Apple is looking at new ways to hide the iPhone’s notch when it’s not in use, and one of them could be the sluice display, which can expand and retract as needed.
That’s the idea behind a patent just granted to Apple, first spotted by the Patently Apple site, titled “Electronic devices with adjustable display windows,” filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The document explains how a device’s display could move to show and hide the front-facing camera or other optical components.
Apple describes this mechanism as creating a “window” in the display, through which a camera or other components of the TrueDepth array, such as a dot projector for Face ID, can operate. When these parts are not in use, the display retracts back to the window region, like a sort of portcullis, to hide the sensors underneath. This is how, literally, the mechanism is described:
An electronic device may have a display having an array of pixels for displaying images. The display may have a window area. In operation, an optical component may operate through the window region. The window region may overlap a movable portion of the display. The window region may be used in the open states.and closed. In the closed state, the movable portion of the display overlaps the window region and pixels in the movable portion of the display emit light through the window region. In the open state, the movable portion of the display is moved away from the window region so that light for the optical component can pass through the window region. The optical component may be a camera or other component that receives light through the window region or may be an optical component that emits light through the window region
The patent describes two main mechanical means through which the display could move to create a window for the notch components. The first is a display, a flap formed from a flexible display or a separate rigid display layer, which moves around a hinge. This flap would be folded away from the rest of the display to open the window region.
The second mechanism is a flexible display that moves via an electrically adjustable actuator, which would slide the entire display down to open the window region and display the notch components. These mechanical movements would, of course, occur underneath the display glass.
Apple says that the display window could have a coating to help it reflect light for the optical components, and that it could be transparent to the light emitted by the pixels when the moving part of the display is closed. The patent also reports that the window region could use a mirror in a periscope-like formation to hide the optical components, much like the camera setups on some Android smartphones.
While the patent is not a confirmation of Apple’s exact plans for future products, it does highlight the company’s specific areas of research. Apple is believed to be exploring a perforated front-facing camera layout for iPhones as early as 2022 , with total removal of the notch expected by 2023. The technology outlined in this patent is one way Apple could achieve this.