I’ve been thinking about the notch a lot in recent days, ever since I saw the news that the iPhone 14 might have the old ‘pill and punch’ design.
I’m not talking about the notion that the new iPhone will do away with the notch altogether; We’ve heard that rumor for a few years, ever since it appeared on the iPhone X in 2017, but rather Apple might go for the ‘pill and punch design’ instead.
I wrote something about this yesterday, but I’ve been mulling it over ever since, and have had another thought as to why it will stick, despite trying to think of what might cause Apple to drop the notch altogether.
There are so many reasons why losing the little cutout at the top makes little sense to Apple… not least because it needs a place to house all the sensors and cameras that allow its Face ID to work.
However, don’t misunderstand what I’m trying to say: I desperately I want to see the notch, and everything that interferes with a smooth screen, disappear from all smartphones. It’s a necessary evil, sure, but I can’t wait for the year when having some kind of notch or hole in the screen of any phone released is truly rare.
But I just can’t see it happening in 2022. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the iPhone 14 and 14 Pro will come with the notch and the iPhone 14 Max will have something different. Maybe Apple will rip out its own design rule book.
But having covered every iPhone launch since 3G, we’ve rarely seen massive changes like this: the notch will surely stick around.
A necessary notch
Apple doesn’t do anything it doesn’t have to do. Speaking of the early days of the iPhone, it didn’t let you copy and paste things between apps. He didn’t have a good camera for years.
Only with the iPhone 13 series did it finally offer decent battery life; Sure, that was probably a byproduct of needing more power to enable 5G connectivity, but I was surprised, when I tested battery life, that Apple didn’t have it. He did a great song and dance about this huge increase in battery life at the launch of the iPhone 13.
The notch houses a few key things for the iPhone: a variety of sensors, the IR blaster that allows Face ID to work, and the front-facing camera.
These are larger sensors than those found on most Android phones because Face ID needs them – they must have a home in the chassis. somewhereso in making the iPhone X, this was the best compromise Apple could find.
So anything that replaces the notch should achieve the same functionality, and I don’t see any technology in other phones that can do that at the moment.
The alternative to the notch is ugly
OK, I’ve instantly lied. I can think of a few things, and one of them is There’s a lot of rumors about the new iPhone… but I don’t see it happening.
The punch hole and pill-shaped opening have recently been used on some phones and allow more screen to spill around their edges, giving a bit more screen real estate.
But they still sit there, slightly ruining movie viewing or internet browsing, so it’s hard to see how they’re any better than the notch.
There is also the bigger problem: the implementation of these two differently shaped holes is, by nature, asymmetrical. I don’t see that a company so obsessed with design (did you know that the edge of seats in new Apple stores has the same curvature as the iPhone 11?) would put something that ugly in there.
I mean, Apple could go for a pop-up sensor, but they can fail and they also don’t allow seamless display of notifications where you just hover over the face, highly unlikely given that it’s a fan-favorite feature.
Face ID is going nowhere
Here’s a clue: the iPhone won’t bring back the home button, as it will keep it exclusively for the iPhone SE range (and there are strong, strong rumors that the iPhone SE 3 will keep that design).
So the only option would be to get rid of the sensors needed to enable Face ID: use the front camera? Less precise, less sure. It’s not going to happen.
So the only option is to add an under-display fingerprint scanner. Now this one has legs as an idea: Apple could do it right. It’s a technology that’s on the brink of viability, having been implemented quite well by brands like Samsung in things like the S22 Ultra, but it’s still prone to weird execution, as this piece on the Pixel’s in-screen scanner sadly shows.
Apple could definitely ditch Face ID in favor of the tech if it were to upgrade its capability (and I’m sure we’ll see that as an option in the near future), but it would require the camera to disappear to a smaller level to fully shed the notch, and , as we are about to see, that is highly unlikely.
The ‘real’ technology is not ready
Of course, the true ‘all display’ iPhone is the goal here. Something that has nothing to get in the way of the screen, where the sensors are there but hidden somehow.
That could only realistically be achieved in one of two ways: move the earpiece and place the sensors in the frame, or place them under the screen.
Sure, we’ve seen a number of Android phones try the same thing, and they’re getting pretty good: the ZTE Axon 30, for example, does a good job of taking selfie images without a visible front-facing camera.
But “pretty good” doesn’t cut it for Apple, which is hell-bent on talking about its camera prowess at every given moment. Having an under-display camera also naturally covers the sensors slightly, meaning Face ID will likely be slower and/or less accurate.
The only way this will work is when display technology evolves to let in enough light for Apple’s image processing to do its thing, and IR sensors for security can be miniaturized enough to sit in the frame. .. but we are not there yet. .
The notch is iconic, and people don’t really care
I’m sitting here in a canteen, brainstorming some ideas about the notch and whether it’s going to continue… and I can see three people in my immediate vicinity, all using recent iPhones that pack the cut-out display part on top. .
The truth is, while the notch isn’t the ideal solution, Apple has embraced it and users aren’t that upset. Reports that the iPhone 13 is a record-breaking model, reaching around 40 million sales, suggest there really isn’t an issue with the notch in the eyes of those considering which iPhone to buy.
That doesn’t mean that people I like since it’s still kind of ugly and cluttering, but a discussion on the r/apple forum on Reddit, when discussing whether the notch should stay or go, goes some way to explaining the sentiment:
“I don’t have a problem with the notch. My brain ignores it…just like my eyes see my nose at all times, but again, my brain ignores it.”
People don’t see it anymore. Another thread commenter breaks it down in an even easier way:
“Yes, [Apple] I try to do [the notch] part of the design as best they could. Yes, they have exploited this “design anomaly” for their brand, it has a very unique “icon” translation. yes, it is not necessary [sic] ugly or aberrant
“But. It’s not a feature by any means. It’s… a design compromise.”
As mentioned here, Apple has leaned towards the notch. He has taken it from monstrosity to emblem.
Made the notch the phone icon, instead of pretending it’s not there. People see a smartphone logo with a cutout and instantly see an iPhone.
Apple has gone so far with the idea that it can put it in the MacBook Pro last year and it seems to (more or less) make sense, though clearly no when compared to multiple rivals that do not resort to the same.
So… it seems likely that we’ll still see the notch on the iPhone 14. I can’t see a way for Apple to drop it.
But then again, I couldn’t believe the brand had lost the headphone jack on the iPhone 7, even though people wanted it then (and still do). I’m sitting across from someone with the Lightning headphone adapter, and yet Apple has been adamant in its shrug-off attitude to the cries to bring it back.
So maybe I’ll be sitting here, writing another review in September, talking about how Apple has found a way to stack the pill-and-punch design in the middle of the screen in a “sleek” way.
Or that it did away with the notch altogether and spent a fraction of its massive R&D budget figuring out how.
Or… maybe the notch is just 7% smaller, a little higher, and that will be enough for another year to encourage iPhone sales and upgrades.
And if you don’t mind, maybe it’s time to face the bullet and go for the iPhone 13. We’re still far enough away from the iPhone 14 launch for you to get a decent deal, and it’s too long to wait until August to get the best prices – take a look at the latest prices and see what you think.