iPhone 14 notch reduction likely explained by this Apple patent

iPhone 14 notch reduction likely explained by this Apple patent

The iPhone 14 notch is set to be replaced by a “pill and hole-punch” design on the Pro models, while the base models will keep the familiar notch design — but in a smaller size. In both cases, Apple has somehow managed to squeeze all the necessary components into a smaller space.

A newly published Apple patent application may well explain the simple approach used to achieve this …


Apple first introduced the notch design back in 2017, with the launch of the iPhone X.

There was a lot of tech inside the notch:

  • Infrared camera
  • Dot projector
  • Flood illuminator
  • Proximity sensor
  • Ambient light sensor
  • Speaker
  • Microphone
  • Front camera

Apple managed to shrink the notch in the iPhone 13, thanks to two changes. First, the speaker and microphone were moved from the notch to the bezel. Second, the separate Face ID components were combined.

For the iPhone 14, Apple is expected to be taking a different approach to the Pro and non-Pro models. The former will get two separate cutouts in the screen: a round hole for the front-facing camera, and a pill-shaped extended oval for everything else. The latter will still have the notch, but it will be reduced in size. Both changes require Apple to fit the same amount of tech into a smaller space.

iPhone 14 notch reduction

Patently Apple highlighted a patent application that may provide the explanation.

Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that relates to Apple’s iPhone that may use a light-folded projector to reduce the footprint of components to maximize the display area and thereby decrease the size of the iPhone’s notch […]

Apple notes in their patent application that the use of the light-folded projector can reduce footprint of the imaging and sensing components of a device to increase the display area for the device such as a device with bezels.

In particular, the use of the light folding element can provide more flexibility for positioning the IR light emitter with respect to the other components such as the IR detector and front-facing camera.

Translated from patentspeak, what Apple is describing- is using a prism. Instead of the infrared emitter being within the notch/pill area, it can be off to the side, beneath the display, with a prism used to turn the beam 90 degrees. The prism would take up less space than the emitter, enabling a smaller notch or cutout for the rest of the components.

The same result could be achieved by a mirror positioned at 45 degrees, but one of the illustrations in the patent application does specifically reference a prism. For infrared light, quartz glass is used.

If Apple wanted to use a mirror instead, it would use a polished metal mirror, rather than a glass one. Aluminum, copper, silver, and gold are all used for IR mirrors. It’s also possible to use dialectric-coated mirrors tuned to a specific wavelength, but that introduces complexity and cost.

We don’t have long to wait until we see the iPhone 14 lineup, with the launch event now confirmed to take place on September 7.

Photo: Michael Dziedzic/Unsplash

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