Microsoft patent could improve the iPhone X's notch

The iPhone X is a very stylish phone, but it's safe to say not everyone is a fan of the notch at the top of the screen. While it's probably not going anywhere for the iPhone XI it's possible that phone – or other handsets – could at least have a smaller notch with all the same tech packed in.

That's thanks to a newly published Microsoft patent, spotted by MSPowerUser, which details a hybrid imaging sensor that could use an infrared filter to combine a standard camera with an infrared camera, letting both operate using a single sensor.

Both of those things are used by the iPhone X's Face ID system, but they currently require two separate sensors, both of which need to be packed into the notch, so by combining the two the notch could potentially be made smaller.

Microsoft might be part way to solving the notch problem. Credit: WIPO

Microsoft might be part way to solving the notch problem. Credit: WIPO

Plenty of potential

That would both make it stand out less and also allow for more screen, allowing additional status information to be packed in – for example there'd perhaps be space for a battery percentage, rather than just a battery bar.

Shrinking a notch isn't the only benefit of the tech either, as Microsoft also noted that separating the sensors can lead to parallax issues when combining the data they capture, so this could help avoid that.

Before you get too excited it's worth remembering that this is a Microsoft patent, so it may never get used in an Apple product – if it gets used at all, since patents often don't, but it could benefit other devices, such as the Surface Phone, if such a thing ever launches, or Microsoft's Surface tablet and laptop range.

And if combining the cameras is possible then Apple may well be working on a similar system which could get used in future iPhones.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.