Apple Researching Solar Cell Ambient Light Sensors Embedded in Displays

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Apple continues to explore the various ways solar cell technology can be used to enhance the operation of electronic devices with a new patent application no. 20140152632 published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. The document describes a method of using solar cells as ambient light sensors for an iPad, iPhone, or other display-equipped device, reports Patently Apple. The patent application was filed in December 2012, but was just published today.

One advantage to integrating the ambient light sensor into the display would be the ability to reduce bezel sizes around the display, allowing more of the device's surface to be dedicated to display. For example, the iPhone currently includes several components embedded in the bezel above the display, including the earpiece, FaceTime camera, ambient light sensor, and proximity sensor. Moving at least some of those components into the display itself could allow Apple to reduce the height of the top bezel.

According to the patent, a solar cell's ability to sense incoming light could be connected to circuitry that adjusts the display brightness in response to the solar cell input, as with current sensors. When not being used to adjust the display, this solar cell technology could provide a trickle charge to the device's battery.
An electronic device is provided with a display and a solar cell ambient light sensor that receives light through a portion of the display. The solar cell ambient light sensor may include one or more thin-film photovoltaic cells. A voltage that accumulates within the thin-film photovoltaic cell in response to ambient light is sampled and converted into ambient light data. The device includes control circuitry that modifies the intensity of display light generated by the display based on the ambient light data from the photovoltaic cell. The solar cell ambient light sensor is attached to a transparent cover layer, a color filter layer, or any other layer of the display. When the accumulated voltage is not being sampled for ambient light measurements, the voltage may be used to provide charge to a battery in the device.
Apple has long expressed an interest in solar cell technology with patent applications and solar-related rumors extending back at least six years. More recently, Apple was awarded a patent that describes a method of integrating a solar panel into a mobile touchscreen device with a flexible display.

Article Link: Apple Researching Solar Cell Ambient Light Sensors Embedded in Displays
 

Avieshek

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Can anyone tell me when Apple will light their LCD screens with 'Quantum-dots display'
 
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1Zach1

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Getting rid of the home button, and dropping the Facetime camera to the side of the speaker would probably also help reduce bezel size as well.
 

Avieshek

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So, when is this coming, 2015's iPhone 6s, 2016's iPhone 7

[pls people, don't expect in this year's iPhone 6]
 
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Cyborg21

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Getting rid of the home button, and dropping the Facetime camera to the side of the speaker would probably also help reduce bezel size as well.
Removing Touch ID and destroy the point of FaceTime camera is a weird option :confused:
 

TWSS37

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It's a good thing I keep my phone in my back pocket for all the sunshine that comes out of my ***
 

2457282

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Apple has always maintained the bezel size to be the same (top/bottom). If they reduce the top, that would require either reducing the size of the home button or eliminating it to keep the bezels the same size. Given Touch ID, I am not sure that is going to happen soon.
 

Avieshek

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Apple has always maintained the bezel size to be the same (top/bottom). If they reduce the top, that would require either reducing the size of the home button or eliminating it to keep the bezels the same size. Given Touch ID, I am not sure that is going to happen soon.
# valid point, nice thinking
 

1Zach1

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No, no my friend, the home button is my favorite thing.
Removing Touch ID and destroy the point of FaceTime camera is a weird option :confused:
You guys missed my point. Moving the sensor behind the screen isn't what is holding back the "bezel free" design, or even reducing the bezel at this point.

Also, if we are assuming Apple can add sensors/PV panels behind the screen, then they can implement their TouchID behind the screen as well and get rid of the home button/move it to another position.

I don't understand how not staking the camera and speaker destroys the point of the Facetime camera, other than symmetry.
 

sza

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Since the back panel of iPhone is made of kind of glass material, a solar panel could be put underneath it. :cool:
 

dlewis23

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Getting rid of the home button, and dropping the Facetime camera to the side of the speaker would probably also help reduce bezel size as well.
You can't get rid of the home button. I don't get why people keep bringing this up. Touch ID is not going to get moved into the screen or anywhere else on the phone anytime soon.

The entire OS and App system is designed with that physical home button being there. It's not going away.
 

Serban

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Apple has always maintained the bezel size to be the same (top/bottom). If they reduce the top, that would require either reducing the size of the home button or eliminating it to keep the bezels the same size. Given Touch ID, I am not sure that is going to happen soon.
Even the bottom can be reduced, there are still a few millimetres that can be remove (i guess around 2mm in total, 1mm from the space between home button and bottom frame and 1 mm from home button and display). So 2mm from bottom and another 2 mm from top, we will get a nice 4mm reduce from top/bottom bezels.
 
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darkslide29

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Removing Touch ID and destroy the point of FaceTime camera is a weird option :confused:
Some thought the touch ID was going to be directly on the display itself. One of the early thoughts was having the sensor on the "swipe to unlock" portion of the screen, where it would scan as you swipe. However, we see touch ID does not require a swipe, so this may not be the solution.

I still do think eventually moving the touch ID to the display can and will be done. And it may be one of the reasons Apple is so interested in sapphire. (well first in iWatch probably, maybe iPhone a couple generations down the line). A sapphire display, like the touch ID button, would be less scratch prone and work better than embedding it into the existing screen glass today! :)
But this won't be any time soon.
 

3282868

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I read a patent filing here a few years ago on the idea of placing the front camera behind the display, don't know if that's even technically possible but interesting.

Is sapphire glass semi-pliable? Could they place the "home" button as part of the display, maintaining a physical mechanism and fingerprint sensor but in the display?
 

Piggie

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Feb 23, 2010
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You can't get rid of the home button. I don't get why people keep bringing this up. Touch ID is not going to get moved into the screen or anywhere else on the phone anytime soon.

The entire OS and App system is designed with that physical home button being there. It's not going away.
Given than you hold the phone in your hand, and generally some fingers (middle 2 or 3) are around the back of the phone.
It would not be THAT impossible to put a home button and touch ID in a good location on the back.
Once you know it's there, it would actually probably be easier to operate, whilst still holding your phone securely with one hand) than it's current position.

It would not be hard either for case makers to have an area open for it, in the same way they do for the camera.

You could hold your phone one hand in a firm solid grip, even when running, and still use you middle fingers to press a home button on the back.
 

Cyborg21

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Sep 2, 2013
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Some thought the touch ID was going to be directly on the display itself. One of the early thoughts was having the sensor on the "swipe to unlock" portion of the screen, where it would scan as you swipe. However, we see touch ID does not require a swipe, so this may not be the solution.

I still do think eventually moving the touch ID to the display can and will be done. And it may be one of the reasons Apple is so interested in sapphire. (well first in iWatch probably, maybe iPhone a couple generations down the line). A sapphire display, like the touch ID button, would be less scratch prone and work better than embedding it into the existing screen glass today! :)
But this won't be any time soon.
Oh my god I never thought that way, maybe Apple has some plans with Sapphire to integrate Touch ID to the screen! But that seems almost impossible with today's technology :(
 
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