but also an "other device." (Ref: Page 1, paragraph 0002, found after figures) Just because it shows something that looks like an iPhone doesn't mean that's the only embodiment it could go into. 

 

How does changing the placement of the camera and adding a flash make it any more difficult to take a photo with the front facing camera than it is now? If you are looking a the screen you can see exactly what you are going to get a picture of. Maybe I missed something in your first couple sentences - the only selfies I have seen where the results are poor are cases where people do not know how to use the device in the first place - such as turning the phone around and using the back camera because they don't know to switch cameras (if so equipped). And while I suppose using a mirror gives you a wider angle view - why do so many folks hold the camera between themselves and the mirror? hold it off to the side and look at the screen to compose the shot - then look at the mirror if you want to snap the picture. 

 

Regarding patents and patentable ideas - it is a complicated thing - you want to describe your idea with enough detail to ensure protection but also not too much detail to give away how you are pulling it off while also being generic enough to prevent someone else from infringing on your patent by coming up with something that superficially looks different enough but is just a rip off of your work. 

 

As far as the patentability of this idea - and I have not read the patent - I would think that the patent is not simply "hey lets put the camera behind the mesh" but more along the lines of "lets put the camera behind the mesh so as to improve aesthetics, perhaps simplify manufacturing, improve customer experience, and still have it deliver the same or better quality and performance that established methods already in use" 

 

While I am not expert - I doubt that I could patent the idea of mixing cheese popcorn and carmel popcorn in the same bag - but I should be able to patent the design for a process by which cheese and carmel are both applied to a single batch popcorn simultaneously in a desired proportion and mechanically bagged. Although I think the simple mix cheese and carmel would likely fall under trademark or copyright or some other category if all I am doing is mixing to existing products. 

 

Just as you cannot patent the idea of a folding convertible top on a car - but you can patent a novel mechanism by which the top is deployed or retracted. 

post #16 of 67
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

Huh?

 

Fool me seventeen times, shame on me. You know exactly what the patent is about.

post #17 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by DocNo42 View Post




You can - it's hiding in the accessibility settings: http://www.imore.com/how-use-led-flash-your-iphone-notification-alerts

I do miss the LED on the top of the phone that the Blackberrys had - that was far more useful.

the LED they had stayed on until they unlocked the phone. I don't think this flash is the same thing.

post #18 of 67

This is why I love Apple...what other company is so dedicated to constant improvement? The only one I can think of is McLaren's F1 team.

 

Best.

post #19 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

the LED they had stayed on until they unlocked the phone. I don't think this flash is the same thing.

When I tried it, it flashes periodically until you unlock the phone. The brightness of it's flash and it being on the back made it pretty useless for me so I turned it off and just rely on vibrations or occasionally looking at my phone. Not ideal, thats for sure.
post #20 of 67

I appreciate the minimalistic nature of the patent.  It's one reason I only buy the iPhones with the black face, I don't like seeing the proximity sensor & camera on those with the white face.

post #21 of 67

What a god-awful, friggin freaky idea for a cell phone.  As it is, I can hardly even see the earpiece grille because of accumulated dust and fuzz. That's just normal use of a phone... doesn't affect sound transmission appreciably.  But you sure aren't going to get good optics thru it.  Compare that to a transparent sapphire covering over the main camera which can be readily cleaned, or the oleophobic gorilla glass over the face-time camera which we all know can be cleaned by a wipe across our sleeve.  That ain't gonna cut it with the earpiece grille.  Nope, this would be a big step backwards.  Thankfully, the phone is merely one "embodiment".  Hopefully there are others for which this is more practical.  :)

post #22 of 67

Remember back when the white iPhone 4 release was delayed for months? Lots of rumors about different issues including light leakage, etc. One that I had read and I'm sorry I couldn't find the link was that Steve Jobs was not happy with the way the front looked with the black opening of the proximity sensor. (it didn't have a front facing camera) I'm not sure of the validity of this rumor since there is a picture of Steve holding a white iPhone 4 at launch with the proximity sensor showing. I have a silver (white) iPhone 5s and the two black dots don't really bother me. A flash on the front would be nice for notifications if the brightness could be controlled. At the age of 56 I'm not into taking selfies.

post #23 of 67
The biggest problem with the grill is that the diameter of the lens is larger than the height of it. I tried to mock that up when making an iPhone 6 mockup before but having the grill as tall as the current lens doesn't look good. Nor does it look good with a large hole in the middle with the grill extending out from it. One design I felt worked ok was the following:



That's an iPhone 6 mockup with a 4.4" edge to edge display and the bezels reduced. It was to avoid having to deal with a hand brick like the Galaxy phones. It looks like we'll have to put up with the hand brick for now. The idea with the holes was that one would be the proximity sensor and the others would be for the speakers to either side of the lens. I didn't think about there being a flash but that would work too.

The single line grill design is simpler but I reckon the only way that'll work is if they figure out how to turn the display into a camera by putting a photodetector at every pixel along with an RGB component. Having a sapphire front panel could help but grease and fingerprints are the bigger problem. They's need a surface coating that things don't stick to like this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ayRImPvcQU

or just a way to compensate for the grease on the display.

On the subject of patents, they are often used for protection from other people suing them. Apple has been sued over the most frivolous of patents so it makes sense for them to patent as much as possible.
post #24 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by TeaEarleGreyHot View Post
 

What a god-awful, friggin freaky idea for a cell phone.  As it is, I can hardly even see the earpiece grille because of accumulated dust and fuzz. That's just normal use of a phone... doesn't affect sound transmission appreciably.  But you sure aren't going to get good optics thru it.  Compare that to a transparent sapphire covering over the main camera which can be readily cleaned, or the oleophobic gorilla glass over the face-time camera which we all know can be cleaned by a wipe across our sleeve.  That ain't gonna cut it with the earpiece grille.  Nope, this would be a big step backwards.  Thankfully, the phone is merely one "embodiment".  Hopefully there are others for which this is more practical.  :)

You're right. The way the grill is designed right now it's definitely not going to work. Mine gets fuzz in it all the time too. If it's for the iPhone then a earpiece redesign will have to be done. If it's for other devices then this is even better.

post #25 of 67
They better think how to hide cameras and fingertip sensor behind the screen. These bezels are so 2007.
post #26 of 67

This is interesting and one more refutation of Isaacson's stupid comment that Google is more innovative than Apple (who he said after Steve died that Apple had nothing new up its sleeve). Isaacson's job was to report and write, not think. He did one (report) and not the other. As we now can see Samsung has all kinds of problems, Android (Google) still does, and Apple is making mountains of money and they haven't turned on the spigot (ideas and execution) yet. Assuming we don't have some kind of war or really terrible tragedy, Apple will be around a lot longer than "old" Walt. And with this post on AI I see we have the usual naysayers about what Apple is attempting. These folks do not have all the details, just like I don't yet they want their own FaceTime. Get a job and leave the future to the Futurists who actually do something.

post #27 of 67
Technologically speaking this is a step back from having the camera build into the display so I'm guessing that's at least shelved for now and that this grill option is likely to happen within a couple years.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

The biggest problem with the grill is that the diameter of the lens is larger than the height of it.

Add in the potential for it being more recessed and what I assume is a slight angle to the camera and they may have to go with a smaller lens to make it aestetically pleasing.

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post #28 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 

 

Fool me seventeen times, shame on me. You know exactly what the patent is about.

What the article says it's about?  Putting a camera flash behind the earpiece grille?  Like in the illustration?

 

 

I have no idea what angle you're trying to argue here.

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post #29 of 67
Pocket lint, ear crud.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #30 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by mnbob1 View Post

You're right. The way the grill is designed right now it's definitely not going to work. Mine gets fuzz in it all the time too. If it's for the iPhone then a earpiece redesign will have to be done. If it's for other devices then this is even better.
The first thing that came to mind after seeing the drawing of the camera behind the grill was "Uhh ... No". How do you clean the lens? Impossible unless you can can remove the mesh, and that's a complicated non-starter. Even if you could do that, the lens would be recessed and hard to reach. The current iPhone design of the camera lens flush with the surface makes it simple to clean. So I have trouble taking this proposal seriously.
post #31 of 67
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post
It describes its concept as a potential improvement that could make its way into future products.

 

Oh well.  Something to look forward to in next year's iPhone 6S maybe.

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post #32 of 67
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post
The biggest problem with the grill is that the diameter of the lens is larger than the height of it. I tried to mock that up when making an iPhone 6 mockup before but having the grill as tall as the current lens doesn't look good.

 

Did you save that mockup? Post it; let’s see how it looks.

 

Originally Posted by Crowley View Post
I have no idea what angle you're trying to argue here.

 

The ability to read (plus some critical thinking) would fix that. Hint: what broken argument comes up in every thread about patents? Namely this thread. Namely the argument to which I was replying.

post #33 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

The ability to read (plus some critical thinking) would fix that. Hint: what broken argument comes up in every thread about patents? Namely this thread. Namely the argument to which I was replying.
Read what? You haven't said anything that is in any way indicative of the argument you are trying to make.

So goddamn tiresome your snippy retorts and lack of clarity. My reading is fine, it's your writing that leaves an awful lot to be desired.

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post #34 of 67
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post
You haven't said anything that is in any way indicative of the argument you are trying to make.

 

 

Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
Except they didn’t patent the [div class=“HTML blink is deprecated, but you get the idea”]idea[/div].
post #35 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

The iPhone rear flash is way to bright to use as a notification

iPhone users and iOS developers know that the flash LED luminosity is controllable through software.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #36 of 67
Holy crap. Seriously? That's your point?

Man, I thought you'd have something more than that semantic nonsense. What a colossal waste of time you are.

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post #37 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

iPhone users and iOS developers know that the flash LED luminosity is controllable through software.
I'm sure it is, but Apples current implementation is just an on/off LED flash for alerts. If you can modify the brightness then it's not particularly well signposted and I'm not aware of the method.

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post #38 of 67
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post
Man, I thought you'd have something more than that semantic nonsense.

 

Good to know that you think patenting ideas is okay. That’s the opposite of every law on the books, but you’re entitled to have a silly opinion.

 

Oops, no, I just patented it. You owe me royalties.

post #39 of 67
You know how you pretend to know what a straw man argument is? There, you just used one. Educate yourself.

Toodles.

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post #40 of 67
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post
 

I have friends that came from Android to iPhone and one thing they miss is the notification light so they don't have to wake their phone to see if they missed call or got a text message. I wish Apple would do that with iPhone.


Agreed.  It drove me crazy when I went from BlackBerry to an iPhone.  I just could not understand why such a simple feature would not be on the iPhone.  I don't carry my phone with me all of the time when at the office so I get messages when I am away from my desk and never know it unless I pick up the phone and look at it.

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