Apple has won a patent on a new technology that could blast a hole in a future iPhone.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday awarded Apple a patent on “Electronic devices having displays with openings.” The patent describes a technology in which a smartphone would come with a display with “one or more openings” that might look like a “window through which a user of the device may view an external object.”
The patent, which was earlier reported on by AppleInsider, describes a wide array of ways the openings in the device could be used to enhance a smartphone’s functionality. In addition to looking through the device to see other objects, the openings could be used to view a secondary display, deliver sound through a speaker or voice through a microphone attachment, and even as a heads-up display.
Still, the holes don’t need to be all that big. In fact, they can be small perforations that could be imperceptible to the human eye.
While the feature could improve the overall visual experience of using the smartphone, it also allows for more design opportunities. In fact, the patent suggests that by using the holes to offer certain features, like the microphone and speakers, it could allow design engineers to create a true “full face” display.
For years, smartphones, including the iPhone, have been marching towards designs that could deliver an all-display face. Currently, popular smartphones come with prominent displays but have large bezels at the top and bottom to house ear receivers on top and the home button on the bottom.
Companies like Samsung have already eliminated the left and right bezels with curved screens that spill over the sides. The top and bottom, however, have still proven difficult to overcome.
Still, reports are swirling that Apple is considering an all-display face in the iPhone 8. Those reports suggest Apple will bake its Touch ID fingerprint sensor into the device’s screen, allowing it to deliver more display real estate. Apple is also reportedly planning a curved display in its next flagship handset.
It’s unclear whether the patent Apple was awarded will find its way to the company’s next handset or any other future smartphone. Apple, like other companies, files for patents all the time on technologies it might never use in its devices. But if it does deliver the feature, look for some holes — and maybe lots of them.