Apple patents tiny thru-holes in OLED display, HUD windows & more slick tech for full-face iPhone

iPhone edge to edge ConceptsiPhone 001

A new patent No. 9,543,364 for “Electronic devices having displays with openings” has been awarded to Apple this morning by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). First filed for in February 2015, this newly granted patent reveals more ways iPhone 8 will outclass Android rivals.

The invention would basically put some common components typically found on the front face of the phone behind the display assembly.

What components are we talking about?

Well, stuff like the earpiece, forward-facing cameras, Touch ID and various sensors. Integrating such parts behind the display assembly would help design a truly edge-to-edge device. Apple is thought to be working on such designs for its upcoming OLED-based iPhone 8 refresh.

As mentioned, some of the components including the front-facing camera, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, microphone and more could be hidden below the cover glass or in an inactive portion of the display.

Apple patent fullscreen iPhone display holes drawing 001
The holes may have different shapes and positions relative to the actual pixels.

A series of holes formed between the individual pixels would allow the underlying sensors to gather image (camera) and light data (ambient/proximity sensor), radio waves (Wi-Fi/Bluetooth/NFC antenna) and acoustic signals (microphone and ear speakers).

These microscopic pores would need to be unobtrusive and near-invisible to the human eye as to not degrade the clarity and sharpness of the screen. No matter how you look at it, Apple’s solution would definitely require an OLED-based display because the traditional LCD technology requires uninterrupted backlighting layer underneath the screen, where Apple’s patent envisions hiding the sensors and other components.

Apple patent fullscreen iPhone sensors drawing 001
Sub-screen speakers, cameras, sensors and more.

One or more openings in the display may also form a window through which a user of the device may view an external object. Display pixels in the window region may be used in forming a heads-up display or window of sorts.

This heads-up display system may be formed from a glass panel on the rear of the device and the main transparent OLED display. This sounds a lot like the augmented reality feature the next iPhone is rumored to provide.

The heads-up system might leverage the rear-facing camera to capture scene imagery, then the system would project computer images containing useful information about surrounding objects onto the sub-display window.

Apple patent fullscreen iPhone HUD window drawing 001

For what it’s worth, Apple is rumored to be considering an entry into the augmented reality market within the next one to two years, with initial solutions potentially integrated into iPhone and possibly an Apple-branded digital glasses with Carl Zeiss optics.

Apple’s patent credits engineers Benjamin M. Rappoport, Jeremy C. Franklin, Fletcher R. Rothkopf, Scott A. Myers, Richard P. Howarth, Julian Hoenig, Christopher J. Stringer, John P. Ternus and Stephen Brian Lynch as its inventors.

I’m more excited for the thru-holes in the display than any AR applications.

Putting the components behind the display would help either completely eliminate or drastically reduce the size of the phone’s “forehead” (the bread above the screen) and “chin” (the area below the screen where the Home button is located.

As a result, iPhone 8’s screen-to-body ratio should help engineer a device with a large screen that wouldn’t feel massive in one’s hand as iPhone 7 Plus does while being more comfortable to grip like Samsung’s curved-screen Galaxy lineup of smartphones are.

For instance, Xiaomi’s recently launched Mi Mix fits a 6.4-inch AMOLED panel in a 5.7-inch body by using piezoelectric ceramic acoustic system for phone calls, replacing the proximity sensor with some cool tech, using an in-screen Home button and more.

What do you think about Apple’s latest patent grant and does it pave the way for a next-generation iPhone with a full-face display, do you think?

Source: USPTO