Phone makers have a love-hate relationship with the front camera. It is pretty much the only reason now that we even have top bezels on phones but they have become so critical in the age of selfies and video conferencing. There are various solutions to hiding or removing the front-facing camera altogether, from punch-hole cutouts to under-display sensors. OPPO’s latest patent isn’t exactly about the selfie camera but its idea of a modular, removable, and upgradeable camera system indirectly addresses that as well.
The industry has pretty much given up on the idea of modular phones after Google’s Project Ara was discontinued and the LG G5 proved to be unpopular. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have merits, especially when a modular part can lead to some more economical and more useful in the long run. That seems to be the motivation behind a patent unearthed by 91mobiles, showing off OPPO’s own take on a modular camera.
In its normal state, the camera is nested on the back of the phone, looking pretty much like a regular camera bump. The difference is that it can be removed from the phone’s back, revealing a USB-C connector that serves as the way for the camera to communicate with the phone’s mainboard. While this could theoretically mean the camera can be easily replaced with upgraded sensors, it also opens the door for more use cases.
The same USB-C connector could be connected to the phone’s main charging and data port, turning it into an ad hoc selfie camera, though one requires using the phone upside down. The patent also describes wireless connections like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, however, as well as a built-in battery that would allow the camera module to be used independently and remotely.
As interesting as the idea may be, it is just a patent and comes with no assurance of an actual implementation. Coincidentally, Vivo also had a similar idea and even a working prototype but one that used a removable popup camera instead.