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Apple is working on Thinner next-gen micro-LED Displays with Integrated Solar Cells, Multiple Display Devices and much more

1 cover foldable devices


Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to reducing the display stack that will enable Apple to deliver thinner and brighter micro-LED display with integrated solar cells or thinner displays supporting touch-screen fingerprint ID, multiple and/or foldable display systems and more.


Today Microsoft has used a similar display system for their Surface Duo which critics have marveled at how thin two displays are thinner than some single display smartphone. So, Apple's patent isn't just about a thinner display stack but rather what new doors, products and features such thinner displays will allow Apple to deliver over time.   


In Apple's patent background they note that a conventional electronic device incorporating both a display and a light sensing system typically requires a large-area protective outer cover that extends beyond a periphery of the display stack to reserve space to accommodate the light sensing system.


This conventional construction undesirably increases the apparent size of a bezel region circumscribing the display, while also undesirably increasing the size and volume of the housing of the electronic device. Apple's invention is to change the display stack and light sensing system that could make devices thinner and better for things like possible future Touch ID displays.


Apple's states that one aspect of their invention covers a light sensing system including an array of photodetectors (e.g., photodiodes and/or solar cells) integrated into inter-pixel regions and/or perimeter regions of a pixel define layer of an organic light emitting diode display incorporated into an electronic device.


In other implementations, a light sensing system can include an array of photodiodes and/or solar cells integrated into inter-pixel regions or perimeter regions of a micro-LED display incorporated into an electronic device.


Further, Apple states that "the light sensing system can assemble an image of an object touching the display …" which is describing Touch ID built-into a display for Apple Watch for example.


To clarify this point, Apple states that "the light sensing system is used as an ambient light sensor and in some cases used in  an optical imaging system (e.g. camera, light field sensor, depth sensor, fingerprint imaging sensor, iris or retina imaging system, and so on); a touch input sensor; a force input sensor; a biometric measurement system (e.g., photoplethysmogram sensor, blood oxygenation sensor, respiration sensor, and so on); and so on.


Later in patent paragraph #0050 Apple states that "the light sensing system can be used to obtain an image of a fingerprint of a user touching the display.


Other Examples include: obtaining an image of a document laid on the display; obtaining an image of a palm, or vein pattern, of a user touching the display; obtaining an image of a stylus tip touching the display; obtaining a visible-spectrum, infrared, or ultraviolet image of a currency node laid on the display; and so on.


Apple's patent FIG. 1A depicts an electronic device 100, including a housing 102 that encloses a display stack defining a display that incorporates a light sensing system, such as described herein. The electronic device 100 is depicted as a cellular phone or handheld tablet computer, but this is not required of all embodiments. Other example electronic devices or electronic device types that can include a housing that encloses a display stack defining a display include but are not limited to: personal electronic devices; laptop computers; desktop computers; peripheral input devices; health monitoring devices; smart watch devices; worn devices; vehicle or aeronautical control or interface devices; industrial control devices; and so on.


Accordingly, generally and broadly in view of FIG. 1, it is understood that an electronic device including a display suitable for detection of incident light can be configured in a number of ways. For example, although the electronic device #100 is depicted as a cellular phone, it may be appreciated that other electronic devices can incorporate a display stack such as described herein including, but not limited to: tablet devices; laptop devices; desktop computers; computing accessories; peripheral input devices; vehicle control devices; mobile entertainment devices; augmented reality devices; virtual reality devices; industrial control devices; digital wallet devices; home security devices; business security devices; wearable devices; health devices; implantable devices; clothing devices; fashion accessory devices; and so on.


micro light-emitting diode (Micro LED) displays; liquid crystal displays (LCDs); quantum dot displays; and so on.


Multiple and/or Foldable Displays


Further into the patent, Apple states that although the electronic device 100 (an iPhone) that includes only a single rectangular display, it may be appreciated that this example is not exhaustive. In other embodiments, an electronic device can include, or may be communicably coupled to, multiple displays, one or more of which may be suitable for detection of incident light.


Similarly, a rectangular display may not be required; other embodiments are implemented with displays taking other shapes, including three-dimensional shapes (e.g., curved displays, foldable displays, and so on). Our cover graphic displays another Apple patent covering a folding phone and with a thinner display stack, Apple could make the display much thinner, lighter and perhaps more flexible.


Accessory/Auxiliary Displays


The invention also relates to possible future accessory/auxiliary displays that can include function row or keyboard key displays; wearable electronic device displays; peripheral input devices (e.g., trackpads, mice, keyboards, and so on incorporating displays; digital wallet screens; and so on. One such example was presented in a report that we posted last week regarding a second display in a possible future iPhone folio.


2 iPhone folio with secondary display


Apple's Patent FIG. 5 below depicts a simplified schematic view of a display stack that can incorporate a light sensing system for detection of incident light including multiple discrete light sensors; FIG. 3 depicts another example arrangement of pixels of a display stack incorporating a light sensing system


3 Apple patent figures re thinner display stack  micro-LED


Apple's patent FIG. 7 above is a simplified flow chart depicting example operations of a method of operating a light sensing system; and FIG. 8 is a simplified flow chart depicting example operations of a method of operating a light sensing system with a touch sensing system.


Apple's patent application number 20200319731 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back Q2 2019. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such display products to market is unknown at this time.


10.51FX - Patent Application Bar


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