Next year’s iPhone may be called the iPhone 8, recent reports have suggested, and the handset is expected to feature a face that is almost entirely taken up by the display, according to sources familiar with Apple’s plans. There’s plenty of “proof” to support the idea that the home button is going away — well, it’s going to be relocated — but until today there was no evidence that the top bezel of the handset would also be removed.
The bottom bezel only houses the home button, which means that Apple can turn that unused real estate into screen space by burying the button under the display. And Apple patents already prove that such technology is in development.
But the top bezel is more complex. It contains the ambient light sensor, a proximity sensor, the front speaker and the front-facing camera. To remove it completely, Apple would have to add all these features to the display. To reduce the size of the bezel though, only some of those components would need to be moved.
A new patent discovered by Apple Insider reveals that Apple is indeed looking to relocate the front-facing sensors to beneath the display. Titled Electronic devices with display-integrated light sensors, US patent no. 9,466,653 explains the technology that would help Apple incorporate the light sensor into the screen without affecting the functionality of either the touchscreen or the sensor itself.
Apple’s description of the technology is quite telling, as it shows the company isn’t happy with bezels on the iPhone. It’s just that previous technology would not accommodate Apple’s design ideas.
“In a typical device, a light sensor is laterally displaced from an active display region of the display along a front face of the device,” Apple writes. “Additional space is therefore provided in common devices at the top, bottom, or side of the active display area to accommodate the light sensor. This can result in an undesirable increase in the size and weight of the device, if care is not taken, displays may be bulky or may be surrounded by overly large borders.”
The document continues, “It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved electronic devices with light sensors and displays.”
The inventions would cover any gadget that contains sensors in the bezel, including the iPhone, iPad and Mac. Apple does not name any of them specifically, but illustrations inside the patent application show laptops as well as phones and tablets.
Interestingly, the patent also mentions OLED as the type of screen technology in question, which can be seen as more evidence that Apple’s next iPhone will have an OLED display rather than LCD. That’s assuming the tech detailed so far will be included in the next-gen iPhone.
If Apple is indeed researching this type of technology, it surely must mean that it’s also trying to figure out how to include the camera and speaker in the display as well. Imagine a future iPhone where you see nothing but screen when you hold it in your hand.