A recently discovered patent suggests that Google was at one point experimenting with the idea of putting a camera slap bang in the middle of the face of a smartwatch. LetsGoDigital spotted the patent, which was filed back in July 2017, earlier this week. The patent is simply titled “Camera Watch,” and contains seven diagrams of the unreleased design.
There was a time when cameras were a much more regular feature in smartwatches. Samsung, for example, included a camera on both the Galaxy Gear and Gear 2 in 2013 and 2014 respectively. However, in recent years they’ve become less common. Apple has never included a camera on an Apple Watch (although a patent suggests that it once considered putting one into the watch’s band), and cameras have been absent from other recent smartwatches from Samsung, Fossil, and Garmin.
It’s not hard to see why cameras haven’t found a permanent home in smartwatches. There’s very little room for a decent sensor and it can be difficult to get a well-framed shot out of them. And then there’s the dweeb factor. Check out how ridiculous I looked when I tried to use the Nubia Alpha smartwatch to take a photo of our video producer.
Suffice to say, any smartwatch camera like this is probably much better suited to taking selfies or making video calls.
It’s a pretty neat little design, and now that we’re seeing so many phones use tiny hole-punch cutouts for their selfie cameras (most recently the Samsung Galaxy Note 10), I’m tempted to think a design like this could actually work in a future smartwatch. Whether Google will actually make it, however, is another matter entirely.
There were rumors that the company was planning to launch a Pixel Watch last year, but Google later admitted that it wasn’t ready to produce its own watch. However, now that Google has acquired a chunk of smartwatch technology from Fossil, maybe it’s time for the company to take a second look at making its own wearable.