If you’ve been in this technology segment for quite some time, Project Ara’s name will certainly bring back some memories. It was a concept of a modular phone that gained traction when Google decided to push the project forward with its own modular smartphone. Project Ara’s objective was to allow users to “upgrade” certain parts of their smartphones. You could purchase a module for an upgraded chipset, a camera with more MegaPixels, a bigger battery module, and etc. After listing these possibilities, it’s really easy to understand how challenging is to make an actual product from these ideas. Unfortunately, Project Ara never saw the light of day and companies kept their usual yearly phone upgrades. Today, however, a new patent from Xiaomi suggests that there still is work being done with the modular phone concept in mind.
Xiaomi is well known for patenting weird designs. As time has proved, not all these patents actually convert into real products. But they are enough to show us what companies are developing in secret. Recently, we saw one of the company’s patents having a pop-up camera with a reflective mirror. Today, 91Mobiles found another one showing a detachable camera module.
Xiaomi detachable camera has the potential to bring back modular phones
According to the patent published on WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), Xiaomi’s patent shows a smartphone with a full-display upfront. The answer for this bezel-less panel is a detachable rear camera module according to Xiaomi. The layout could have multiple camera sensors on it. A cutout of one of the images shows how the phone would look like if the layout is removed. Moreover, it also shows attachments at the top of the phone. So the detachable camera can be used for selfies. In the same way, Xiaomi could sell different camera modules with more resolution, one with a telephoto sensor for improved zoom, another one for OIS and etc.
Xiaomi isn’t the only company working on a detachable camera concept
While there isn’t proper evidence for how the company would achieve this, it probably is done through magnets. Worth noting that this isn’t the first time a detachable camera layout appears. Back in December 2020, a patent revealed that Oppo is also playing with the idea. One of the layouts shows a pill-shaped dual-camera layout while the other one is circular with a cutout for four sensors.
Don’t hold your breath for the modular phone comeback, since this patent does not imply that an actual device is being produced. In fact, Xiaomi is yet to deploy its foldable smartphone, after many years of playing with the idea. So this detachable can be many years away from a release.