Hardware

Why iPhone X users hate the notch design and what Apple could have done better

Since Apple released the notch, there has been much derision cast toward the feature. Jack Wallen ponders this and plays devil's advocate for the new world display order.

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Since purchasing an Essential PH-1, I've been pondering this question for quite some time now: Why all the hate for the notch? The iPhone isn't the only device with a notch on the display. If you're asking yourself, "what is a notch?' you've not been paying attention. The notch is a small section at the top of a mobile display that is dedicated to the "selfie" camera. That notch (claim the naysayers) takes up precious screen space that could be dedicated to the presentation of data.

Hence the hatred for that notch.

To be fair, the notch on the iPhone is significantly wider than it is on the Essential PH-1, so I might be prone to giving iPhone users a pass on the hatred for the feature. However, when you experience the notch on the Essential, opinions could be swayed.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

Let me share a quick experience

A month or so after purchasing my Essential Phone, it suffered from the "mesh failure" that one particular run of the devices had. This failure was nothing more than the mesh covering the ear piece/LED strip at the top of the phone. Since Essential covered that under warranty, I decided to ship the device back and have them repair it. While it was out of my hands, I went back to my OnePlus 3. The moment I inserted my SIM and powered the device up, I missed my Essential PH-1. Why? The screen.

Although the Essential Phone is smaller than the OnePlus 3, the screen is larger. Why? Because of that notch. Instead of the display stopping under the camera, it reached all the way to the edge of the device giving me an extra 5/16 of an inch. And, believe it or not, the phone made good use of that space. Granted, not every app made use of the space, but even when they didn't make use of it, it seemed like I had more display.

As we all know—within the realm of mobility—appearance counts for quite a lot. My guess is once the notch becomes more standard fare for Android, apps will start using that extra space quite well.

Notifications take up space

Consider this for a moment. At the top of your phone rests the notifications. Those notifications tend to be split: On the left side of the screen you'll find carrier identification and on the right side you'll find system information (such as signal strength, battery percentage, bluetooth availability, etc.) Without a notch, that information rests below the camera. With a notch, that information straddles the camera freeing up more space for displaying your apps.

Apple missed the mark

And yet, so many iPhone owners reportedly "hate" the notch. They hate that extra space afforded their apps. Or, maybe Apple simply didn't do the notch the same justice Essential did. Maybe Essential PH-1 owners have become quickly spoiled by the tiny notch on their display, one that doesn't get in the way of the device making good use of the space.

I'm going to go out on a limb to say this: Apple had the right idea, they only executed it poorly. For Apple, the notch was simply a "look." Having that notch made the iPhone stand out, look new, shiny, sexy. And although appearance counts, aesthetics only goes so far. The functionality of the iPhone notch pales in comparison to that of the Essential PH-1. Where the iPhone notch is really only good for displaying tiny bits of information, the Essential PH-1 notch actually allows the display (in theory) to reach into that space, giving apps more room to breath. I say "in theory" because few apps are truly making use of that space yet. Most do a great job of blending the notch display into the app, but the notifications are still displayed. When the day arrives that an app can hide the notifications and use that extra space, the notch will become a mainstay. I predict this will happen, within the year, on the Android platform.

Because Apple failed to deliver a usable notch does not mean the concept should be seen as a failure across the board. In fact, the reason why so many Android developers and manufacturers are adopting the notch might well rest in the laps of Essential. After all, the Essential PH-1 perfectly shows how having that added space, straddling the camera, can give apps a boost in real estate (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Without the notch, apps would be missing out on that extra space.

In fact, some Apple developers hold such derision for the notch, they've created apps to mask the feature. One such app is Notch Remover. What is interesting about this app is that it doesn't remove the functionality of the notch. Instead, Notch Remover modifies the current wallpaper, such that it blacks out the notched portions of the display and either displays what would have normally been there with white fonts and icons, or it can hide it altogether—giving the display a rather Samsung Galaxy Edge-like feel.

Essential PH-1: The de facto standard

Considering how much space the iPhone notch takes up, I can understand why it has been met with such negativity. However, no one should consider the iPhone's take on this to be a standard bearer for the feature. In fact, until someone manages to create a display that can adapt to the needs of a camera (thereby hiding the camera beneath a literal edge-to-edge display), the Essential PH-1 should be considered the de facto standard notch. And until you've experienced such a take on the feature, you shouldn't brush it off as a complete failure. Essential not only proved it can be done, but done very well. For anyone that prefers smaller devices with larger displays, a well designed notch can be a deal maker.

A poorly designed notch? Not so much.

So, the answer the question "Why all the hate for the notch?" is simple: Apple.

Also see

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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