A New Apple Patent Describes How the iPhone Could Finally Kill the Notch

Is a bezel-less iPhone possible?

Smartphone notches are synonymous with the iPhone, but future Apple smartphones could ditch the display cutout. The small, black space at the top of iPhone screens serves primarily to house the device’s Face ID sensors. But with the reintroduction of a biometric sensor, the Cupertino-based company could do away with the wildly unpopular notch for good without sacrificing much in the way of utility.

Indeed, Touch ID may make a triumphant comeback in years to come, though it will be much more sophisticated than it was in the past. The thumbprint reader at the bottom of the screen drew its last breath in 2017, but an Apple patent granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday revealed that users might be able to unlock upcoming iPhones by placing their thumb anywhere on their screens.

The filing, titled “Acoustic pulse coding for imaging of input device,” describes how an iPhone could use sound pulses to detect and authenticate a fingerprint placed on the screen. Here’s the patent’s description:

apple touch id patent
Two rows of acoustic transducers being used to detect a fingerprint anywhere on the screen.

“The acoustic imaging system can be within or coupled to the housing of the electronic device. In this manner, each time the user holds the electronic device in the user’s hand, the acoustic imaging system can be used to map a fingerprint or handprint of the user.”

Replacing Face ID with this new take on Touch ID could eliminate the need for the iPhone’s notch. Apple could ditch all of the facial recognition tech that’s crammed into that space and embed the remaining speaker, microphone and front-facing camera into the screen, like Samsung’s upcoming S10 handsets. This could be the design that Apple desperately needs to introduce a near bezel-less iPhone.

iphone x notch diagram
Everything that is packed into Apple's notch. Ditching Face ID would just leave the speaker, camera, microphone, and camera.

Apple’s latest earnings call made clear that the golden age of the iPhone is over, consumers aren’t as excited about $900 phones that look similar to last year’s. Getting rid of the notch could be the new look the company needs to create buzz,

It would also be unlike any other phone available at the moment. Various Chinese smartphone makers, like Huawei and OnePlus, have released devices with traditional fingerprint readers embedded in the screen. But this requires users to place their thumb down on a specific section of the display.

apple face ID
But would Apple ditch Face ID after implementing it across so many devices?

Apple’s idea would let users touch any part of the device and unlock it with ease. But will the company ever backtrack on Face ID?

It would still be a bit of a surprise, even among the notch-haters, as Apple has invested heavily in its Face ID hardware. All of the latest iPhones have it and even its 2018 iPad Pro was given the feature. Plus, the latest 2019 iPhone rumors depict models that appear to keep both the notch and Face ID.

It might be hard to let go, but this all-screen fingerprint sensor could be exactly what the iPhone needs to bounce back.

Media via USPTO, Apple, Danny Paez