iPhone X has the notch but this is Samsung's solution for full-screen displays

Why have a notch when you can cut holes in a full-screen smartphone display?
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Samsung's answer to the iPhone X's notch? Holes, many holes.

Image: Samsung

Samsung was quick to exploit mixed feelings about the iPhone X's notch, and now has a potential answer to the engineering problems of making a truly full-screen smartphone.

Instead of fitting the cameras and sensors in a bar at the top of an all-screen display, Samsung would cut out holes to cater for the sensors, according to a patent first spotted by Dutch site LetsGoDigital.

The patent isn't really a response to the iPhone X's notch drama, though. Samsung filed the patent with the World Intellectual Property Organization in May 2016, well before the iPhone X's notch was an issue.

Indeed, some of the designs in the patent have a notch too, in the form of a semi-circle cut out at the top, not unlike the Essential phone's notch. The patent was published on January 18, 2017.

But, using holes in the display, Samsung could deal with the problem of its rear home button by bringing a physical home button to the front again while maximizing the active screen area.

Alternatively, it notes it could use a soft home button with a fingerprint sensor under the screen, which would be in line with Synaptics' in-display sensor.

Synaptics showed off the first implementation of this sensor in a phone from Chinese brand Vivo at CES 2018 a few weeks ago.

As CNET reported, the fingerprint sensor does work but, due to its price, will probably only be found in high-end phones in the near future. However, it probably won't be in time for the Galaxy S9, which could be released within weeks.

Samsung notes that its hole area would have a camera, receiver, and optical sensors. Some examples it offers include multiple holes and slits across the top of the screen for each component, while the fingerprint hole would be at the bottom of the screen.

Download now: Mobile device computing policy (free PDF)

The patent doesn't guarantee that this will feature in Samsung's future phones, such as the supposed Galaxy S9, but does show that Samsung has been considering for some time how to design a smartphone that caters to popular full-screen displays.

The company has been willing to experiment with new screen designs in devices like the Galaxy S7 Edge, but leaks and rumors around the Galaxy S9 so far don't point to anything as radically different as what's detailed in this patent.

Samsung was reported to be putting the fingerprint sensor under the Galaxy S9's screen but it could just as well keep it on the back of the phone.

Previous and related coverage

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iPhone X review: Face ID, the notch and a new screen

The iPhone X has a giant screen, Face ID and no home button. A lot of it is totally new, and totally different...but is it an improvement over the iPhone 8?

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Samsung Galaxy S9: Everything we know about the launch date, specs and price (CNET)

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