Following leaks over battery power, 5G, and pricing, two radical iPhone features have been published in a number of Apple patents. Not only are the screens going to fill more of the front of the phone, Tim Cook and his team are going to hide away the cameras and sensors under the screen, with 2020’s iPhone the potential beneficiary of this radical approach.
Details on the new design cues come from the team at Let’s Go Digital. Images published over a series of design patents confirms that Apple us working on a number of new features. Ilse Jurrien has more:
“Apple Inc. has applied for three notable design patents in Japan, showing an iPhone without notch. The documentation was published by the JPO (Japan Patent Office) on December 23, 2019, and includes four images per patent (1, 2, 3)… for a new smartphone design without a notch and without Face ID. Instead the new iPhone incorporates an in-display fingerprint sensor and an under-screen camera.”
Of note is the almost bezel free design and the lack of a notch.
The former matches up with a number of leaks, including the 3D model of the iPhone 12 Pro sourced by Macotakara. The screen eschews the more rounded corners of the current iPhone models are hark back to the square design of the iPhone 8. Meanwhile the bezels have been reduced as far as currently possible.
The latter, while part of the design, has bigger implications. There is no sign of any ‘pop-up’ camera, so the forward facing cameras and FaceID technology is either tightly packed under the small upper bezel, or (and this is more likely) mounted underneath the screen itself. Given the speaker cutout is on show, I suspect that mounting underneath the screen is the key technology here.
It’s worth noting that numerous Android handsets have under-screen fingerprint readers (optical and ultrasonic methods), and both Oppo and Xiaomi have demonstrated under-screen cameras during 2019. It should not come as a surprise that Apple is working on a similar idea for all of its forward facing sensors.
The big selling point will be if it has achieved all of the sensors under the expansive screen. And if it has done that, will it be the first smartphone manufacturer to do so?
Genuinely I’ve no idea. Although the features have been demonstrated, getting them into a mainstream handset with millions of sales is not an easy matter. There’s no hints (as yet) of such progress in the supply chain. We might see demo handsets with this tech at MWC in February, but reaching the market?
Apple’s expected reveal of the iPhone 12 in September is nine months away. Will the competition get to market in that window, or can Apple launch some genuinely new technology with this next-generation design? It is already promising 5G in all of the handsets, adding a larger screen and ‘invisible’ cameras may be the trump card Tim Cook and his team need to see a super-cycle of sales emerge.