Here’s how Apple will reduce the notch in the upcoming iPhone 14

An Apple patent reveals how the company will decrease the size of the iPhone 14’s notch by using a light-folding infrared projector instead of a standard one.

Patent drawing illustrating how Apple's light-folded infrared projector will bend light to make the notch smaller
Image: Apple / USPTO

How Apple will shrink the iPhone 14’s notch

The infamous notch, that cutout at the top of the display of Face ID-enabled iPhone models, houses a bunch of parts that Apple calls the TrueDepth camera.

They include not only your standard FaceTime front camera but also components for Face ID: an infrared camera, dot projector and flood illuminator. On top of that, the notch even houses the iPhone’s speaker, microphone and two sensors to measure ambient light and the proximity of the phone to the user’s ear.

A scene from the iPhone X keynote showcasing the TrueDepth camera parts

For the iPhone 14 models, Apple is believed to use a different arrangement of these components. The FaceTime camera should be housed within a small circular cutout next to the notch. The notch itself will shrink in size and adopt a pill shape.

Apple’s patent application, titled “Light-Folded Projector”, reveals how the company might fit the same amount of parts into a much smaller space.

The secret is in using a new part that bends light. This light folding element takes the infrared light provided by the infrared emitter in folds it one or more times before it exits the device. Read: How to set up an alternate appearance with Face ID

Apple notes that this approach could make Face ID even more accurate.

The secret is in mirrors

Patent drawing showing Apple's light-folded infrared projector fopr Face ID taht could be used to decrease the notch size
Image: Apple / USPTO

From Apple’s patent application:

In some embodiments, the device may include one or more lenses optically between the infrared light emitter and the light folding element such that the one or more lenses may pass through the infrared light from the infrared 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 infrared light. This can improve the object detection and/or recognition performance for the device

Apple’s solution reminds us of telescope lens technology (which the iPhone is expected to adopt at some point) that uses prims to turn the light beam. In fact, one of the patent drawings shows a prism positioned at 45 degrees.

This results in a smaller notch area

Apple notes that its light-folding dot projector could also be used in other devices, including future Mac notebooks, iMacs, augmented reality headsets and more.

Read the full text of the patent on the USPTO website.