Apple has filed a patent application in Europe that describes eliminating the Dreaded Notch via Cameras under the Display
In April 2022 and February 2023 Patently Apple posted patent reports about Apple working on eliminating the dreaded notch. Today, Patently Apple discovered yet another patent application filing from Apple in Europe showing Apple's determination in finding a solution that could finally hide their Face ID camera system, leaving users with a full-face display.
While this patent filing doesn't guarantee that Apple will bring this feature to market, it definitely proves that their engineering teams are working hard to find the right workable solution that will preserve Face ID quality while giving users a full display for content.
In Apple's patent background they note that there's a trend towards borderless electronic devices with a full-face display. These devices, however, may still need to include sensors such as cameras, ambient light sensors, and proximity sensors to provide other device capabilities. Since the display now covers the entire front face of the electronic device, the sensors will have to be placed under the display stack.
In practice, however, the amount of light transmission through the display stack is very low (i.e., the transmission might be less than 20% in the visible spectrum), which severely limits the sensing performance under the display. This is what Apple's patent application aims to remedy.
Displays having Transparent Openings
Apple's patent covers an electronic device (iPhone) that may include a display and an optical sensor formed underneath the display.
Apple explains that the electronic device may include a plurality of non-pixel regions that overlap the optical sensor. Each non-pixel region may he devoid of thin-film transistors and other display components. The plurality of non-pixel regions is configured to increase the transmittance of light through the display to the sensor. The non-pixel regions may therefore be referred to as transparent windows in the display.
Light passing through the transparent windows may have associated diffraction artifacts based on the pattern of the transparent windows. To mitigate diffraction artifacts, a first sensor may sense light through a first pixel removal region having transparent windows arranged according to a first pattern. A second sensor may sense light through a second pixel removal region having transparent windows arranged according to a second pattern that is different than the first pattern.
The first and second patterns of the transparent windows may result in the first and second sensors having different diffraction artifacts. Therefore, an image from the first sensor may be corrected for diffraction artifacts based on an image from the second sensor. There may be a gradual transition between a full pixel density region of the display and a pixel removal region in the display.
In one arrangement, thin-film transistor sub-pixels may be smaller than a pixel area for a given sub-pixel, providing a transparent opening around the periphery of each thin-film transistor sub-pixel. To mitigate back emission that is sensed by the sensor under the display, the display may include a black pixel definition layer.
Additionally light absorbing layers may be coated on metal layers in the thin-film transistor layer of the display to mitigate back emission. Signal lines in the pixel removal region may be transparent.
Apple's patent FIGS. 18A-18F below are front views showing how the display (#14) may have one or more localized pixel removal regions in which the pixels are selectively removed. Apple shows that they could hide the cameras in specific areas of a display or, as in FIG. 18F, have the pixel removal region covering the entire display surface where a user wouldn't be able to see the cameras.
For those wanting to read this long technical patent and its many additional patent figures, review Apple's European patent application number EP4193388.
- Yuchi Che: Engineering Manager Display Design
- Abbas Jamshidi: Senior Manager (Display/Touch TFG Backplane Design
- Jean-Pierre Guillou: Display Engineering
- Sebastian Knitter, PhD: Optical Engineering Manager
- Warren Rieutort-Louis: Engineering Manager
- Tsung-Ting Tsai: Engineer manager