Apple is looking to pack a folded periscope camera into the iPhone

Iphone 12 Pro Review
Iphone 12 Pro Review (Image credit: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Apple is looking for suppliers of folded cameras.
  • The technology could enable better optical zoom and get rid of the camera bulge found on the back of the iPhone.

Reported by Korea IT News, Apple is apparently searching for suppliers to bring "folded cameras" to the iPhone in an attempt to improve optical zoom on the phone. A folded camera refracts light like a periscope with the lenses and sensors placed horizontally instead of vertically.

According to the industry on Thursday, Apple is pushing to introduce triple camera to its iPhones. According to industry officials who are familiar with a situation related to development of iPhone cameras, Apple is currently looking for appropriate folded camera technology and patents in order to strengthen optical zoom feature of iPhones and it already had a discussion with a particular company.

The main benefit of folded camera technology is that it could enable higher optical zoom levels without having to increase the thickness of the iPhone or iPad.

Folded camera is able to provide high-magnification optical zoom without affecting the thickness of a smartphone. Optical zoom is determined by the distance between a lens and an image sensor. Longer focal distance can realize optical zoom with higher magnification.

Such technology could be used on more than just the zoom lens as, if the technology was good enough, it could get rid of the camera bulge that currently affects almost every smartphone on the market.

Folded camera structure like a periscope has emerged as an alternative way. Rather than stacking a sensor and an image sensor vertically, folded camera refracts light through prism and has a lens and an image sensor placed horizontally. This structure has started to gain attraction from industries as it solves the "camera bulging" issue and assists in increasing magnification of optical zoom.

According to the report, Apple may have to partner with a company like Samsung in order to implement a folded camera as Samsung holds many of the patents surrounding the technology.

Because it is reported that Samsung Electronics possesses key patents related to folded camera, some people raise a possibility of a partnership between Apple and Samsung Electronics or Samsung Electro-Mechanics. "Ball-type actuator is the key to folded camera, and patents related to the actuator are in possession of Corephotonics that was recently acquired by Samsung Electronics." said one official from the camera module industry. "It is heard that Apple is not able to easily design folded camera structure due to patent issues."

It is unclear, if Apple does need to look to Samsung to supply the cameras, if the company will do so or refuse to keep a competitive edge in the area.

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.