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