The improved camera system would include a digital imaging subsystem and an optical-axis lens, covered by a removable back panel, a first (if true) for an Apple phone.
The patent drawings depict an iPhone-like structure with new optical options would allow users to reconfigure or even replace the lens depending on the photo opportunity; A process more closely resembling high-end digital cameras with features like supplementary lenses and filters, optical zoom, and optical image stabilization.
While a camera's digital imaging subsystem is usually encased within the device for protection, the company said in it's patent, it would be "desirable to provide a structure for a compact device that allows the end user to reconfigure the optical arrangement of the device while retaining the benefits of assembling the device using a pre-assembled digital imaging subsystem."
In other words, the iDevice (if it is) would allow users to open the back panel without disrupting the digital imaging subsystem to change the lens or take black and white photos at low light levels.
According to the patent application, Apple could also be working to include better shutter speeds, to provide better control of image exposure.
A panel with two lenses built-in at opposite ends isn't out of the question, judging by one of the patent's drawings. To swap from a telephoto lens to a different filter, just flip the panel upside down.
Apple earned a patent earlier this month for its distinctive laptop teardrop design; the company also unveiled a patent June 7 for possible QuickTime player changes.