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Here's how Apple could pull off the notch-free display on the iPhone 14 Pro

a render of the rumored iPhone 14 Pro
(Image credit: Madmix)

[Update: We're just hours away from the Apple event, where we could see the iPhone 14 range, Apple Watch 8Apple Watch 8 ProApple Watch SE 2, and potentially the AirPods Pro 2 all revealed. You can catch all the action on our Apple event live blog today.]

The iPhone 14 is almost here, with Apple likely to announce its latest phones at an upcoming September 7 event. And when that date arrives, two of the models could be sporting a very different look.

Both iPhone 14 Pro models are expected to drop the notch from their displays, the first flagship iPhones to debut without a notch since Apple introduced the design with 2017's iPhone X. Instead, the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max are expected to use a circular cutout for their front cameras, along with a pill-shaped cutout for the various Face ID sensors used to unlock the device.

While it seems like a tall order for Apple to be able to pack in all the technology into a pill cutout, a new patent filed by the company reveals just how it might achieve this.

According to Patently Apple (opens in new tab), the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from the tech giant that shows different iterations of how Apple can reduce the size of the notch and fit in the technology in a tighter space. The patent mentions different combinations of using a “light folding projector,” camera and an infrared light emitter that can reflect and redirect IR light. 

The patent describes how the light folding projector can be used to “reduce the footprint of components to maximize the display area and thereby decrease the size of the iPhone's notch.” It goes on to say that the infrared emitter does not have to be placed in the notch — if it is placed on the side of the phone or at the bottom, the light folding projector will act like a prism and turn the beam by 90 degrees, according to 9to5Mac (opens in new tab).

“This can reduce the overall size of the imaging and sensing components, thus decreasing the size of a notch for holding the imaging and sensing component and increasing the display area of the device,” the patent said.

After the first iPhone with a notch arrived five years ago, Apple's phone design remained relatively unchanged until last year, when all four iPhone 13 saw their notch reduced by 20%. Now some models will get rid of the notch altogether, though an iPhone 14 vs. iPhone 14 Pro rumor comparison reveals that the less expensive iPhones are expected to keep their notches.

The notch's removal will be quite an accomplishment given all the different sensors and technology needed for the iPhone's TrueDepth camera system. That setup includes a selfie camera, an infrared camera, a depth sensor and a dot projector that is instrumental in Face ID. The newly revealed patent application shows how those different parts can be compressed. 

An alleged real-life image of the iPhone 14 Pro's new notch

(Image credit: DuanRui)

Since the patent was recently filed, there is no guarantee that we will see the technology in this year’s iPhones. That said, rumors about the fate of the notch have been fairly consistent about Apple's plans. Many leaks after that have suggested what the notch could look like on the Pro models. A recent iPhone 14 Pro leak shows what the phone could look like in real-life and gives us a clear glimpse of the new pill-shaped notch.

Beside the notch rumor, the iPhone 14 Pro is tipped to get a 48MP main camera. Other potential upgrades include an always-on display and new color options including dark purple

We will know very soon at Apple’s September event everything that the new set of iPhones will bring. We might also see the Apple Watch 8 and Apple Watch SE 2 for the first time at the event and maybe even the AirPods Pro 2 if we’re lucky.

Next: We thought about how the iPhone 14 Pro camera upgrade could mean better low light images which is a big deal.

Sanjana Prakash
News Editor

Sanjana loves all things tech. From the latest phones, to quirky gadgets and the best deals, she's in sync with it all. Based in Atlanta, she is the news editor at Tom's Guide. Previously, she produced India's top technology show for NDTV and has been a tech news reporter on TV. Outside work, you can find her on a tennis court or sipping her favorite latte in instagrammable coffee shops in the city. Her work has appeared on NDTV Gadgets 360 and CNBC.