One of the most visually distinctive features of the iPhone is the notch, the small area at the top of the screen that holds the camera and face sensor. This could be a thing of the past, however, as Apple’s Korean developers LG Innotek have begun developing under-display cameras (UDC).
UDCs are, essentially, cameras that rest underneath the screen and do not result in a physical hole in the screen to function. Their inclusion would allow for the iPhone screen to be seamless, and as such, offer a larger viewing area. However, some important caveats need to be considered.
The first is that, as the camera does not have an unrestricted view there is less light getting to the image sensor. This is because the light will have to pass through the screen to reach it, and this can lead to darker photos and a deterioration of image quality. This has been one of the main considerations for any smartphone developer when considering the design, as most phones on the market aim for high-quality photos.
LG Innotek, according to The Elec, has apparently found a method to counteract this issue. They are developing a special ‘freeform optic’ multiple-lens system that aims to reduce this problem, if not remove it entirely. This lens system aims to increase the light intensity ratio and improve the peripheral image quality. LG Innotek has been publishing patents for the technology since December last year, and will more than likely publish more as development progresses.
This new system would allow a UDC to have the same light saturation as current smartphone cameras, something that is a known requisite for Apple. There are reports that Apple had received UDC samples from an unknown vendor, but did not think that they were of high enough quality to warrant purchasing. LG Display, an affiliate of LG Innotek, is aware of this and has begun work on its own UDC that aims to increase the light transmittance by 20% in 2023 and 40% in 2024.
Importantly, this could link to the apparent work on an under-screen FaceID sensor on the iPhone 17 Pro. This information was tweeted by @DSCCRoss on X, and indicated the design roadmap for the iPhone series would have the iPhone 17 Pro as the last model to include a circular cut-out for the front-facing camera.
For the average user, the inclusion of a UDC could be a major selling point.
The best iPhones are already known for having the sexiest screens on the market, and allowing them to be larger would certainly be a good choice. It seems Apple is aware of this as well, considering its push to reach certain standards before even considering adding the feature. While we don't know how long development will take, it's likely that the Apple notch will soon be a thing of the past.
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Josh is a staff writer for Tom's Guide and is based in the UK. He has worked for several publications but now works primarily on mobile phones. Outside of phones, he has a passion for video games, novels, and Warhammer.