Apple wins Patent for new Camera Autofocus System

BY Gautam Prabhu

Published 29 Apr 2014

Apple has been granted a new patent by the USPTO, which reveals that the company is working on a way to reduce the size of a camera autofocus component for the iPhone and iPad.

The patent titled “MEMS autofocus actuator” talks about the use of micro-electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) technology to drive autofocus systems in future iOS devices.

Apple has been using voice coil motor (VCM) to drive autofocus systems in iOS devices so far, as they’re simple and hence straightforward to design. However, the patent points out that there are several disadvantages of VCM such as high power consumption, and slower.

The patent points out that MEMS technology could increase power efficiency, the size of the component and also deliver much faster response time over the voice coil motor (VCM). The manufacturing process required to produce these was highly specialized, which was one of the reasons it hasn’t been used widely. However, recent advancements in the manufacturing process have made them more feasible.


MEMS based autofocus systems will not only allow faster autofocus, but it could allow Apple to include features such as post-capture refocusing of images, which has been introduced in smartphones by Samsung and HTC, and with better results. The reduction in size of the camera component will also allow Apple to make even thinner devices.

MEMS autofocus actuator patent was first filed for in October 2012 and Richard J. Topliss is listed as its inventor.

It remains to be seen if Apple will use this technology in iPhone 6. It certainly looks like something Apple could use in future iPhones and iPads.

[USPTO via AppleInsider]