Apple knows that the iphone market is getting a little stagnant. While the technology is dramatically better than it was a decade ago, the pace of change is slowing, and consumers are becoming less excited about their devices.
However, the biggest phone maker in the world is looking to change all that. It believes that it can take photographic technology on its phones to the next level and give consumers an experience they haven’t had before.
It all comes down to a new patent the company filed in recent months. The hope is that the patent will bring genuine telephoto zoom to flat iPhone cameras on the rear of devices. Instead of using digital zoom and simply getting a more pixelated image, Apple believes that it can develop genuine slim-line optics that will make telephoto zoom a reality.
The new technology will work by using a periscopic lens. The goal for the lens is to save on space while bringing down camera bulges at the back (a problem with previous-generation telephoto options for smartphones). The design will feature a special lens stack that will enable Apple to magnify images more than conventional telephoto zoom lenses in standard cameras. A special optical lens system will deal with wavelength issues in a way that simply hasn’t been possible in the past.
Why would Apple make such a large investment in camera technology now? At present, the phonemaker faces a big problem with its lineup. Middling iPhones have roughly the same capability as their flagship counterparts, and consumers know it. There really isn’t much point spending double the money on a top-of-the-line phone, when a regular variety will suffice.
The current product line cannibalization actually threatens Apple’s business model. If the brand can’t continue to charge premiums for its devices, it will eventually lose its spot as the world’s most valuable company.
Putting a genuine telephoto lens on a top of the range iPhone would change all of that. Suddenly, Apple would be able to point to reasons why its premium handsets cost so much. And the differences would actually mean something for consumers. Instead of having to pack a separate DSLR for their vacations, they could simply take their regular iPhones with them.
Is It Better Than Competing Products?
Unfortunately, Apple has a problem. Early testing reveals that its new patented technology isn’t quite as good as some of the products already out there. For instance, reviewers believe that the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra probably has a better zoom camera than that available via Apple. Huawei – a company that has excellent access to supply chain components – probably has an even better camera than that. And Chinese brand Xiaomi’s flagship model likely has the best periscopic lens in the world, thanks to its close partnership with parts suppliers.
Is Apple Late To The Game?
Furthermore, Apple appears a little late to the game. As always, its component innovations lag the rest of the industry. In the past, it did this strategically so that it could gather all the necessary technology and test it before implementing it in a device. But the fact that an iPhone featuring a telescopic lens won’t appear until 2023 is late, even by Apple’s standards. In the meantime, brand fans who want to wait for the new device will need to learn how to clear app cache on iPhone so that they can continue using older handsets.
The only thing working in Apple’s favor is the notion that it will be offering a new type of telephoto lens. Typical lenses on phones offer 10x magnification. However, Apple says that its new lens will feature a special aperture that gives it 3X zoom functionality. This is less than the competition, but Apple says that it is not a problem. It’s optical zoom, it says, will be higher quality than the rest of the market.
With this latest innovation, Apple again seems to be relying heavily on its brand capital. It seems unlikely that, from a hardware perspective, it will offer a better periscopic camera than the competition. This puts the firm in an awkward situation. While the new patent is exciting, it seems quite obvious to neutral industry observers that it is losing its technical advantage over rival firms. The saving grace will be any onboard software that combines with the 3X optical zoom to provide users with superior image quality. Whether that will materialize remains to be seen. It is not clear that any such software is on the horizon for 2023.