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New patent may reveal how Apple could pull off a no-notch iPhone 14 Pro

New patent may reveal how Apple could pull off a no-notch iPhone 14 Pro

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The current notch already packs a lot of tech into a small space

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The smaller notch on the iPhone 13 Pro Max (left) compared to the 12 Pro Max (right)
The iPhone 14 Pro is rumored to replace the notch with a pill-shaped cutout and a hole punch for a selfie cam.
Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Apple is rumored to ditch the notch in the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max in favor of a pill-shaped cutout and a spot for the selfie cam, and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has published a patent application that seems to show how the company could do that, according to Patently Apple (via 9to5Mac).

The patent application covers several possible variants of a device that combines a camera, an infrared light emitter, and a “light folding element” that can redirect the IR light. The application describes how a light-folded projector can be used to reduce the footprint of these components, leaving more display area on the phone.

The notch currently houses a lot of technology, including a selfie camera, an infrared camera, a depth sensor, and a dot projector, and Apple already shrunk the notch by 20 percent with the iPhone 13 lineup last year. But with this patent, Apple is saying that it can arrange some of that tech in such a way that lets it decrease the size of the notch.

Here’s an excerpt of the description around the patent claims if you’re curious (and we’ve included the application at the end of this article if you’d like to flip through it):

For instance, because the light folding element can change the transmission direction of the IR light, the IR light emitter may not necessarily be limited to a specific installation location. Instead, the IR light emitter may be placed at a location with less-constrained space, and use the light folding element to project the IR light in a specific direction. This can reduce the overall size of the imaging and sensing components, thus decreasing size of a notch for holding the imaging and sensing component and increasing the display area of the device. 

That said, the USPTO publishing this application isn’t a guarantee that the technology will show up in an Apple device. But there have been a few other indications that point toward a significantly redesigned notch area for the next Pro iPhones.

Perhaps the best evidence is that Apple whisperer Mark Gurman has reported that Apple would be moving to the pill-shaped cutout and hole punch selfie cam. And Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo reported on a no-notch Pro iPhone 14 just days before the iPhone 13 hit store shelves. But some Twitter accounts known for leaking phone information in the past have recently shared some intriguing new images that may show how the new notch area looks on actual phones, as reported by MacRumors.

Twitter user “DuanRui,” who posted images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 Mini name before Apple publicly announced it, tweeted photos of what appears to be the pill cutout and selfie cam punch hole on an iPhone 14 Pro. Take these with a grain of salt — DuanRui says in his profile that most of his content is reposted from Chinese social media, so it’s unclear exactly where they are from — but at the very least, the images give an idea of what the rumored new design could look like.

And Ice Universe posted an image of what they described as an “iPhone 14 Pro dummy.” Note that the pill in this photo appears to have a slightly different design than the images DuanRui shared, as there are two clear holes in the middle of the pill.

Fortunately, we likely won’t have to wait too much longer to see if Apple is actually changing up the notch and, if so, what the results might look like. The company is hosting its next product event on September 7th, where it is widely expected to announce the entire iPhone 14 lineup.

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