Today, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office released a patent application from Apple related to reducing the screen stack that allows Apple to deliver thinner and brighter micro-LED screens with integrated solar cells or thinner screens that support fingerprint ID with touch screen, more and / or collapsible display systems and more.
Today, Microsoft has used a similar display system for the Surface Duo, as critics have wondered how thin two screens are thinner than a single smartphone. So, Apple’s patent is not just about a thinner display stack, but about what new doors, products and features thinner screens allow Apple to deliver over time.
In Apple’s patent background, they note that a conventional electronic device containing both a display and a light sensor system usually requires a protective outer cover with a large area extending beyond a periphery of the display stack to reserve space to accommodate the light sensing system.
This conventional construction undesirably increases the apparent size of a frame area surrounding the screen, while also undesirable to increase the size and volume of the housing of the electronic device. Apple̵
Apple says that one aspect of their invention covers a light sensor system including a number of photodetectors (eg photodiodes and / or solar cells) integrated in intermediate pixel regions and / or circumferential regions in a pixel delimiting layer of an organic light emitting diode screen incorporated in an electronic device.
In other implementations, a light sensor system may include a variety of photodiodes and / or solar cells integrated in regions between pixels or perimeters of a micro-LED display incorporated into an electronic device.
Furthermore, Apple states that “the light sensor system can assemble an image of an object touching the screen … “which describes Touch ID built into a screen for Apple Watch for example.
To clarify this point, Apple says that “the light sensor system is used as an ambient light sensor and in some cases used in an optical imaging system (eg camera, light field sensor, depth sensor, fingerprint image sensor, iris or retina imaging system, and so on); a touch input sensor; a power input sensor; a biometric measurement system (eg photoplethysmogram sensor, blood oxygenation sensor, respiration sensor, and so on); and so on.
Later in patent section 0050, Apple states that “the light sensor system can be used to obtain an image of a fingerprint of a user touching the screen.
Other examples include: obtaining an image of a document placed on the screen; obtaining an image of a palm or a vein pattern of a user touching the screen; obtain an image of a stylus tip touching the screen; to obtain a visible spectrum, infrared or ultraviolet image of a currency anode placed on the screen; and so on.
Apple’s patent FIG. 1A shows an electronic device 100, including a housing 102 enclosing a screen stack defining a screen incorporating a light sensor system, as described herein. The electronic device 100 is depicted as a mobile phone or handheld tablet computer, but this is not required by all embodiments. Other examples of electronic devices or types of electronic devices that may include a housing enclosing a monitor stack that defines a monitor include, but are not limited to: personal electronic devices; laptops; desktop computers; peripheral input devices; health monitoring devices; smartwatch devices; worn devices; vehicle or aviation control or interface devices; industrial control units; and so on.
Accordingly, generally and broadly in FIG. 1, it is understood that an electronic device that includes a screen suitable for detecting incident light can be configured in a variety of ways. For example, although the electronic device No. 100 is depicted as a mobile telephone, it may be understood that other electronic devices may incorporate a display stack as described herein, including, but not limited to: the tablet; portable devices; desktop computers; data processing accessories; peripheral input devices; vehicle control devices; mobile entertainment devices; augmented reality units; virtual reality devices; industrial control units; digital wallet devices; home security devices; business security devices; portable devices; health equipment; implantable devices; clothing equipment; fashion accessories devices; and so on.
micro-LED (Micro LED) screens; LCD screens (liquid crystal); quantum dot displays; and so on.
Multiple and / or folding screens
Further into the patent, Apple states that although the electronic device 100 (an iPhone) containing only a single rectangular screen, it can be understood that this example is not exhaustive. In other embodiments, an electronic device may include, or may be communicated connected to, multiple screens, one or more of which may be suitable for the detection of incident light.
Similarly, a rectangular display may not be required; other embodiments are implemented with screens that take other shapes, including three-dimensional shapes (e.g. curved screens, folding screens, and so on). Our cover graphics show another Apple patent covering a foldable phone, and with a thinner display stack, Apple can make the screen much thinner, lighter and perhaps more flexible.
Accessories / auxiliary screens
The invention also relates to possible future accessories / auxiliary displays which may comprise function row or keyboard displays; portable electronic screens; peripheral input devices (e.g., trackpieces, mice, keyboards, etc. with screens, digital wallet screens, etc.) such an example was presented in a report we released last week regarding a new screen in a possible future iPhone folio.
Apple’s patent FIG. 5 below shows a simplified schematic view of a screen stack which can incorporate a light sensor system for detecting incident light including several discrete light sensors; FIG. 3 shows another example of arrangement of pixels in a screen stack having a light sensor system
Apple’s patent FIG. 7 above is a simplified flow chart showing examples of operations of a method of operating a light sensor system; and fig. 8 is a simplified flow chart showing examples of operations of a method of operating a light detection system with a touch detection system.
Apple’s patent application number 20200319731 published today by the US Patent Office was filed in the second quarter of 2019. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such display products on the market is unknown at this time.