Picture this: Apple granted historic patent for original iPhone camera

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We’re all so used to using our iPhones as our primary cameras these days that it’s difficult to remember what it was like in the dark days before the device came along.

Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a new series of Apple-related patents, including an historic 2008 filing for an Apple camera. While the patent covers both a standalone camera (something Apple hasn’t done since the QuickTake camera launched in 1994) and a camera integrated into a PDA, it is likely that this is the patent which covers the original iPhone.

Also referenced in the patents are camera lenses built into the body of a portable media device, such as a mobile phone, PDA, audio and/or video player, and/ computer.

The patent covers:

“An electronic device, comprising: a lens within an opening in a body of the electronic device, wherein the lens directs light onto a recording medium within the electronic device; and one or more acoustic ports in the body of the electronic device arranged around the opening for the lens, wherein the one or more acoustic ports form part of the opening for the lens.”

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Apple’s patent could have also applied to a standalone camera, which Apple ended up not building.

While the original iPhone camera wasn’t up to much — being more or less added because Apple felt it had to include one — the publishing of the patent highlights just how much Cupertino has improved its iOS camera over the years: adding features like autofocus, video recording, flash and other innovations, along with more megapixels and better low-light performance. Much of this relies on the improved processor in subsequent iPhone iterations since the original, which the camera relies on for much of its processing.

Recently leaked pictures suggest that the upcoming iPhone 6 could well come with a protruding camera, along with a four LED True Flash, giving it a more powerful and balanced flash.

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About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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