www. O S N E W S .com
News Features Interviews
BlogContact Editorials
On notches, chins, and foreheads
By Thom Holwerda on 2017-10-07 19:55:15

Joshua Topolsky:

The "notch" on the new iPhone X is not just strange, interesting, or even odd - it is bad. It is bad design, and as a result, bad for the user experience. The justification for the notch (the new Face ID tech, which lets you unlock the device just by looking at it) could have easily been accomplished with no visual break in the display. Yet here is this awkward blind spot cradled by two blobs of actual screenspace.


Plenty has been written about the mind-numbing, face-palming, irritating stupidity of the notch. And yet, I can't stop thinking about it. I would love to say that this awful design compromise is an anomaly for Apple. But it would be more accurate to describe it as the norm.

Apple really, really wants you to "embrace the notch" and consider it a design element. With the home button gone, the iPhone X lost the iconic shape we've come to expect from iPhones, and to set a recognisable shape for the iPhone for the next decade, Apple chose the notch, and decided to embrace it.

The goal of the industry is clearly to move to truly fullscreen displays; no notches like the Essential phone or the iPhone X, and no thin chins and foreheads like the Galaxy S8 or the LG V30. With Apple trying to build a visual brand around the notch, we're going to be inundated with article after article explaining how the notch is great design, how it's a good idea, how it actually makes a lot of sense to have the notch because of [insert pseudoscience], how it is the pinnacle of design.

And all those articles will look entirely foolish once Android phones start moving to true fullscreen with under-display cameras and sensors in a few years from now, after which Apple will drag its feet, only to eventually move to true fullscreen displays 2-3 years later, at which point the authors of the aforementioned articles will do a complete 180 overnight, as if the notch never happened.

Notches and chins and foreheads are necessary imperfections due to technological limitations on the way to fullscreen perfection. Pretending they are not will only make you look foolish five years from now.

 Email a friend - Printer friendly - Related stories
Read Comments: 1-10 -- 11-20 -- 21-30 -- 31-32
Comment by Kroc
By Kroc on 2017-10-07 21:08:18
Apple folk on the Moto smart-watches:

"the flat-tire displays on their round faces were one of the worst designs in recent memory."

Apple folk on the iPhone X:

"Embrace the notch."
Permalink - Score: 16
Front-facing cameras
By JoshuaS on 2017-10-07 21:35:37
I can see the notch disappearing, however ... What about front-facing cameras? People want to be able to take excellent quality selfies. I'm sure there will be a way to put a front-facing camera behind a screen but this might hurt image quality ...

Also, do we even like a fullscreen phone? Common sense tells me that it will only make our phones more prone to screen damage. I've had an iPhone where the bottom of the front was cracked. But since the screen was still fine I had no uncomfort whatsoever. I don't think fullscreen is nice for us consumers at all. I think it's just a way to rip us off like ultra-thin laptops: reducing durability and covering it up with design.
Permalink - Score: 4
RE: Front-facing cameras
By leech on 2017-10-07 21:48:35
I can't recall which movie it was, but it was a Sci-Fi movie and the phones in it were transparent squares with displays.

All I could think was "wow, that is the most horrible design ever..."

Now I could kind of see something like Firefly news paper, where it's a single sheet of paper that has an active display where you can look up articles and such, then fold it and put it in your pocket. But a transparent phone?

As it is, I think the flat glass bricks we have now are badly designed. Drop, shatter, batteries that last little over 2 days, etc. Remember when you could go on a long trip and not care if you brought a charger? All gone because we've accepted that our phones should be portable computers.

Worse yet, you take a sim card out of a modern smart phone (I did this when I swapped from the Note 4 to Note 8) and instantly it'll last a week on a charge. The most important part (being an actual phone) is what drains the battery the most! And here we are, stuck in this stupid non-consumer friendly bull crap..
Permalink - Score: 1
Much ado about nothing if you ask me...
By galvanash on 2017-10-07 21:53:05
The notch is a compromise for the sake of front camera and sensors. The notch being a "design element" is marketing bs. Apple is good at marketing bs.

Right now it is impossible to put a front camera under the screen, and as long as that stays impossible you either have a bezel taking away real estate from the display, you have some kind of notch thing like this, you have some kind of "reverse notch" creating a bump in the shape, or you simply don't have a front camera. There are currently no other options if the goal is maximum display area.

Personally I don't see much difference between a notch or a "forehead" or whatever. The later is probably more practical, the former is more complex and creative but creates new issues for developers.

I don't see why it matters to be honest. Yes, eventually someone will come with a better design for this, but in the meantime developers will just have to work around it.

Its a compromise, design is compromise. Calling it a "design element" and asking developers to "embrace it" is marketing speak - its no different than any other design limitation, screen size, aspect ratio, lack of physical buttons, etc.

Its not good or bad imo, it is just an temporary bump in the road. Its a pick your poison kind of thing, no solution is optimal if the goal is 100% display coverage.

I personally think the lack of touch Id is a much more glaring issue, because that isn't a design compromise, that is a cost compromise. I personally don't think faceId is a better solution, and they could have put a touch sensor on the back of the phone and had both. They didn't to cut costs, and probably to a degree because they would have been accused of copying others. I think they should have done it anyway, because touchId is just a better way to control security imo. But it is already a $1k phone, which is pushing into the realm of absurd if you ask me.
Permalink - Score: 6
RE[2]: Front-facing cameras
By zima on 2017-10-07 21:56:16
> I can't recall which movie it was, but it was a Sci-Fi movie and the phones in it were transparent squares with displays.
"Prometheus" had something like that ...though it wasn't used for ~calling. Still not as useless-looking as mobile phone in "eXistenZ" - a glowing ...blob. :P

> batteries that last little over 2 days, etc. Remember when you could go on a long trip and not care if you brought a charger? All gone because we've accepted that our phones should be portable computers.
Well you can always keep a phone which lasts few weeks, for such situations. :P (I definately keep my old Nokia 1208)

Edited 2017-10-07 21:58 UTC
Permalink - Score: 4
iPhone X
By MadRat on 2017-10-07 22:03:22
Apple is stuck in 2010. The Apple investors should be collectively asking themselves... Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is going on at Apple?

1. Storage is ridiculously small for a 2017 product line coming from a MEDIA vendor. iCloud is not producing the alternative to local storage. Quite frankly nobody trusts Apple to keep their data safe from prying eyes.

2. Quality Control is horrible, especially if you - God forbid - had your teenager break their phone from a simple drop. I've dropped my HTC without a break, once even hitting from the top of stairs and launching into a wall below. My kids have all had their glass break from simple drops in comparison.

3. iTunes. The single biggest monolithic failure. Operates like dog excrement on both Windows and my kid's MacBook Pro. Terrible compared to Google Play store. Are they even trying here?

4. Find My iPhone tied to the vendor. My experience trying to recover the oldest kid's data when the screen shattered was not positive. We could operate 75% of the touchscreen, but because your on/off toggle can't be manipulated anywhere above the bottom 15%, it was futile. We were able to use the online option to kill it, but because it kept randomly rebooting it took about 25 attempts to succeed. Disgusting waste of time due to their go***amn kludge solution to security.

If my wife and kids didn't prefer Apple then they wouldn't see another dime of my money.
Permalink - Score: 12
RE: Much ado about nothing if you ask me...
By MadRat on 2017-10-07 22:16:12
Maybe they could have forgone the notch and added a speaker bar to the top and bottom. The iPhone 7 sounds okay, but giving it more dedicated real estate is one of my favorite features on my HTC. Surprisingly there is no vanity light for selfies.

The battery on the 7 and 7+ hasn't been sufficient for my teenagers on a daily basis. They like to use headphones with the jack, which prevents charging. Maybe the iPhone X should have two jacks, or the cable support simultaneous charging.
Permalink - Score: 4
Comment by ianm
By ianm on 2017-10-07 22:36:38
Why isn't the notch being called exactly what it is? It's a top bezel with idiotic tiny indicator panels embedded in it.
Permalink - Score: 7
RE: iPhone X
By project_2501 on 2017-10-07 23:36:29
I agree.

And so does my local authorised apple repair centre. They told me that over the last few years Apple product quality has fallen drastically. They said they actually think Apple don't test products with internal or external users anymore .. they can't explain how design flaws and bugs get through.

I personally think it is arrogance and complacency. Apple are not short of brains, money or any resource really.

Here is my review of the 2017 MacBook Pro 13 nTB. Experience of the months since it was available. First one returned due to screen glitches and rattling fan .. and now failing keys, overheating, glue failing ... never mind the dongle hell.

If only Windows wasn't so painful .. why o why didn't Linux succeed as a viable and supported end user desktop? By that I mean beautiful and carefully designed desktop, an good app ecosystem (Affinity Designer for Linux?) ..

Sack Johny Ive.

He is insisting on stupid design constraints. Overly thin laptops that no-one was asking for but cause overheating and failing keyboards .. never mind a terrible keyboard anyway. Phones with a stupid non-rectangular screen ... developer hell .. imagine the technical debt from that ... worse than win32 ...

Permalink - Score: 9
RE[2]: Front-facing cameras
By panzi on 2017-10-07 23:51:35
What do you mean "a SciFi movie"? Its every SciFi movie and TV show ever! Even The Expanse! So stupid.
Permalink - Score: 5

Read Comments 1-10 -- 11-20 -- 21-30 -- 31-32

No new comments are allowed for stories older than 10 days.
This story is now archived.

News Features Interviews
BlogContact Editorials
WAP site - RSS feed
© OSNews LLC 1997-2007. All Rights Reserved.
The readers' comments are owned and a responsibility of whoever posted them.
Prefer the desktop version of OSNews?