The new Reduced Apple Notch Design for iPhone 14 may be due to Apple's use of a new Patent-Pending Light Folded Projector
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to Apple's iPhone that may use a light-folded projector to reduce the footprint of components to maximize the display area and thereby decrease the size of the iPhone's notch. This may be how Apple will reduce the notch in their upcoming iPhone 14 and take on the new look for the camera cutout and pill-shaped area as our cover graphic presents.
Apple notes in their patent application that the use of the light-folded projector can reduce footprint of the imaging and sensing components of a device to increase the display area for the device such as a device with bezels.
In particular, the use of the light folding element can provide more flexibility for positioning the IR light emitter with respect to the other components such as the IR detector and front-facing camera. For instance, because the light folding element can change the transmission direction of the IR light, the IR light emitter may not necessarily be limited to a specific installation location. Instead, the IR light emitter may be placed at a location with less-constrained space, and use the light folding element to project the IR light in a specific direction. This can reduce the overall size of the imaging and sensing components, thus decreasing size of a notch for holding the imaging and sensing component and increasing the display area of the device.
In some embodiments, the light folding element may be positioned at least partially between an enclosure of the front-facing camera and an closure of the device. For instance, at least a portion of the light folding element may be positioned between a portion of the front-facing camera and a cover glass of the device.
In some embodiments, the device may include one or more lenses optically between the IR light emitter and the light folding element such that the one or more lenses may pass through the IR light from the IR light emitter to the light folding element. The one or more lenses may provide optical power to the light-folded projector such that the light-folded projector may have the ability to focus the emitted IR light. This can improve the object detection and/or recognition performance for the device.
Further, the wafer scale optics technology may reduce the size of the lenses compared to other manufacturing processes. In some embodiments, the at least one wafer scale lens may be formed by bonding or mounting one or more plastic portions to a glass substrate.
Below are two examples of a future light folded projector to be used on an iPhone to reduce it's notch area.
Beyond Apple's iPhone, the new light folded projector could be used in future MacBooks and a host of future devices such as a VR headset, iMac, television and others.
This a complex invention with many versions of the light folded projector being presented that are greatly detailed to the point that only engineers could truly appreciate. See Apple's patent application 20220268976 for more.