Apple Patent Integrates Ambient Light Sensor Directly Into iPhone's Display

Discussion in 'iOS Blog Discussion' started by MacRumors, Oct 11, 2016.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office today granted Apple another patent that could help the company create a bezel-free, edge-to-edge display for future generation iPhones. The new patent describes "electronic devices with display-integrated light sensors" and specifically refers to methods by which the company could stack the iPhone's ambient light sensor underneath the display, instead of next to it on the iPhone's bezel (via AppleInsider).

    In the patent, there are a few configurations through which Apple could execute the technology. One showcases the light sensors -- which help the iPhone detect the ambient light in a room or outside -- integrated directly above the touch-sensitive layer of the display (figure 6), while another has the sensor placed next to the touch-sensitive layer without intersecting it (figure 9). The patent notes that the methods of executing this technology aren't limited to just light sensors, but could be used for "a proximity sensor, or any other sensor."

    In the above images, there are two sections of the device's display that Apple notes in the patent as "AA" and "IA." AA is considered the display area that functionally gives information to the user and which responds to touch-based input, while IA -- covering the proposed screen-integrated sensor technology -- is referred to as an "inactive border region."

    The patent describes the inactive region of IA as covered with an "opaque masking material such as a layer of black ink (e.g., a polymer filled with carbon black) or a layer of opaque metal," and surrounding the active region of AA. The ultimate goal of IA is apparently to hide components in the interior of a device from user view by camouflaging the region to look similarly like the active display it borders.

    In effect, this could mean a future iPhone would successfully lose the bezels of the current generations and gain an edge-to-edge display, but not all portions of that display would be interactive.

    Last week, Apple was granted another patent hinting at future iPhone technology that could integrate a fingerprint sensor directly into the display of a device, instead of requiring a separate component and taking up space below the screen of iPhones and iPads. With these two patents, Apple is slowly discover ways to remove the bezel from the bottom of an iPhone (Home Button/Touch ID) and the top (light sensor), although it remains to be seen how the company would handle the front-facing FaceTime camera and speaker in this scenario.

    Article Link: Apple Patent Integrates Ambient Light Sensor Directly Into iPhone's Display
  2. skwood macrumors 6502a


    Jul 8, 2013
    Tonbridge, UK
  3. AngerDanger, Oct 11, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016

    AngerDanger macrumors 68040


    Dec 9, 2008
    Potential usability issues aside, the prospect of having an iOS device that is all screen is incredibly exciting.

    Apple's ethos of devices deferring to content would be perfected.


    It occurred to me, while making this quick-and-dirty edit, that it would look a lot like an Watch… and it's not so bad. The corners of the screen might be an issue, though.


  4. jayducharme macrumors 68040


    Jun 22, 2006
    The thick of it
    So does this imply that Apple hasn't been taking enough care with the design of their current and past iPhones?
  5. rjohnstone macrumors 68040


    Dec 28, 2007
    PHX, AZ.
    Curious to see how they deal with light bleed from the display itself.
    In an LCD stack, this will be tough to filter out.
  6. JackANSI macrumors 6502a


    Feb 3, 2011
    Or they just might not want anyone beating them to it since they are getting slow at innovation.

    A patent issued is not always a patent used.
  7. 2457282 Suspended

    Dec 6, 2012
    But if they go with micro leds like I have been saying instead of oled, I think this would be doable.
  8. keysofanxiety macrumors G3


    Nov 23, 2011
    Why the heck does everybody keep saying this? What do you class as innovation in a phone?

    In-house designed CPU. Double per-core performance of the closest competitor. Doesn't even explode. Yet throw a few bezels in and people are screaming that the end is nigh.
  9. morcutt11 macrumors 6502


    Jun 26, 2015
    Now they just have to figure out how to get a front-facing camera and speaker to work on the display. That would be an interesting patent to see....
  10. JackANSI, Oct 11, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2016

    JackANSI macrumors 6502a


    Feb 3, 2011
    Why the heck does everyone keep saying that. It's all over now, anyone who keeps their device is not taking personal responsibility for themselves (and probably hoping it does explode so they can get in on a law suit). Samsung screwed up on it's battery capacity vs charge rate calculations in an effort to make the thing charge 2.5x faster than an iPhone. That's pushing innovation right up to the edge (they got bit, but I bet they'll keep trying).

    Meanwhile... Apple can't even figure out how to waterproof a headphone jack.

    Yes, I love what Apple is doing with their mobile CPUs. It's quite the miracle they pull it off year after year. But they're a few years behind in adopting the big.LITTLE tech. You also can't get too far actually using all that HP they put in it because the battery is so dang small.

    Tiny bezels are worthless to me. Wrap around screen or anything like that? Nope. Anyone who has looked at a Galaxy Edge and wondered when Apple will do that is nuts. It's distracting, weakens the front glass, and it just doesn't add anything valuable to the phone or the user experience. Also make the dang thing harder to hold securely when doing stuff on the move. These people that want a zero-bezel phone must just want to set it on a desk and take pictures of it, because they sure as heck don't have any idea how hard something like that is to actually use.

    --- Post Merged, Oct 11, 2016 ---
    I'm half wondering why they didn't come up with something using that plastic surround that's between the display and the case. That would have been innovation.
  11. djlythium macrumors 6502a


    Jun 11, 2014
  12. macduke macrumors G3


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    Wasn't there a patent filing from several years ago about how they could build a camera into a display? I also thought there was a patent about using the surface glass of the device itself to project sound waves. The downside to that is you end up with vibrations like—and probably even worse than—the iPad Air 2 speakers.

    This is how I ultimately see the iPhone design going in the future:
    • Hardly any side bezels
    • Top and bottom bezels are much thinner. Too thin for a home button, but thick enough for an earpiece top and bottom with a small margin around them
      • The top and bottom earpiece act as front facing stereo speakers
      • This could possibly help with a water ejection system like the Apple Watch
      • This makes the iPhone so you can pick it up and use it in either orientation
      • This removes the speakers from the bottom
      • The camera is next to one of these speakers. Although I do have this idea in which there are two FaceTime cameras top and bottom, and while using it, it creates a depth map like the 7 Plus camera that can blur out the background. That could be useful during video chat (more privacy for those in the background—I can think of several times my wife has nearly walked fully nude through the background of a video chat over the years), but I think it's unlikely.
      • I'm unsure where to put the bottom mic
    • TouchID built into the display. Problems I see with that:
      • You need a better taptic engine, multiple taptic engines on either end of the device, or perhaps a stronger one in the center of the device. Having it under the home button currently provides a better sensation. What if you can unlock your devices with a press of the finger anywhere on the display?
      • If the whole thing is a home button, how do you invoke that—a really deep press?
      • Will there only be a certain area of the display, highlighted by a circle, that you must press? Does this circle always stay illuminated, perhaps using OLED or mLED technology to preserve power and only illuminate those pixels making up the circle?
    • Wireless charging
      • This kills the lightning port
      • This adds a smart connector on the back, which is a backup charging method that easiliy attaches with a flat magnetic latch.
      • This allows the iPhone to become even thinner over time as the lightning port takes up space in depth and height.
      • This will be a pain at first as users have to install wireless chargers around their home and office.
      • There will have to be decent software to preserve battery lifespan if there are always chargers sending signals. How do you balance keeping an iPhone always charged while hurting battery lifespan with wanting to charge fully if you're going to be out for the day? Is there a Control Center toggle to switch between maintain charge and completely charge? Sounds like a burden on the user.
    • Remove the mute switch like on the iPad and allow control in Control Center and by holding down the volume down button for a couple seconds
    • Remove the sim card slot and have everything be a programmable Apple Sim which is easy to transfer by signing in to your wireless provider
    • 4", 5", 6" sizes.
      • The reduced bezels makes the 5" and 6" sizes about the same width of the 7 and 7 Plus but makes the height smaller.
      • The 4" iPhone overall becomes a lot smaller at some point later with an update
    • Thinner.
      • This is possible due to a shrink in CPU process, as well as new battery technology forecast to come onto the market in the next year which roughly doubles battery life of lithium batteries without significant changes needing to be made to existing factory lines.
      • Chip size is not only physically smaller, but more efficient. More room inside means less depth, and not only that, but I think they could even get away with doing this and increasing battery life if those new batteries pan out.
    • New materials
      • Possibly ceramic, perhaps only for higher end models or a Pro model. Maybe they could work with Corning on this. Glass that is shatterproof from all normal drop heights and yet has a sapphire-like coating to prevent scratches.
      • They could always do something with Liquidmetal, which has been rumored on and off for years
    • mLED display @3X resolution on both device sizes (including true, non-scaled @3X on the Plus)
      • This allows a larger-sized 6" iPhone to stay above 400PPI (422)
      • Issue #1: this pushes a 5" iPhone to 459PPI, which would be better than the Plus, but will anybody even care at that resolution?
      • Issue #2: Would Apple scale up the UI on a larger display @3X, or give us more display space?
      • mLED saves battery life and gives much better contrast
    • Electrostatic tactile display
      • Enables virtual ridges for things like keyboards to make virtual interfaces more tactile
      • Allows simulations of various textures and friction on what is otherwise a smooth glass surface
    What I want to know is this: What happens to the exterior design after the big redesign, especially if they reduce the design to the point where it's so simple? What can you do with the design, beyond coming out with different materials, colors, upgraded displays, and perhaps changes to the cameras which would alter the design. Otherwise it's just a slab with a couple buttons and a display. Eventually they might get rid of the volume buttons. I'm not sure how you would get rid of the power button, and you'd need some kind of hardware switch to do a device reset if something freezes up. I think eventually the iPhone inside will be 90% battery, with a little tiny board running across the top 10% of the frame, hooked up to the cameras and display. Personally? I'd like either an iPhone that can go on my wrist like a slap bracelet, or an iPhone that unfolds into an iPad Mini.
  13. Gorms macrumors 6502


    Aug 30, 2012
    Wait, what? That's literally the reason they went with big.Little. To save more battery for when you need the horsepower.
  14. lincolntran macrumors 6502a


    Jan 18, 2010
    For the majority of MacRumors readers, innovation means "i wanted it to look different ". In some other cases, "I want it to work like I want it and nobody else", and that's all to it.
    --- Post Merged, Oct 11, 2016 ---
    I'm looking forward to the day where the phone (and every other electronic devices) will be just a slap and buttons (or other ways of interactions) will appear or become active based on the needs at that time. Button is an indication of old technology where hard knobs are needed. Of course there should always be a hard reset, but that's all that should be there. E.g. I'm looking forward to the day when flying an airplane with a joy stick instead of 5000 buttons and switches.
  15. rjohnstone macrumors 68040


    Dec 28, 2007
    PHX, AZ.
    Looking at the patent, they have claims and diagrams for both standard LCD implementation and an OLED implementation. Fig 7 and 8 note an OLED layer and Fig 10 and 11 Show a typical TFT LCD arrangement.
    Looks like they're cover all the bases on this one.
    The summary indicates this can be a light sensor, proximity sensor, or "any other light sensor".
    So the sensor itself is not what is being patented, but the method of integrating it into the display.
  16. dmylrea macrumors 68020


    Sep 27, 2005
    Maybe next time, give it a little more thought. :)
  17. kdarling macrumors demi-god


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago
    Didn't they already do something like this on the Watch?
  18. rjohnstone macrumors 68040


    Dec 28, 2007
    PHX, AZ.
    It's on the he perimeter of the display.
    The portion that doesn't actually show any images.
  19. Mgkwho macrumors 6502a

    Mar 2, 2005
  20. macduke macrumors G3


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    I thought they did, but was surprised that they didn't mention it. I figured their CMS has a tagging system that would bring up related stories from their database. It would suck if they have to manually search for it when putting together stories.
    --- Post Merged, Oct 11, 2016 ---
    I'm notorious for not putting enough thought into my posts. No, wait, that's not it. I'm notorious for putting too many words into my posts! :confused:
  21. Recognition macrumors 6502a


    Jun 27, 2013
    I think some people don't know the difference between innovation and invention.
  22. JackANSI, Oct 12, 2016
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2016

    JackANSI macrumors 6502a


    Feb 3, 2011
    When you kick on those two big cores and GPU in an intense game, they suck an iPhone 7 battery dry in less than 4 hours.

    While it's in your pocket doing background stuff it does sip power now. When you use the thing, it is roughly the same or a tad worse than a 6.

    I tried the 7 for a week and got no better battery life out of than the 6 (went back to the 6). Still having to plug it in any time I can throughout a day so I can make it to bedtime. I won't be impressed until it can do everything they put an "hour rating" to for a minimum of 20 hours (like 20h talk, 20h LTE, 20h video, etc...). I live in 20 hours and sleep in 4, I need something that can keep up without repeated attention. (Yeah, so what it works for you at the piddly intervals, people like me asking for more drive the market to the benefit of all. Others want to drag the market down into "form over function" thinness and other nonsense.)
    --- Post Merged, Oct 12, 2016 ---
    That's pretty obvious to me :)

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