I’ve finally had time to look up Apple’s patent on embedding a camera inside a screen. Here’s the brief at New Scientist and here’s the original patent. Looks very interesting. For the current iPhone and screen technology it’s of course still in the labs; as you would usually have one camera sensor pixel for every screen pixel, or some submultiple even, to get iSight resolution (640×480; VGA) the screen would have to be double the size (or double the pixel density). But I don’t doubt this is coming in some future version of the device, and certainly it may make its debut in one of the laptops, where there would be only one sensor for every 4 or 6 screen pixels.

VGA is good enough for videoconferencing, but it’s barely 0.3MP when used as a camera. So it would still make sense to have the camera/screen facing the user and a higher-resolution camera on the back of the device. Two hi-res cameras, one on each side? Expensive. Moving cameras, twistable prism/mirror, zoom lens? Expensive and it would need moving parts… the iPhone is certainly a further design move towards having no moving parts at all, not even buttons if possible.

Speaking of moving parts, I’ve been told that practically everywhere it’s mandated that a phone’s SIM card be user-removable. I’ve checked the keynote and at the 39:20 mark Steve Jobs, discussing the top of the iPhone, says that there’s a “tray for the SIM card”. However, no opening, slot or door is visible. Sure, that might have been left out of the few prototypes – some reports say there are only a handful in existence. And the seam on the back of the device, between the black part and the metal, looks unusually wide; perhaps the phone slides apart there. If so, having a removable battery there would incur little extra cost, incidentally removing one of the objections that have been voiced.

In any event, much may change in the 5 months before the final model is in the stores, so I’d say both the doomsayers and the fanatics need to take a step back and relax for now.

Personally, I’m much more interested in the implications of “OS X” and the iPhone UI for Leopard. The zoom in/out gestures can now be seen as an evolution of the recently introduced control/scroll wheel zooming feature in Tiger. Couple that with higher pixel densitie, a fully resolution-independent interface and a larger trackpad on laptops (and perhaps a trackpad-like area on desktop keyboards or desktop mice?), and you’ll have easy zooming built into all versions of OS X/Leopard.

Still on the OS X topic, several people are swearing that the TV also runs OS X. While I’ve been unable to find any mention of this in either the keynote or Apple’s site, it would make sense. Unfortunately at the Apple booth at Macworld, people weren’t allowed to look at the configuration screen.