This clue suggests Apple Watches will soon have a built-in camera

Originally Published: 

The Apple Watch can do a lot, and it's only getting better — especially when it comes to health features. But there's still one thing the wearable simply can't do: take pictures. That may change in the not-too-distant future. Apple just received a patent for an Apple Watch band that has a built-in camera that would allow wearers to snap pictures without pulling their phone out of their pocket.

Before you get too excited about the prospect of picking up a new Apple watch with a camera, patents aren't always insights into actual plans. Sometimes they pay off, like Apple's patent for an emoji app that likely heavily influenced the company's Animoji feature. Other times, those patents don't pay off. Apple laid claim to plans for a folding smartphone as far back as 2013 but has yet to actually make one despite competitors rushing to market with their own.

All that said, the premise of a camera built into the Apple Watch band certainly shows some promise. Per the patent, Apple appears to be interested in using the very end of the watch band to house a tiny lens that could be used to capture photos and video. Users would be able to snap pictures either by pinching the band, pressing a button or tapping the screen. By placing a camera — or multiple ones — on the band, users would have a fair amount of flexibility in getting the right shot, allowing them to angle the lens in any number of ways to get it pointed at the subject. It's possible Apple may even place two cameras on the band, which would enable 360-degree imagery.

United States Patent and Trademark Office

It's definitely not out of the realm of possibility to believe Apple plans to see this patent to fruition. Rumors about the potential of an Apple Watch with a camera have been floating around for years now, nearly since the first generation of the watch launched back in 2015. It would also make sense seeing as Apple has slowly been weaning the Apple Watch off of the iOS ecosystem and turning it into a full standalone device. Starting with the Apple Watch Series 3, the company introduced the ability to use the wearable without requiring an iPhone to be connected. Earlier this year, Apple announced a standalone App Store for the Apple Watch. The device is quickly becoming its own platform, so it would only make sense that it be equipped with its own camera, as well.

Apple wouldn't be the first company to try a camera on a smartwatch. Most notably, the company's biggest competitor, Samsung, stocked its first smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, with a photo sensor. While it stuck around for the second generation of the wearable, Samsung has since ditched including cameras in its latest model of smartwatches. Lacking a camera certainly didn't hurt Apple, either. According to a recent report from IDC, the company owns 27.4 percent of the wearables market. That's more than double the market share of is next closest competitor, Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiamoi. But adding a camera just might make the Apple Watch the only wearable worth considering.