Apple Gets Patent for Camera Technology That Could Make Future Devices Slimmer

PHOTO: A fan is taking a picture with his iPhone mobile camera at a Tyler, The Creator concert in Germany, 2013.PYMCA/UIG/Getty Images
A fan is taking a picture with his iPhone mobile camera at a Tyler, The Creator concert in Germany, 2013.

Move over, Alexander Graham Bell.

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Most smartphones today use the voice coil motor technology Bell pioneered in the 1870s to power their smartphone cameras' autofocus. However, a patent issued today to Apple hints that Bell's technology could be a thing of the past.

Apple was granted a patent for a device called a MEMS autofocus actuator, which could allow the company to make future gadgets, such as the iPhone 6, even smaller and thinner.

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MEMS stands for "microelectromechanical system" and are microscopic silicon machines that replace their heavier, bulkier and power-sucking predecessors, Patrick Moorhead, analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, told

"The patent is very important to the future of smartphones because it can fundamentally change the thickness of the phone and improve the speed of focus," Moorhead said.

"I would love to see this MEMS based camera inside the iPhone 6," he said, "But I don’t know just on the recency of the patent it will make it in, but I hope so."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment by about the new patent.

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MEMS technology would provide even better camera stability and would allow users to refocus images after they're taken, Moorhead said.

"Smartphone cameras have replaced point-and-shoot cameras for the most part. They're important because you always have your phone with you and people want to capture those special moments," Moorhead said.

He added that in an age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, "People like to share what they see."