The iPhone 12 range has excellent cameras, but what it doesn’t have is long-range photography, unlike, say, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which offers 10x optical zoom. That’s because no current iPhone has a periscope camera, but it looks very likely that a future one will, as Apple has just been granted a patent for a periscope system.
Spotted by Patently Apple, the patent dubbed ‘Folded camera’ was filed with the USPTO and describes a system that allows the light entering the camera to be reflected at an angle, so the lenses can be laid out horizontally within the phone, rather than being stacked vertically.
This allows for longer range zoom without having the camera stick way out of the back, which would be required for a conventional telephoto lens that offers 5x or 10x zoom.
The fact that Apple now has a patent for such a system shows that it’s looking into offering a periscope camera on a future iPhone – though notably patents don’t always end up being used.
But we fully expect Apple to incorporate something along these lines at some point, or it risks being left behind by rivals like Samsung and Huawei, which already offer periscope cameras on some of their phones.
Not only that, but we’ve heard multiple rumors now that Apple plans to equip a future iPhone with a periscope camera, but there’s some disagreement as to when. We had heard we might see it in 2022 with the iPhone 14, but a more recent leak points to 2023. We're fairly confident that it won't make it for the iPhone 13 range though.
It’s also not clear how much zoom range Apple’s periscope camera would offer, but most phones opt for either 5x or 10x, so one of those numbers is likely. Hopefully we’ll find out for sure in the next year or two.