Apple’s Under-Display Sensor Patent Teases Future of Face and Touch ID
Patently Apple has reported on a new patent filed by Apple that reveals the tech giant’s efforts to integrate under-display Touch and Face ID technology into future iPhones and other devices.
Although the under-panel Face ID has been anticipated for some time, display industry consultant Ross Young recently indicated that its implementation might be delayed until at least 2025, due to sensor-related issues. Apple’s engineering teams have been exploring various methods to resolve these challenges and are still in the process of determining the best approach.
The patent in question highlights under-display sensors that could potentially be used for Face and Touch ID, iris recognition, and even interpreting hand gestures made in front of the device to control applications on iPhones, Apple Watches, and more.
The invention features an electronic device with an infrared sensor, such as a quantum film infrared sensor. This quantum film is a special light-absorbing semiconductor thin film that contains mechanically and electronically connected colloidal quantum dots.
The proposed quantum film infrared sensor includes light sources and one or more quantum film photodetectors. In this setup, the electronic device would have a display panel with pixels that emit display light, with the light sources emitting infrared light through these pixels.
The quantum film photodetector would then receive the infrared light through the pixels after reflecting off an external object, generating sensor data. A sensor-integrated circuit would subsequently read and process this data.
Apple’s patent also suggests using control circuitry to process light and/or reflected light for various purposes, such as proximity sensing, capturing images of external objects, identifying external object features like fingerprints or facial features, tracking a user’s gaze, detecting an object’s location over time, and recognizing physical gestures made by users.
The patent illustrations show different views of an electronic device featuring a quantum film infrared sensor, as well as various perspectives of quantum film photodetectors and substrates.
For now, we have Face ID hardware built into the Dynamic Island and we have yet to see Touch ID integrated underneath iPhone displays. I’d welcome the return of Touch ID built into the display like we’ve seen on other phones such as Google’s Pixel smartphones. Sometimes Face ID is a pain to use if you can’t always face your iPhone for authentication.
Apple’s patent application “US 20230087411 A1” provides a thorough overview of the invention for those interested in learning more. The inventors behind this project include Mark Winkler, Xiaofan Niu, Tong Chen, and Zach Beiley, who all hold key positions within Apple’s engineering teams.