The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published an Apple patent detailing a method for adding a camera to future Apple Watch models. Rather than packing the camera module into the smartwatch body like some competing models, Apple’s design embeds the camera into an adjustable strap over the wrist band.

Based on images included with the patent, Apple envisions a smartwatch camera that is hidden out of sight against the wrist band when not in use. To capture images, the user extends the flexible strap in which the camera is embedded, making it possible to capture selfies without contorting one’s wrist at an uncomfortable angle.

Apple explains in its patent:

‘Such functionality can replace or at least meaningfully augment a user’s existing camera or camera-enabled device (e.g., smartphone, tablet). Such a wearable device that captures images and video may do so via an optical lens integrated into a distal end portion of a watch band that retains the device on a user’s wrist.’

Apple’s design involves a ‘core’ in the camera band that enables it to hold its position at whatever angle the user chooses. The patent indicates that some Apple Watch models may feature two cameras on the flexible band, making it possible to capture scenes both facing toward and away from the user.

In its latest iteration, the Apple Watch enables users to leave their iPhone behind by offering built-in cellular capabilities. The newly published patent indicates Apple views the camera as a possible future element for expanding the wearable’s independent functionality -- users won’t have to choose between being able to snap images or leaving their iPhone at home.

The patent explains:

‘A smartwatch that has the capability of capturing images and video may provide an opportunity for users to be more reliant on their smartwatch and less reliant on other devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, digital cameras) to capture images or videos. Thus, a smartwatch with the capability of capturing images or videos may enable a user to forego carrying a smartphone when doing some activities, especially activities or environments where it would be difficult to take a smartphone (e.g., hiking, running, swimming, surfing, snowboarding, and any number of other situations).’

The patent raises questions over whether camera functionality is something consumers truly want from a smartwatch. Though it would be convenient for taking stealthy images (that is, without pulling out a phone), the image quality would likely be considerably lower than what can be captured with the iPhone. As well, a camera positioned at the end of a thin extended band on one’s wrist would likely face blur issues due to slight tremors and other movements.

As with any patent, it’s possible Apple will never bring an Apple Watch with built-in cameras to the market.