Reviews for the Apple iPhone X have primarily been positive since the handset was first announced in September 2017. Opinions about the device’s so-called “notch” have been polarizing, however.
Let’s look at the iPhone X’s most controversial hardware feature. We’ll also examine how Apple’s competitors are now embracing similar notches on their future mobile devices and what Cupertino plans on doing with the notch on upcoming mobile devices.
What Is the iPhone X Notch and What Does It Do?
The black housing notch on the iPhone X resides at the top of the smartphone. Inside, it contains the device’s all-new front-facing TrueDepth camera system, which powers the iPhone’s Face ID facial recognition tool. The notch also includes the components necessary for Apple’s Animoji feature, which remains exclusive to iPhone X.
As you can see from the following quotes taken soon after the phone was announced, reactions to the notch were mixed, at best:
- The Daring Fireball’s John Gruber called it offensive, as well as “ungainly and unnatural.”
- The Verge suggested the notch was an “odd design choice.”
- After some reflection, Mashable said “the notch might turn out to be the iPhone X’s best feature.”
As an early iPhone X buyer, I hated the notch—for the first few days, anyway. In time, however, I began to accept it, and now somewhat embrace it. Yes, the hardware array takes up some space. Nonetheless, it doesn’t get in the way when browsing the web or using my favorite apps.
I’ve also grown to believe the notch is necessary from a design perspective. Why? Because its distinct look makes the costly iPhone X immediately recognizable, which is vital to both users and Apple alike.
As Mashable explains:
“It’s so distinctive that it will become that one little thing that separates the iPhone owners from owners of, well, all other phones. On the iPod, it was the white colored earphones and cables. On the MacBook, it’s the Apple logo on the back. And on the iPhone, it’s going to be the notch.”
Expanding on this, the arrival of the iPhone X notch reminds me of Apple’s signature home button, which launched on the original iPhone way back in 2007. This input tool, like the notch, was heavily criticized in the early days for taking up precious real estate on the device.
This criticism didn’t keep it from popping up on all iPhone and iPad models since then, until the button-less iPhone X launched in November 2017.
Competitors Are Now Embracing the Notch
As the iconic proverb goes, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that other smartphone makers are now embracing the notch concept on some of their products.
OnePlus, for example, will include a notch on the OnePlus 6. Perhaps because of the iPhone X criticism, OnePlus 6 users will have to option to black out the side of the screen around the notch, thereby hiding it.
The Huawei P20 and Huawei P20 Pro, two of the first non-iPhones to include a notch, also allow this. Meanwhile, the ZenFone 5 includes a notch and the LG G7 could as well.
There’s also the Essential Phone, which has the distinction of being the first smartphone to embrace a notch. It arrived in May 2017, four months before the iPhone X.
Do you need more proof of the notch’s popularity? Android P, the successor to Android Oreo, is also catering to cutout smartphone designs like the notch. As CNET confirms:
“Android is the dominant mobile software on the planet, powering 85 percent of smartphones shipped globally, according to IDC. So Google’s big focus on notches signals a change in where hardware design is headed.”
Not everyone is joining in the notch parade, however. The biggest Android device maker on the planet, Samsung, didn’t include a notch on the Galaxy S9 or Galaxy S9 Plus. When announcing the new models in early 2018, the company jabbed, “And as always, you know, there’s no notch.”
Changes Coming to the iPhone X’s Notch
As you can see above, the notch concept in smartphone design is alive and well and doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. Nonetheless, it does appear Apple plans to adjust the look of the notch on future iPhones.
Some 2018 reports suggest Apple will place the cameras and sensors associated with the notch on in a different location beginning in 2019, thereby removing the need for a notch. Other reports, however, suggest the notch will remain, but with a smaller footprint.
As I’ve already mentioned, despite early concerns, I like the iPhone X notch, although there is room for improvement.
If there’s one aspect I’d like to see changed about the notch, it’s the color. The black notch looks fine when you’re using the phone vertically. However, it’s a different story when the iPhone X is horizontal. It’s been my experience that the placement of the notch is most noticeable when you’re watching a video in this position.
In a perfect world, I’d love to see Apple introduce a notch on future iPhones that changes its look based on the content you’re viewing. I’m not sure whether this would be possible. However, we’re talking about Apple here—it’s a company known for thinking differently.
The Notch Is Here, Get Used to It
Some folks will never get past the look of the iPhone X notch. For those people, there are plenty of other options available, even from Apple. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus don’t have notches, after all. And despite the strong push, not all upcoming Android smartphones will have a notch either.
(And you can always download iPhone X notch wallpaper that hides the notch.)
While it may tinker with the design, Apple isn’t likely to remove the notch altogether on future iPhones. The company’s TrueDepth camera and Face ID technology are likely to expand to other products in the future, including next-generation iPads and perhaps Macs. If a notch is necessary to bring those features and tools to other products, Apple will do so, regardless of some criticisms.
There’s more to learn about the iPhone X, which you can learn more about in our guide to mastering the iPhone X.