Apple working on embedding sensors behind a display, resulting in smaller bezels

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Apple is researching how to move sensors from the bezel, and placing them in the screen itself, making it possible to have edge to edge displays on a future iPhone, or even an iMac or MacBook Pro.

Source: <a href=@BenGeskin" height="368" />
Source: @BenGeskin


It's what so many iMac users want, and what iPhone users have had -- if the bezels around a screen can be reduced, displays can be bigger without increasing the size of a device. Apple has been criticized for the notch on the iPhone, cutting into the display, and the large bezels are all that stop the 2012-era design of the 27-inch iMac from still looking modern.

It's what so many iMac users want, and what iPhone users have had -- if the bezels around a screen can be reduced, displays can be bigger without increasing the size of a device. Apple has been criticized for the notch on the iPhone, cutting into the display, and the large bezels are all that stop the 2012-era design of the 27-inch iMac from still looking modern.

A newly revealed patent application shows that Apple is of course looking into bezel reduction. "Sensing System for Detection of Light Incident to a Light Emitting Layer of an Electronic Device Display," is ostensibly about detecting ambient light -- but it's really about placing the detector within "an active display area of a display."

"An electronic device can include a display formed from a stack of functional and structural layers (a 'display stack') attached to, or otherwise disposed below, a protective outer cover," says Apple. This isn't a cover as in the Smart Cover, or an extra item that you close over the screen, it's the top of the device, including the bezels.

"[This] protective outer cover defines an exterior surface of a housing of the electronic device," continues Apple. "An electronic device can also include a light sensing system, such as an ambient light sensor. Typically, a light sensing system is positioned below the protective outer cover, adjacent to, and separated from, a light emitting region of the display stack."

And there's the problem. "As a result, a conventional electronic device incorporating both a display and a light sensing system typically requires a large-area protective outer cover," continues Apple, "that extends beyond a periphery of the display stack to reserve space to accommodate the light sensing system."

If you can't put a sensor under the actual display, it has to go on the side. "This conventional construction undesirably increases the apparent size of a bezel region circumscribing the display, while also undesirably increasing the size and volume of the housing of the electronic device," says Apple.

This patent application goes into detail of how an ambient light sensing system interoperates with the rest of a device, but the key part is how it can work without covering up the display. "The individual light sensors of the light sensing system coupled to the controller are disposed or formed directly onto one or more layers of the display stack that defines the active display area," continues Apple.

Detail from the patent showing how light sensors might be embedded between the pixels of a display
Detail from the patent showing how light sensors might be embedded between the pixels of a display


"More specifically," the patent goes on, "the individual light sensors are disposed in inter-pixel regions of the active display area. [Or] the individual light sensors of the light sensing system are disposed additionally or alternatively along a perimeter of the active display area, adjacent to pixels that define the active display area."

So a screen might show us an image made up of individual pixels, but between those pixels, it is looking out to sense light. Or if it isn't interwoven between every pixel, the sensor might be arranged around the edges of the display.

There is one more suggestion in this patent application, which is that such a sensor could be in the display, but not across the whole screen. "For example," it says, "the light sensing system can include multiple groups of individual light sensors disposed in different portions of the active display area."

That could be that Apple places copies of the sensor in, say, the four corners of the display. "As a result of this construction, the light sensing system may be able to detect light incident to the active display area," continues Apple, "even if one or more of the groups of individual light sensors is occluded or covered by a user."

Apple has investigated similar ideas before, including seven years ago when it applied for a patent about using embedded sensors in an OLED display. Most recently, Apple also applied for an under-display light sensor, which could again reduce the size of the notch.

The notch, introduced with the iPhone X, contains far more than an ambient light sensor. So this patent application can't see Apple moving every element of the notch underneath the display, but it's a start.

This patent is credited to eight inventors, including Mohammad Yeke Yazdandoost, whose previous work on devices includes a patent regarding user input surfaces.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 16
    mjtomlinmjtomlin Posts: 2,677member
    Never did and still don't understand this incessant need to remove bezels from displays, sure it makes sense in a handheld/mobile device where size and weight are the most important aspects. Whenever you can maximize display size while keeping the overall device size to a minimum, it's a win-win. But for desktop displays!? It's just a geeky wet dream. It's almost as bad as people who drool over the idea of transparent displays.
  • Reply 2 of 16
    mjtomlin said:
    Never did and still don't understand this incessant need to remove bezels from displays, sure it makes sense in a handheld/mobile device where size and weight are the most important aspects. Whenever you can maximize display size while keeping the overall device size to a minimum, it's a win-win. But for desktop displays!? It's just a geeky wet dream. It's almost as bad as people who drool over the idea of transparent displays.
    Size and weight aren't the most important aspects of handheld/mobile devices imo.  If that was true, they'd all be small and light.  They aren't.  They've actually grown and continue to grow.  They are important aspects, but not the most important.  Function is, imo: can it do what the company says it can.  Yes, desktop displays benefit from less bezel/more display.  The displays are getting bigger, just like mobile devices.  If it possible to have a 32" slim bezel monitor in the footprint of a 27" fat bezel monitor, what's the downside?  iMac design looks dated with that huge chin.  A refresh with a modern looking slimmer bezel minus the chin would be pretty nice.   The bezel wouldn't have to be razor thin either.  It could be wide enough to hold a FaceID module.  Just continue that bezel width around the entire screen, which would still be much, much, much thinner than the current design.  Superfluous bezel doesn't benefit anyone.
  • Reply 3 of 16
    Move the speaker to the top just like the bottom now, spread the sensors in different areas of the bezel and knot can disappear, maintaining the current bezel size....Hello genius Apple, .... ;-))
  • Reply 4 of 16
    Rather than perpetually study and throw money into R&D and fruitless development of tech that others already have, go license their technology
    Beats
  • Reply 5 of 16
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,416member
    It’s kind of ironic that people spend hundreds of dollars to put “bezels” around their wall mounted artwork but scoff at the idea of having a picture frame around their desktop monitor. There is a fine line between having too much or too little bezel. On a touch controlled handheld device like the iPhone or iPad the bezel is part of the “neutral zone” where touch has no effect, which can really come in handy for holding and gripping the device without unintentionally activating a function or creating an OCD triggering screen smudge. But I also don’t want the screen to look like one of those miniature paintings in a huge frame.

    In my mind, devices that have super thin bezels convey a sense of fragility, especially for handheld devices. I just know that if the device ever landed on the fragile looking edge it would be immediately destroyed. If the gripping edges are smooth and rounded, like on my iPhone XS Max, where maintaining a barehanded grip is like grabbing a wriggling grunion in the surf, I feel compelled to wrap it with a protective and grippy case to maintain control of the fragile little bugger. Of course the case ends up obscuring at least some of the device’s fine aesthetics.

    Apple sometimes goes to great lengths to create aesthetically pleasing and beautiful devices that end up inducing anxiety and fear-of-breaking-it (FOBI) in their customers. As a result customers immediately commence to undoing a lot of what Apple did in the first place by strapping on sloppy and at times hideous looking device overcoats to hide much of Apple’s aesthetic handiwork. I suppose you could undress your fragile little beauty once you get home, place it on its own velvet pillow, and admire (but don’t touch!!!) it from a safe viewing distance. Maybe that’s what the Apple designers were thinking in the first place and we’re just a bunch of greasy fingered heathens who don’t get “it,” whatever “it” is. 
    OctoMonkeyOfermuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 6 of 16
    M68000M68000 Posts: 765member
    mjtomlin said:
    Never did and still don't understand this incessant need to remove bezels from displays, sure it makes sense in a handheld/mobile device where size and weight are the most important aspects. Whenever you can maximize display size while keeping the overall device size to a minimum, it's a win-win. But for desktop displays!? It's just a geeky wet dream. It's almost as bad as people who drool over the idea of transparent displays.
    Size and weight aren't the most important aspects of handheld/mobile devices imo.  If that was true, they'd all be small and light.  They aren't.  They've actually grown and continue to grow.  They are important aspects, but not the most important.  Function is, imo: can it do what the company says it can.  Yes, desktop displays benefit from less bezel/more display.  The displays are getting bigger, just like mobile devices.  If it possible to have a 32" slim bezel monitor in the footprint of a 27" fat bezel monitor, what's the downside?  iMac design looks dated with that huge chin.  A refresh with a modern looking slimmer bezel minus the chin would be pretty nice.   The bezel wouldn't have to be razor thin either.  It could be wide enough to hold a FaceID module.  Just continue that bezel width around the entire screen, which would still be much, much, much thinner than the current design.  Superfluous bezel doesn't benefit anyone.
    Size and weight become very important when getting close to what people will tolerate.  I believe the 11 Pro max is even heavier then the 8 plus I use.  Despite it being a great phone the 8 plus it’s really heavy as it is and big, sometimes difficult to use one handed.  It appears an imminent release of an even bigger 6.7 inch is coming which likely will be heavier and require two hands to use.   I think I will pass.  A friend who uses a XR once had to use my phone for something - their feedback when holding it was something like “what phone is this?  It’s not as thick as mine”.  Ironically,  I’m thinking of grabbing the 11 pro 5.8 even though Apple seems to be moving away from this size which may be the best balance between screen and overall size\weight.  Oh well...
    edited October 2020
  • Reply 7 of 16
    GabyGaby Posts: 190member
    They’ve already put this into practice on a smaller scale with the Apple Watch from the 2015 original onwards. At least as far as I’m aware, and granted the implementation will be different due to differing screen tech/pixel layout etc but it shouldn’t be very taxing for them. Though I think the ambient light sensor is one of the smaller issues and least of their worries for sensors that need to be relocated and or miniaturised further to get a truly full screen panel with minimal bezels. I reckon within the next couple of generations they will have solved it entirely. 
  • Reply 8 of 16
    dewme said:
    It’s kind of ironic that people spend hundreds of dollars to put “bezels” around their wall mounted artwork but scoff at the idea of having a picture frame around their desktop monitor. There is a fine line between having too much or too little bezel. On a touch controlled handheld device like the iPhone or iPad the bezel is part of the “neutral zone” where touch has no effect, which can really come in handy for holding and gripping the device without unintentionally activating a function or creating an OCD triggering screen smudge. But I also don’t want the screen to look like one of those miniature paintings in a huge frame.

    In my mind, devices that have super thin bezels convey a sense of fragility, especially for handheld devices. I just know that if the device ever landed on the fragile looking edge it would be immediately destroyed. If the gripping edges are smooth and rounded, like on my iPhone XS Max, where maintaining a barehanded grip is like grabbing a wriggling grunion in the surf, I feel compelled to wrap it with a protective and grippy case to maintain control of the fragile little bugger. Of course the case ends up obscuring at least some of the device’s fine aesthetics.

    Apple sometimes goes to great lengths to create aesthetically pleasing and beautiful devices that end up inducing anxiety and fear-of-breaking-it (FOBI) in their customers. As a result customers immediately commence to undoing a lot of what Apple did in the first place by strapping on sloppy and at times hideous looking device overcoats to hide much of Apple’s aesthetic handiwork. I suppose you could undress your fragile little beauty once you get home, place it on its own velvet pillow, and admire (but don’t touch!!!) it from a safe viewing distance. Maybe that’s what the Apple designers were thinking in the first place and we’re just a bunch of greasy fingered heathens who don’t get “it,” whatever “it” is. 
    How is it ironic that people treat different things differently?  I don't think anyone is scoffing about having a bezel.  The argument is they want thinner bezels.  It's more nuanced than nobody wants bezels.  A static frame on a static piece of art becomes part of the presentation.  That's why people are willing to spend hundreds of dollars.  On our devices, the focus is the content so the frame (bezel) should fade into the background imo.  As you note, there is a functional reason for our devices (especially mobile) to have a bezel.  I don't think anyone has an issue with that.  That bezel doesn't have to pre-iPhone X big to be functional though.  Just like the iMac can live a good life with a some chin surgery.  

    The desire for slimmer bezels has an ancillary effect of contributing to the progress of component miniaturization and improvements in efficiency.  Slimmer bezels on the iPhone X generation of phones meant getting rid of the Touch ID button, which get's us a Face ID module.  Well, the advent of the Face ID module necessitated slimmer bezels, but you get the gist.  It's all interconnected. The desire for symmetrically thinner bezels is probably going to lead to some behind the screen hocus pocus. 

    Apple makes devices that look good so they can sell 'em.  That's it.  Once you buy, they really don't care what you do with it.  Wanna rock it uncovered?  Cool.  Wanna rock it with a cover? They will gladly sell you one of the many they've created.  
  • Reply 9 of 16
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,915member
    Rather than perpetually study and throw money into R&D and fruitless development of tech that others already have, go license their technology
    What on earth are you talking about? It bears fruit -- Apple has developed all sorts of its own display tech & substrates used in Mac displays today. Watch the keynotes over the years and you hear about some of them. 
    Beatswatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 16
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,915member
    I've never understood the complaining about bezels & chins on iMac. It's fine, I've never once in over a decade of using multiple iMacs wrung my hands with unease about the chin. Instead I look at the gorgeous Retina display and get to work. The 27" iMac has shed over 10 lbs over the years and thats much more important to me than the fact that there is a section of material on the bottom where components live. 
    SpamSandwichwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 16
    BeatsBeats Posts: 3,073member
    Rather than perpetually study and throw money into R&D and fruitless development of tech that others already have, go license their technology

    WHY IN THE WORLD would Apple license half-assed tech from knockoffs for the real iPhone when the real iPhone is proprietary?

    What a dumb suggestion. Yeah and Dr. Pepper should license the flavor of Dr. K.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 16
    yojimbo007yojimbo007 Posts: 1,165member

    Cant wait for the day of notch free iphones. 
  • Reply 13 of 16
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    I've never understood the complaining about bezels & chins on iMac. It's fine, I've never once in over a decade of using multiple iMacs wrung my hands with unease about the chin. Instead I look at the gorgeous Retina display and get to work. The 27" iMac has shed over 10 lbs over the years and thats much more important to me than the fact that there is a section of material on the bottom where components live. 
    I don’t understand the complaints either.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 16
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,347member
    Apple has Patents that predate the iPhone itself in order to get camera elements and other sensors intergerated with the display area.Indeed was these early patents that lead to speculation in part about the iPhone itself.

    Over a decade and still waiting for a screen that is a point field camera.

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 16
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 6,426member
    Rather than perpetually study and throw money into R&D and fruitless development of tech that others already have, go license their technology
    Yet another asinine driveby criticism from this guy.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 16
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,407member
    mattinoz said:
    Apple has Patents that predate the iPhone itself in order to get camera elements and other sensors intergerated with the display area.Indeed was these early patents that lead to speculation in part about the iPhone itself.

    Over a decade and still waiting for a screen that is a point field camera.

    You mean a “light field” camera?
    watto_cobra
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