Science: Apple has an insane idea to get rid of the iPhone’s top

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Everyone in the mobile industry wants to improve the design of smartphones. Apple wants to get rid the iPhone’s notch. Android handset manufacturers are also trying to eliminate the hole-punch cameras. However, no one is removing the front-facing components of the handset. Cameras, sensors, and speakers must remain where they are. Depending on the phone, they might be under or inside the screen. For example, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will feature an under-display cam. ZTE launched two smartphones with under-display cameras. Other Chinese smartphone manufacturers have worked on similar designs for many years.

Over at Apple, the iPhone 13 will be the first iPhone with a smaller notch. The company is still working on various solutions to fit the components under the display.

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Science: Replacing the sensors underneath the display

In the last few weeks we have seen several Apple patents that allow sensors to read 3D and 2D information through smartphones. This will allow the iPhone’s display to scan faces and read fingerprints. This tech will allow future iPhones support Face ID and Touch ID. Apple will also remove the iPhone notch.

USPTO patent number 11,073,712 was awarded to Apple on July 27th, 2021, after being filed on April 10th, 2018. This patent covers technology that allows Apple fingerprint reading through a display layer. This technology is applicable to iPhones, MacBooks and other devices.

In December 2019, Apple filed documentation for a related invention. USPTO awarded patent number 11,067,884 to Apple on July 20th. Like 712, 884 describes technology that makes it possible to read 2D or 3D objects through the screen.

Both would allow Apple remove the iPhone’s notch. It is important that the sensors provide the required functionality while not making the display look ugly. Apple’s new innovation may help with this.

Apple filed for a patent titled Electronic devices with adjustable display windows in May 2020 (via Patently Apple). The USPTO awarded the patent to the company on August 3rd (patent number 11,079,797). Like 712 and 884, this patent gives Apple a method by which to place optical sensors under the display. But unlike 712 and 884, the innovation ensures that images captured through the screen are perfect and that the screen itself is perfect.

Science: An iPhone display with moving parts

Light does not have to pass through OLED pixels in order to reach the sensor. Apple will simply slide a portion of the screen out of reach when sensors are required. This innovation appears to be targeted at Face ID components, and not Touch ID.

The patent provides two ways to achieve this trick. One option is to have a moving display window. The OLED window can be opened to allow light through the sensor when camera functionality or sensor functionality are required. Apple says that the technology could use a periscope camera. This is very exciting. This is what such a display might look like.

The second option is rolling the entire screen by a few millimeters to offer unobscured access to the camera. The iPhone notch components would be effectively hidden under the OLED panel in either case.

When the screen moves to make room for front sensors such as Face ID cameras or Face ID cameras, the contents of the screen can move in accordance with the movement. This ensures that the user experience doesn’t get disrupted. Apple even explained that the screen would move to the right and the contents of the screen to the left at the same speed.

Only the OLED layer would move in either case, not the rigid glass panel on top of it. This means that the user will not be able to touch any moving parts.

The battery life is a major drawback to moving the phone’s screen. The display will require additional components in either of the examples. These components could eat up internal space that could be used to increase the battery’s capacity. The battery would also need to power the screen’s movements.

Science: What if Apple doesn’t think of the iPhone?

Considering the chronology of these three patents, ‘797 might seem like the kind of innovation that allows Apple to cover all its bases. Apple could use a moving display to kill the iPhone notch if the earlier ideas fail.

But what if ‘797 isn’t just for iPhones? Or, better yet, what if the invention targets other Apple devices such as laptops and foldable devices.

When referring to the drawing above, Apple explains that “one or more displays such as display 14 may cover all of front face F, part of front face F, some or all of rear face R, and/or some or all of sidewalls W.” In other words, Apple is describing phones with wraparound screens. These could include phones with multiple screens or screens that fold around corners.

A periscope camera can be exciting because it could help Apple squeeze Face ID components in thinner devices. Foldable phones are also eligible. The MacBook, however, is not the type of device that is getting much Face ID love. Its screen panel is too thin for the Face ID sensors.

Finally, the fact that Apple is looking at rollable displays is also a highlight of patent ‘797.

All of this speculation is purely speculation. Apple cannot guarantee that it will “kill” the iPhone notch with its patented technology.

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