Today’s Apple event will be an important one as it will bring a new iPhone SE (among other things), however, that will be old hardware at a new, lower price. The high-end iPhones are not due for an upgrade until September and rumors of one particular upgrade have surfaced once again – the notch will be replaced by a punch hole.
This change has been rumored often enough, but different analysts offer different timelines as to how it will happen. Mark Gurman of Bloomberg suggested that the Face ID system will go under the display this year, Ross Young of Display Supply Chain Consultants offers a more gradual timeline that is divided into three steps.
First, the notch turns into a punch hole – two punch holes, in fact, a pill-shaped hole for the Face ID module and a round hole for the selfie camera. This is dubbed the “pill + hole” design. Young expects that the design will be exclusive to the two iPhone 14 Pro models, while the vanilla phones will still use the notch design (similar to the current refresh rate split).
Second, all iPhone 15 models in 2023 will switch to the dual punch hole setup and it is the holes may be smaller than this year. However, it’s not clear how much smaller.
Possible timeline for the move away from the notched design for upcoming iPhones
The final step is to move the Face ID module under the display. That won’t require a huge redesign as the key obstacle is that one of the layers of the OLED display is not very transparent to the infrared light used by the face scanner. There are three ways to fix that: replace it with a different, more transparent material, use a “backside laser drilling” or use a different pattern for the cathodes that drive the OLED pixels.
Young believes the latter approach will be chosen, saying that one supplier is already qualified to enter mass production. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the under display Face ID will be ready for 2023 – in fact, the analysts thinks it unlikely.
One potential challenge is that such a change requires that the display team and the sensor team collaborate on the issue and such a simultaneous change takes longer. Also, Apple prefers to dual source components to keep costs low and supply stable, so a second supplier will have to qualify as well.
Whether the under display design is ready for 2023 or pushed back to 2024, there is no mention of a fingerprint reader. Last year Gurman reported that Apple trialed UD readers, but wasn’t happy with the design and abandoned it.