(Pocket-lint) - The iPhone 12 is set to be one of the most-anticipated phones of 2020 and it looks like the new handset will remove the large notch that's been a feature of new iPhones since 2017's iPhone X. 

This isn't the first time a completely notch-free iPhone has been mooted or rumoured, but it is the first time it's been backed up by a patent spotted by LetsGoDigital from the Japanese patent office. The patents were published on 23 December. 

However, something's a bit awry around the plausibility of all iPhones becoming bezel-free - in order for Face ID to work it needs to have a TrueDepth camera. And, in the case of a no-notch iPhone, this would either need to be housed within the super-thin bezel (likely) or behind the screen (less likely).

We've seen behind-the-screen cameras demonstrated by Oppo and Xiaomi during 2019, but the tech is in its infancy and we doubt it has the accuracy that the current Face ID camera has. 

LetsGoDigital claims that an under-display fingerprint reader for Touch ID will be used across the board instead and will signal the end-of-the-road for Face ID. We don't believe this will be the case since Apple seems to be fixed on transitioning to Face ID.

But there is an alternative possibility - the iPhones shown in the patent images have a slightly rounded design. Could they be the long-rumoured iPhone SE successor with an under-display fingerprint reader (and no Face ID). In other words, perhaps this isn't what the iPhone 12 will look like, but it is what one of the 2020 iPhones will be like. 

Writing by Dan Grabham.