On the website THE ELEC I just read some interesting news. Apparently Apple is planning to install a Face ID camera under the display with the iPhone 2026 as early as 18.
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What does this mean for iPhone users?
Imagine having a smartphone where the entire front is just a screen - no visible cameras, no interruptions, no notch or dynamic island. This is exactly what could become a reality with the iPhone 18.
LG Innotek has been working on Under-Panel Camera (UPC) technology for years, allowing cameras to be hidden beneath displays, and the company has filed numerous patents in this regard, including “Optical System, Camera Module and mobile Port” (application number 10-2021-0185321) and “Optical Module” (application numbers 10-2021-0114295 and 10-2021-0115134).
Apple, in turn, is now working with this company to incorporate exactly this technology into one of the upcoming iPhone generations. For us users, this means more screen space and a seamless design.
The current challenge: the display absorbs too much light
The biggest challenge with a UPC camera hidden under the display is the light. Normally, the camera on the front of the iPhone captures a lot of light, which is important for clear, bright selfies for FaceTime or even Face ID. However, with UPC technology, the light must first pass through the screen, which can lead to a loss of brightness and image quality.
If you look at LG Innotek's current technology, we are apparently at around 20% “transparency” (that was the goal by the end of 2023). This means that around 80% of the light is filtered out by the display, which is too much for Apple. The main reason is probably that Face ID can no longer work reliably in poor lighting conditions.
LG Innoteks solution: Freeform optics
To solve this problem, LG Innotek, as a partner company for Apple, is developing a special “freeform optic”. This optic uses multiple lenses with a special surface to capture more light and improve image quality. This should make it possible for us to roughly double the transparency value and end up at around 2024% at the end of 40.
While LG Innotek is working on improving UPC technology, it's unlikely we'll see this tech in iPhones before 2026. Apple has already tested prototypes, but apparently they didn't yet meet their high standards.
Conclusion: UPC camera is coming
According to rumors, the iPhone 18 could be equipped with a UPC camera at the earliest. Before that, LG Innotek will probably not be able to meet the high technical requirements that Apple has for this type of camera.
Even though it may still take a few years, it is already foreseeable that sooner or later we will see UPC technology in iPhones and probably also in iPads or MacBooks. This allows Apple to once again improve the design of the devices, which many people believe has suffered due to the introduction of the notch.
Jens has been running the blog since 2012. He acts as Sir Apfelot for his readers and helps them with technical problems. In his spare time he rides electric unicycles, takes photos (preferably with the iPhone, of course), climbs around in the Hessian mountains or hikes with the family. His articles deal with Apple products, news from the world of drones or solutions to current bugs.