Despite the hype, new sensor won’t eliminate the notch


Apple Watch
Don’t expect the screen cutouts in many smartphones to go away, despite a big announcement made today.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

AMS, a company that makes iPhone sensors, caught many people’s attention today with it’s just-announced sensor it says has the possibility of “potentially eliminating the bezel entirely.” Bezels are the dead space around phone screens that device makers are trying to eliminate.

This new sensor can sit under OLED displays so it doesn’t clutter up the front of the phone. Unfortunately, AMS’s latest offering only does some of the jobs done by front-facing sensors currently located in display bezels, or in a screen notch in the iPhone’s case.

Smartphones include ambient light sensors to intelligently adjust the brightness of their backlights and save battery power. A proximity sensor tells the phone it’s pressed against someone’s ear so the screen should be turned off. Currently, these sensors are located near the display, along with front-facing camera and other sensors. Unlike their predecessors, AMS’s new TCS3701 ambient light/proximity sensor can do both jobs right through an OLED screen.

“By developing this ‘Behind OLED’ ambient light/proximity sensor, ams enables smartphone manufacturers to achieve the highest possible ratio of display area to body size while retaining crucial touchscreen disablement and automatic display brightness/color adjustment functions,” the company wrote in a statement.

A partial solution to screen bezels

While the TCS3701 is certainly a step in the right direction, it’s much too soon to be talking about eliminating screen bezels.

The iPhone also uses the notch for its front-facing camera. Companies like Samsung that don’t use screen cutouts put theirs in a thick bezel.

In addition, the Face ID system also requires front-facing sensors that are located in the notch. So the need for a screen cutout isn’t going away anytime soon.

Still, an earlier unconfirmed report indicated the 2019 iPhone will have a smaller notch than the current models.