According to Patently Apple, Apple has designed a display that can conceal components such as a camera, strobe light, or biometric sensor. When needed, the display will reveal such components, allowing them to function normally.
Usually, components such as cameras and strobe lights are found on the surface of an iPhone, or any other phone for that matter. But with Apple’s new design, it would be possible to hide these components behind a transparent display until they are needed.
Image from Patently Apple
While it is not entirely clear how the process works, the transparent screen designed by Apple – which would normally be emitting images like a normal LCD – could be made to reveal components behind the screen, enabling them to function as they would in their regular positions.
In an example usage, Apple made a diagram depicting a Camera application which, when opened, triggers a region of the screen to reveal an actual camera sensor behind it, and keeps that area open until camera usage is complete.
This new design could enable Apple to better manage screen real-estate, creating a more aesthetically pleasing design, and possibly enabling the company to increase screen size without the worry of cluttered components.
In one of Apple’s patent diagrams, a biometric sensor is listed – among other more commonplace components – as something which the screen could hide. This strongly hints at the fingerprint scanner, which seems to have been confirmed for the iPhone 5S.
Perhaps future iPhones will have fewer components on the front, and more features will appear to blend with the user interface.
Source: Patently Apple