When will we see a new iPhone with a totally unimpeded display? In 2024, according to a prediction from well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. By then, says Kuo, Apple could be happy to move both its front-facing camera and Face ID under the screen for its high-end devices, which would make the iPhone 16 Pro the likely first candidate for such an upgrade.
Kuo made this prediction in a pair of tweets, linking back to comments he’d made last month saying Apple was unlikely to release any new iPhones with under-display fingerprint readers in the next two years. (Kuo previously predicted this could happen sometime in 2023 at the earliest.) The reason? Well, Kuo’s framing is that demand for the return of Touch ID was mostly a response to the rise of mask-wearing. But, since Apple made Face ID work better with masks earlier this year, complaints about its utility have mostly gone away.
I think the real full-screen iPhone will come in 2024. High-end iPhones in 2024 would adopt an under-display front camera alongside the under-display Face ID. A low-light condition is detrimental to front camera quality, and ISP & algorithm are critical for quality improvements. https://t.co/vWjeZYZUPK— 郭明錤 (Ming-Chi Kuo) (@mingchikuo) April 20, 2022
This makes sense, I think. My own experiences using Face ID with a mask have been good. Not amazing, but fine, meaning I can live without under-display Touch ID. The more interesting question, though, is how Apple will fare making an under-display front-facing camera. (And not just a hole-punch camera, as predicted for this year’s iPhone 14.)
As my colleague Sam Byford noted in a review of under-display cameras in November 2021, the tech is improving but has a way to go until it matches the quality of unobscured lenses.
“The pictures you get are definitely usable most of the time. If you’re not a big selfie person, or if you don’t use your phone for Zoom calls, I think you could get away with it,” writes Byford of under-display cameras from ZTE and Xiaomi. “Video quality is also bad, because it’s probably too much to ask for these phones to do the processing in real time.”
Kuo himself suggests the solution will be improvements in the ISP (Image Signal Processor) and image algorithms. As has been clear for many years now, the picture quality of a phone relies increasingly on digital processing, and Apple continues to deliver improvements in its own cameras year after year.
Kuo has also predicted this year’s iPhone 14 will have an upgraded front-facing camera with autofocus capabilities and a wider aperture. It’s not clear, though, what Apple will be doing with the hardware needed for Face ID for this model. Some have suggested it will be housed in a pill-shaped cut-out before Apple is ready to move it under the display.