Apple supplier AMS said today it had developed a light and infrared proximity sensor that can sit behind a smartphone’s screen, reducing the area required for such sensors and so allowing for a larger display.

It could mean that the ‘notch’, the area at the top of the to where the display does not extend because it houses sensors, would get smaller or disappear altogether.

AMS provides Apple with optical sensors for 3D facial recognition features on its newest iPhones. An Austrian company listed in Switzerland, it does not identify Apple as a customer but analysts estimate the iPhone maker accounts for around 45% of its sales.

“By developing this ‘behind OLED’ ambient light/proximity sensor, AMS enables smartphone manufacturers to achieve the highest possible ratio of display area to body size,” AMS said in a statement on the launch of the new device, referring to the OLED display technology used in devices like the latest iPhones.

“The TCS3701 enables phone designers to take this trend to a new level, potentially eliminating the bezel entirely,” AMS said, using the new device’s name. Light sensors are used to set display brightness, while infrared sensors are used in areas such as facial recognition.

Rumours had suggested that Apple is planning to introduce a smaller notch in its 2019 iPhones, and this new technology from AMS paves the way.

The website 9to5 Mac observed: “One thing that’s important to note is that Face ID consists of several different components. Namely, it is powered by an infrared camera, flood illuminator, an ambient light sensor, and a dot projector.

“While the AMS sensor likely isn’t enough to remove the notch altogether, it is a step in the right direction.

“Further, the notch is also home to the front-facing camera on the iPhone, as well as the ear speaker and a microphone. Both of these would also have to be relocated if Apple removed the notch.”