A future Apple Watch could have a built in camera and a new kind of strap

The Apple Watch 8 on a blue desk
An Apple Watch 8 (Image credit: TechRadar)

Cameras are an essential part of any smartphone or tablet, but so far they’ve rarely been encountered on a smartwatch, and never on an Apple Watch. That could change though, as Apple has now been granted a patent for an Apple Watch camera system.

The patent, which was filed with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) and granted on February 7, 2023, has now been spotted by Phone Arena and others, and it details both a camera built into an Apple Watch, and an unusual strap to help you use it.

The camera detailed here is on the bottom of the Apple Watch, which of course means you can’t use it while wearing the watch – at least, unless all you want is an extreme close-up of your wrist. But that’s where the strap comes in.

The body of the watch would be connected to the strap via a deployable attachment mechanism – such as a magnet or a latch – so you can quickly and easily remove the watch from the strap. Then you could hold it up to take a picture, using the screen as a viewfinder, and just as easily lock it back into the strap when done.

Of course, you could use this camera with a normal strap too, by taking the whole thing off your wrist, but that’s potentially fiddlier than this solution.

That said, this still sounds more cumbersome than just using your phone, and is likely to deliver worse results. But if your phone’s battery has died or you’ve left your phone at home – which you might even intentionally do if you have a cellular Apple Watch – then there would definitely be a use case for this.

Whether it would be worth the extra cost involved in adding a camera to the wearable, and the potentially increased size of the watch as a result, is less clear though.

Still, if you like the idea of a camera on your Apple Watch then you don’t actually have to wait for Apple to add one. A third-party strap called the Wristcam has cameras built in, and you don’t even need to remove the Apple Watch from the strap to use these ones. Though as a result the strap itself is rather chunky.

Analysis: not the first Apple Watch camera patent, and unlikely to be the last

Apple has been exploring the idea of a camera in the Apple Watch for a long time, with a number of other patents offering alternate solutions to the one above. We’ve seen, for example, a patent for an Apple Watch with an under-display camera, and one with a camera built into the Digital Crown.

So this is just the latest in a long line of Apple Watch camera ideas and there’s no reason to think this one will make it to market when the others haven’t.

In fact, the majority of patents like these don’t end up getting used, so there’s every chance we’ll keep seeing new patents for new versions of the idea, with no finished product.

Still, the fact that it’s something Apple continues to explore suggests there’s hope that one day we might see an Apple Watch with a camera, it just probably won’t take this form – and almost certainly won’t happen in time for the Apple Watch 9 or Apple Watch Ultra 2, which is expected in 2024

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.