Under-display Face ID on the iPhone 16 Pro raises three big questions

The pill-hole cutout was introduced on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max a few months ago, and it seems like Apple already wants to make it smaller. A new report from the electr claims that the company plans to introduce an under-display Face ID setup next year. The feature is said to be in the pipeline for the iPhone 16 Pro series and not the iPhone 15 range, which will launch later this year.

According to the report, Apple intends to move the components required for Face ID authentication under the iPhone’s display in 2024. In theory, the TrueDepth sensor for Face ID will not be visible when not in use, which will provide a more intuitive experience when interacting with an iPhone. The selfie shooter will have a crop, though, so you won’t get full-screen seamlessness like the Galaxy Z Fold 4 unfolded.

Basically, in 2024, Apple will achieve the Android-level display design of 2020. It’s an exciting statement at first glance, but it also raises three big questions.

What will happen to Dynamic Island?

Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Apple introduced Dynamic Island with the launch of the iPhone 14 Pro in September 2022 and said it will get support for more apps in the coming months as developers need time to create things for a new design element.

β€œAt Apple, we are focused on creating exceptional products. Products created from the joint design of hardware and software, so you don’t know where one ends and the other begins. Dynamic Island does this in a truly magical way, enabling a whole new iPhone experience,” said Alan Dye, Apple’s vice president of human interface, in introducing the feature.

It’s been almost four months since launch and the Dynamic Island is still naked to me. Like I already wrote, I’ve encountered issues with the new pill-hole cutout on the iPhone 14 Pro, and my colleague Andy Boxall is on the same page. Dynamic Island is already running out of time. It hasn’t changed the way I use my iPhone, and I don’t think it will.

It is obvious that Apple will not give up Dynamic Island anytime soon – even if it plans to reduce the section in 2024. But the question is, does it make sense to keep a design element that goes nowhere? I want to give the developers more time and mature before I can answer this question. That being said, I suspect Apple will keep the dynamic island at the top of some form despite the smaller cutout on the iPhone 16 Pro. And by then there will (hopefully) be one quantity more uses for the function.

Is this bad news for the selfie camera?

Sports scores for an NBA game displayed on the dynamic island of an iPhone 14 Pro.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Elec’s report also says that after moving Face ID sensors under the display, Apple’s next step will be to introduce under-display cameras – like the ones we saw on the RedMagic 7 Pro and Galaxy Z Fold 4. This change is expected to arrive on the iPhone 18 Pro in 2026.

If the current-gen under-display cameras are any indication, I’m with Apple. The non-selfie camera cutout phones I’ve used look seamless, making for an intuitive experience. However, the camera quality is poor. It’s not even below average. it’s poor I wholeheartedly support Apple’s apparent decision to adopt this setup when the technology matures, which could be another year or so.

What does this mean for future iPhone designs?

Someone is holding a blue iPhone 14 in one hand and a purple iPhone 14 in the other.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

According to an old tweet According to renowned display analyst Ross Young, the notch will disappear entirely this year as all iPhone 15 models get the Dynamic Island. In 2024, the iPhone 16 Pro could move to an in-display TrueDepth sensor for FaceID with a cutout for the selfie camera, while the lower-end iPhone 16 will retain a pill-shaped cutout.

By 2025, all iPhone 17 models will have in-display Face ID with a selfie camera cutout. The next big change will come in 2026 with the introduction of an under-display camera on the iPhone 18 Pro.

Still, based on the remaining technical challenges for under-panel cameras to meet demanding quality requirements from brands as well as panel makers’ cost requirements, I think this roadmap makes sense for the iPhone. pic.twitter.com/3ck5X3sVcL

β€” Ross Young (@DSCCRoss) May 10, 2022

The roadmap looks promising. But it will be interesting to see what sets the Pro range apart from the vanilla iPhone 15 this year, as the design language will be the same. If both lineups have the Dynamic Island, what is Apple doing to make the Pro models stand out?

Those are all questions that will be answered in due course, but fun to ponder nonetheless. Big things are happening with the iPhone, and like it or not, they’re coming sooner than you might have expected.

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