In 2013 smartphone manufacturers put a lot of emphasis on camera quality and imaging features. Nokia and Sony increased the sensor size with the Lumia 1020 and Xperia Z1 respectively. HTC, LG and Nokia introduced optical image stabilization and the Samsung Galaxy Note III was the first volume device to offer 4K video. However, there was one large manufacturer who remained relatively quiet among this flood of smartphone imaging innovations: Apple. Additions like variable exposure in panorama mode and a dual-color flash were nice but didn't represent major changes to the iPhone 5s's photographic feature set compared to the iPhone 5. That said, in our review we were impressed with the image quality from its 8MP sensor.
There are signs Apple's smartphone cameras will incorporate more innovative technologies and get even better in the nearer future. Appleinsider.com has dug around and found 24 imaging-related Apple job adverts. Most of the jobs are based at Apple's headquarters in Cupertino but there are also open positions in Tokyo, Taipei, Shanghai and Tel Aviv.
Until now Apple's camera modules are sourced from external suppliers, such as Sony, but one implication of the recent hiring spree is that this might be about to change. The job descriptions cover the entire imaging pipeline, including sensor and lens design and firmware development. There is also a posting that specifically targets an engineer for the development of camera prototypes. It includes the following definition of responsibilities:
"The Camera Experience Prototyping team is responsible for the early prototyping of the potential experience of new products or features to the wider team. The technologies used for the demonstrations do not have to be representative of what will be used in production. They should be able to provide a real demonstration of the user experience defined by the User Experience Leader that allows the user value of the feature to be correctly assessed."
So by the looks of it, Apple has great plans for camera technology in its future devices. Given that the imaging team is only being expanded now it's safe to assume that the end results of this influx of new hires are some way off, but who knows: maybe 2015 is the year when Apple will delight us with a host of innovative camera features on its next-generation of smartphones and tablets.
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