A Very TLDR
A smart phone that has its camera components separated into a magnetically attached and wirelessly powered/charged module. Data is exchanged wirelessly so no need for proprietary pogo pin setup.
I strongly suggest you go through the entire thing regardless since if you look at the renders, you might assume certain things that are not true.
First, thank you for those who responded to the survey in my previous post. Some of the results were surprising to me but it has been informative on some of my ideas for this concept.
I will not be throwing out random specs or features unless it is necessary or beneficial to explain the concept in this post. I am keeping my expectations realistic and will note when certain parts are far-fetched. That said, the tech & components in this concept are seen in today’s world.
The idea is to offload anything that is related to the smartphone’s camera into a separate module. There are many benefits to this:
- Bigger battery in phone component since there’s more space
- More space for IR Blaster, Better Speakers, Headphone jack etc.
- Easier to achieve the “Bezel-less” Design
- Camera can then easily upgraded (Just buy a new/better version and slap it on).
- Possibly better smartphone cameras since camera module is not limited by space (Bigger sensor, dedicated Image processor, etc.)
- Both the phone and camera module can be IP6X Rated. This is one of the weaknesses of phones that have fancy pop up cameras or sliding phones (Ala Doogee Mix)
- Nothing really proprietary: Third party vendors can create their own camera modules if they want to (Canon, Sony, Momentum, etc.)
- No need to worry about the feeling that “Oh it doesn’t have a good camera built in so it’s not worth my money” that some people get.
- Possibility of having a better/dedicated camera mic built into the camera module.
But how is this all possible?
Magnets, Wireless Charging (With reverse wireless charging) and a wireless connection (Wifi, Bluetooth, NFC, etc.). All the things that we have seen before in the market.
The phone itself I made it around a 6 inch diagonal screen in Fusion at 8mm thick. Slightly squarer aspect ratio than the iPhones. It has a metal rim with a full plastic back (PC, PU, Acrylic, etc. I’m not discussing details). This also applies to the camera module since it will need wireless powered/charged. Again if in the event this becomes a product, people can always decide about these details later on.
Because the camera module is wireless powered/charged and it magnetically attaches to the phone, it can be oriented in any direction or placed anywhere on the back of the phone.
Because of this, the phone will be resting evenly when placed on a table, unlike other smartphones that have a fixed camera bump on the side… Or you can just detach the camera module all together if you place it on a table.
But uh… where’s the front facing/selfie camera?
Two options; you flip the camera
…or we make a larger camera module with a front facing camera
Both sides of the phone have wireless charging coils so that we can charge it in any orientation.
Side note: camera module design is just for concept purposes. It does not meen I want only a single camera in the camera module or that it is as thin as it looks
Do you prefer flipping the camera (higher quality images since using full camera) or do you prefer an included front facing camera (convenience)?
- I like the idea of flipping the camera
- I rather have the convenience of having a selfie camera
- Either is fine
The closest thing to “modular phone” that we have is the Moto Z line. It uses physical pins and the mods are unusable with other things. Here’s some accessory concepts:
I’m showing the render in its “unattached” view with all the modules. The middle “back plate is the bluetooth speaker”. Simple right?
The speaker magnetically attaches to the phone and it serves as an extra battery pack. It wirelessly charges the phone when it gets attached. The ports and buttons on the speaker is for redundancy.
Again, it’s a bluetooth speaker. You could just detach it from the phone and stream audio from other devices if you want to. It’s not proprietary.
Game Pad Controllers (a la Nintendo’s Joycons)
Note: Controller design is for concept only, it does not reflect the wants and needs of a typical game controller (joysticks, etc.)
Let’s take the Bluetooth speaker concept, make it wider with a bigger battery and then add Bluetooth/NFC controllers to it. We now have a game pad, should be self explanatory. The controllers are again, bluetooth/wireless so you could use it with other devices. But we have NFC for easy and seamless pairing to the phone.
Dedicated Smartphone Photography… The somewhat far-fetched
Mostly because if someone really wants to get good photos and have the convenience they could by a Canon G7X or Sony RX100 point and shoot. So the benefits here are if Eve could get it low in price and partner with other companies to make third party modules.
But here’s a concept of a modular camera attachment… Think of it as a reference design.
The middle plate is essentially a large thick battery with mounting holes for camera accessories. A thicker battery moves the center of mass to the middle module plate so that there’s a more secure magnetic attachment to the phone and larger camera module. The middle pack has wireless chargin coils on both sides so that it charges/powers the camera + dedicated flash and the phone + manual control module.
There’s a dedicated flash module and a manual control module on the right for quick controls. Wirelessly communicates with the phone. Like the game pad concept, they .
In the concept render, I’ve put a tripod mounting hole at the bottom and at the top there’s a slot that runs along the entire module. That slot fits a cold shoe mount adapter (See image above, pretend that it look like a cold shoe mount) which you can slide across and tightly screw it in securely; Similar to a truck bed’s T Pin slots.
But remember, this is a concept, we could have mounting holes on the sides, another type of adapter that can fit on the top. Make the entire middle module pack thicker so that we don’t have to use adapters, etc. etc.
What is not farfetched is Eve can partner/convince other third party vendors to make the accessories/modules.
The worse case scenario is that they make fancy battery packs. That is essentially what all the modules in the concept are: Battery packs, with extra ports/mounts + Wireless charging capability. Some of them might have Wifi ,bluetooth, NFC, etc. But all in all they are just magnetic battery packs.
I can imagine if a large camera producer were to make a camera where you can magnetically slap your phone on it and use it as the screen. They won’t even have to customize the camera to a certain size since there’s no physical pin connectors and in the case of cameras with manual controls, they offload said manual controls to a separate module (Like in the concept render above).
But with the possibility of third party modular components, we’re gonna have to deal with a bunch of apps right?
Let’s take the dedicated photography concept for example. Third party vendors might have proprietary image processing algorithms, color science etc.
Eve can make an open sourced camera app that has the ability to install custom plugins. Any code that is proprietary can be put into the plugin. Eve creates an API and gives it to the third party vendors to make said plugin.
You as a user when you buy a third party module (for the sake of this example, lets say you just bought a sony camera attachment). You magnetically attach the camera attachment, open the camera app, then go to the camera plugin store where you download the Sony plugin for the camera app.
Instead of a bunch of different apps, you have one (or two) apps that can install a bunch of plugins so that you can customize it. A single control point.
Eve will likely not want to put their camera stuff as open sourced so you’ll just have by default an “Eve plugin” pre-installed.
The challenge would be convincing third party vendors to not make separate apps. Making the general camera app open source would help.
Being realistic and acknowledging some cons + technical challenges
To name a few:
- Making the camera separated from the phone means that some things that are conveniently there means that the module might be bulky (can be migitated by engineering know how). You will need to add Wifi , battery (unless the entire module gets fully powered only via wireless charging/power), a dedicated Image processor (can be good or bad), storage if users store large pictures/RAW format/4k etc (Add an SD card to mitigate).
- Figure out the balance from intermixing wireless signals, magnetic fields, etc.
- Figuring out/balancing the amount of weight the magnets can hold (Hence plastic backs)
- Qi/ Wireless charging coils in typical smart phones are generally located only in the bottom portion of the phone. If we are to attach the module on the back of the phone and use it in any orientation, there needs to be a larger number of smaller coils spread out across the back of the phone.
- Con: Even if the camera module and phone are IP6X rated, the camera won’t work underwater (if for some reason you are doing that) since water is a pretty good absorbent of RF signals.
- The camera module might be a bit more pricier than if it was built in.
- Inconvenient/No facial biometric security system. The concept I made above as a under-display fingerprint sensor
I genuinely see a market for a product like this and it solves some problems with other smart phones. It’s unique and will differentiate Eve from other smartphone makers.
Under-Display Front Facing cameras is coming soon sure but there are benefits to offloading the camera to something else; Also we might even have to deal with lower quality selfie-cameras with Under-Display Cameras.