Apple to reveal ‘vision’ for future of iPhone camera devices?

17 May 2009

Apple is expected to seriously beef up the camera capabilities on its forthcoming iPhone 3.0 devices, bringing the device in line or even ahead of current models in the market by rivals Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Nokia.

Speculation is rife in the run-up to the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco about what innovations the company will add in terms of the iPhone 3.0.

So far, all Apple has revealed is that iPhone operating system (OS) 3.0 technical sessions will cover introductory and advanced concepts to help developers get the most out of the iPhone OS 3.0 SDK and over 1,000 new APIs available for iPhone OS 3.0.

However, recent reports suggest that if a physical iPhone 3.0 hits the marketplace, Apple is expected to add capabilities such as video camera and cut and paste.

But one area of the device ripe for improvement is the camera, which is only 2-megapixels, compared with devices from Sony Ericsson and Samsung that feature digital-camera technology with 5.1-megapixel and 8.1-megapixel imaging. These rival devices also come with enough in-built camera technology to make the phones more like digital cameras with phones bolted on.

In contrast, Apple’s camera technology on the iPhone 3G is just point and click, whereas camera phones from Sony Ericsson come with face-tracking technology and numerous other settings.

But according to a report on blog site PEHub, Apple is understood to be buying eye-tracking technology from Tobii Technology. This technology can be embedded into a device or used to measure the efficacy of advertisements, applications and websites.

Tobii Technology is a Stockholm-based start-up that just closed a US$21.5 million Series B financing from venture capitalists Growth Capital, Amadeus Capital and Northzone.

If these reports are true, it suggests Apple, in the coming years, will be adding a great deal of vision intelligence to its devices that could make iPhones personal hubs for street-based e-commerce, as well as playing to the company’s traditional strengths in the graphic design market.

But questions over whether Apple will be shipping a next-generation iPhone in the aftermath of the upcoming WWDC were given added impetus by reports that three secret AT&T devices codenamed ‘Project Charlie’ are being prepared for shipping, hinting at new devices that come with extra memory capacity and in different colours.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years