Although notches and cutouts, including Apple’s Dynamic Island ‘pill,” have become the industry standard for cramming front-facing cameras and sensors on smartphones, they are hardly the ideal solution. Because of the blemish they put on the phone’s display, not to mention the area of unusable space they incur, they’re both unattractive and wasteful. The ideal solution and Holy Grail that designers and manufacturers have been chasing after is having no cutout at all, with the camera invisibly hidden beneath the screen. As many smartphones, including the Galaxy Z Fold series, demonstrate, that’s easier said than done. That said, everyone seems to be moving in that direction, including Apple, which might already be preparing for an iPhone that’s all-screen, coming in 3 or 4 years.
Designer: Apple (via The Elec)
Hiding a camera lens or other sensors beneath the screen is no easy task. A camera will need to capture light from the outside in order to actually form a picture, but a screen is mostly opaque so no light will reach it normally. This is why Under-Display Cameras (UDC) or Under-Panel Cameras (UPC) actually have a lower resolution in the area directly above the camera compared to the rest of the screen. A lower resolution means fewer pixels, which means some light will be able to pass through to the sensor beneath. At the same time, however, the resolution shouldn’t be too low that you can make out the individual pixels with the naked eye, destroying the illusion.
There are other technical considerations with UDCs, including how the display’s own illumination could bleed into the camera, a flaw that Samsung is probably too familiar with. With so many parts of the puzzle, it’s no wonder that Apple isn’t in a rush to adopt this rather young technology, even if other brands like Samsung and ZTE have already jumped on the bandwagon. It won’t hold off forever, of course, and it seems that the ball has started rolling for an iPhone with that design in 2027 at the earliest.
According to industry sources, LG has started work on a solution to the deterioration of image quality due to the loss of light in under-display cameras. It’s designing a special lens that is composed of multiple lenses to be able to gather more light despite the screen’s pixels blocking most of the area. Of course, the technology is still under heavy development, so even if Apple were to use it, won’t be happening even in the next two years.
In fact, Apple is expected to first adopt a familiar circular punch-hole cutout for either the iPhone 16 Pro next year or the iPhone 17 Pro. The iPhone 17 Pro is also speculated to be the first to use an “Under Panel Face ID” technology before Apple finally jumps to an all-screen iPhone design after 2026, possibly with the iPhone 20 Pro, if that will be its name.