Let's get real: the iPhone X notch isn't going away

Let's get real: the iPhone X notch isn't going away
The notch is here to stay for a long time.

Image: lili sams/mashable

Still can’t bring yourself to accept the iPhone X‘s notch? 

Sorry, buddy, but I have some bad news for you: Apple’s unlikely to make any major changes to controversial cutout in the display, despite new rumors suggesting future iPhones might come with a smaller notch or remove it entirely.

Korean website ET News, a popular source that often publishes industry and supply chain-related information relating to Apple or Samsung, has a new report claiming this year’s new iPhones will all come with a smaller notch and even thinner side bezels around the display.

The report corroborates previous rumors that Apple will introduce three new iPhones: a more affordable 6-inch LCD-based iPhone, a 5.8-inch successor to the iPhone X with upgraded internal components, and a gigantic version of that iPhone, with a 6.5-inch display.

All three are expected to come with notches even though 5.8 and 6.5-inch models will be the only two with OLED screens.

ET News also says 2019’s iPhones might come with screens without any notches at all. They’ll still reportedly come with Face ID, but no notch.

Everything about this report strikes me as wishful thinking. 

I’m all for a smaller notch or no notch at all so we can all get phones with true “all-screen” displays, but it feels too soon for Apple to make any sweeping changes to the existing iPhone X design.

The iPhone X’s notch exists for good reason: 1) it houses the many parts that make up the sophisticated TrueDepth Camera system and 2) it’s a bold and immediately recognizable design choice that distinguishes it from competing Android phones.

Apple’s bound to figure out how to shrink the TrueDepth Camera system or combine the various parts into a fewer components, which could result in a smaller notch, but I have my doubts it’ll happen that soon.

Take a look at what’s actually housed in the iPhone X’s notch below. It’s a lot of stuff. These parts aren’t easily shrinkable. 

The iPhone X's notch isn't houses many the selfie camera, various sensors for Face ID, and the earpiece.

The iPhone X’s notch isn’t houses many the selfie camera, various sensors for Face ID, and the earpiece.

Image: Apple

Now, think about how long it took for Apple to go from iPhones with bezels above and below the screens to just the notch. Yeah, it took ten years. And in that time, did the iPhone’s top bezel, which again contains many important sensors, the FaceTime camera, and earpiece, shrink in any noticeable way? Nope. It was still a bulbous “forehead.”

Apple is nothing if not extremely calculated. One of its least-acknowledged strengths is its ability to design for the next several years. Shrinking the notch a year after the iPhone X would not just require great engineering on Apple’s part, but also new factory machinery to build such devices. 

It’s not really a surprise why the iPhone 6 through 8 look so similar. Apple’s able to reuse much of the tooling without modifying them to accommodate any major design changes.

What seems more likely is that ET News is getting incorrect supply-based information based on the flood of incoming Android phones that rip off the iPhone X’s notch. 

As I saw firsthand at Mobile World Congress, there’s going to be a lot of Android phones with notches coming out soon. And many of them do come with smaller notches. These notches are inferior, though. They may look like the iPhone X’s notch, but they don’t contain the same advanced TrueDepth camera system. They’re notches for the sake of notches, not innovative functionality.

All of these notched Android screens are going to flood the supply chain, and, to anyone looking at just parts, they’re only make it more difficult to discern what is and isn’t a new iPhone component. That’s good news for Apple, who hates leaks, but bad news for fanatics.

And as for the notch-less iPhones coming in 2019? I’m pouring water on that small fire, too. The report says “Some display industries think that Apple will either drill holes into OLED panels or use BM (Black Matrix) area within displays.” 

Drill holes in the screen? That sounds way worse than a notch at the top that you don’t even notice after the first few days. 

Apple could hide the FaceTime camera in the body using a mechanical sliding mechanism like the one Vivo showed off on its Apex concept phone, but I can’t see the company doing that. Apple’s devices are all moving away from moving parts. A motorized camera is cool, but it’s also prone to breakdown after a million selfies. Hell, Essential has a patent for the same retractable selfie camera in a smartphone, but also settled on a notch for the PH-1 for the very reason of mechanical failure.

Look, I know that it sucks the notch exists at all, but it’s something you’ll have to just get used to because it’s not going away or shrinking anytime soon. 

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