iPhone 16 Pro models could feature under-display Face ID

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The iPhone 16 Pro, which isn’t expected until 2024, is rumored to come with under-display Face ID components that become unnoticeable once the display’s powered on.

Apple could finally bring under-display Face ID to the iPhone 16 Pro. According to a report from the Korean outlet The Elec (via MacRumors), the technology used for Face ID will live directly under the screen, blending in with the rest of the display once it’s turned on and revealing only the cutout for the front-facing camera.

While rumors about the under-display tech first emerged last year, this never ended up panning out on the iPhone 14 Pro, and the iPhone 15 isn’t expected to come with it, either. The Elec’s reporting tracks with predictions from supply chain analyst Ross Young, who tweeted last year that he expects the iPhone 16 Pro to come with under-display Face ID.

The reason it hasn’t happened before now is that the technology for under-display technology isn’t there yet, and that’s become evident with the other phone companies that have tried incorporating under-display cameras, like ZTE. As my colleague Allison Johnson points out in her review of the ZTE Axon 40, the quality of the under-display camera offers some improvement over ZTE’s first attempt but still isn’t the greatest.

Samsung has also experimented with under-display cameras, and even this big-name smartphone maker can’t get it quite right. It first added the feature to the Galaxy Z Fold 3, but the camera’s still noticeable even when the display is turned on and shoots poor-quality pictures to boot. While the Galaxy Z Fold 4 features some incremental improvements that hide the under-display camera a bit better, it still takes paltry 4-megapixel photos.

Face ID is obviously different than your traditional selfie camera, though. It uses its TrueDepth infrared camera to map and analyze your face, and that makes the technological challenge even more difficult. Apple can’t ship an iPhone with Face ID where the IR camera struggles to identify your face when trying to unlock your phone or paying with Apple Pay.

According to The Elec, Apple’s planning to eventually expand this technology to include the regular selfie camera — not just the Face ID IR camera — under the display as well. This could potentially eliminate the notch completely, as Apple will no longer need a cutout in the display to house both the Face ID components and the camera hole. It’s unclear when Apple will manage to do this, but Young doesn’t expect it until at least the iPhone 18 Pro in 2026.

For now, it sounds like the iPhone 16 will still have some kind of notch for the camera, albeit a smaller and potentially less noticeable one. But when the notch goes, it will call into question the future of Dynamic Island, which is built upon the cutout and transforms it into an interactive space for keeping tabs on sports scores or checking the status of your Uber ride. It doesn’t seem like Apple has plans to get rid of the feature just yet, as it looks like the plan is for it to come to all models of the iPhone 15. The iPhone 15 Pro, on the other hand, is rumored to come with some additional upgrades, including haptic volume and power buttons, as well as USB-C.

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