Apple stuck with the same iPhone design for three straight years, prompting some critics to say that the iPhone’s design is “boring,” and that Apple can’t innovate anymore. It turns out, however, that Apple has been planning a massive iPhone redesign for years, while waiting for the required technology to mature. The iPhone 8 due later this year might finally offer us the iPhone of our dreams, which Apple envisioned so many years ago.
The iPhone 8 is widely expected to feature an all-screen design, and the physical home button is expected to disappear for good. The Touch ID sensor, meanwhile, should be placed under the screen, according to many reports and leaks. A pair of patents awarded to Apple on Tuesday, first seen by Patently Apple, describe critical innovations that would make this new iPhone 8 possible.
Patent 9,652,096 was filed on July 29th, 2014, while patent 9,652,066 was filed on January 27th, 2014. At the time, Apple was selling the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, its first ever smartphones with displays bigger than 4 inches.
The first patent describes technology that would let Apple significantly reduce the bezels on a smartphone. Specifically, Apple explores the idea of bending a display or touch sensor to extend the screen and reduce the bezels.
The second contains explanations of how to integrate a fingerprint sensor within the display. It describes “transparent conductive finger biometric sensing pixels” that would be incorporated within the display to read a user’s fingerprint. One of the immediate benefits of such technology would be allowing an app to authenticate the user while he or she is using the app, without interrupting operation at all.
Both patents indicate that Apple has been working on all-screen iPhones at least as far back as the iPhone 6, but probably even earlier. It’s just that the technology that would let Apple design such a phone wasn’t there, or wasn’t easy to mass-produce. In fact, most rumors say that including fingerprint-sensing tech in the display is still very difficult this year, and might delay the iPhone 8’s release. This drawing from the ‘066 patent shows the complex layers of a touchscreen display that would contain fingerprint sensing pixels:
These are just two of Apple’s patents that describe innovations required for a full-screen iPhone, but Apple has other similar patents that explain how a device like this would work. Whatever solutions Apple ends up choosing, one thing is certain: The iPhone maker has been working on various pieces of this next major iPhone redesign for quite a while now.