Over the past few years phone with slim bezels have become all the rage. But the latest solution for slimming the top bezel has been causing a lot of rage: some folks see notches as an ingenious way to give you more screen space by moving the notifications up. Others see it as an intrusion that makes photos and videos look awful.
Either way, it looks like the notch is here to stay… at least for the current smartphone cycle. Around a dozen notchphones were unveiled at Mobile World Congress this year, and more are coming all the time.
While OnePlus hasn’t officially unveiled its next smartphone yet, the company is preemptively defending one design decision: the OnePlus 6 will indeed have a notch.
Speaking with The Verge’s Vlad Savov, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei pointed out that the company’s notch is big enough to house a camera, earpiece, and proximity sensor, unlike some phones with smaller notches. But unlike Apple’s iconic iPhone X, there’s no need for special face scanning technology, so the OnePlus 6 (if that’s what it actually ends up being called) will have a smaller display cut-out than Apple’s flagship.
But talking about which company has the biggest notch is kind of beside the point, because Pei’s primary defense of the design element is that a notch gives you more screen space, not less. Phones with notches generally have slimmer bezels than those without them, allowing for a higher screen-to-body ratio.
The first OnePlus phone with a notch is expected to have a 90 percent screen-to-body ratio. Pei notes that you can’t easily get rid of the bottom bezel, because there are electronic components where the display connects to the logic board. Apple ditched the bottom bezel by using a flexible display that wraps around and puts those connectors on the back, but that’s a complicated, expensive solution that results in a thicker phone.
Anyway… I totally see Pei’s point. And I also totally think notches look funny.
The thing is that if notches only move the notifications a bit further up the screen, there’s not much problem. But if they intrude on full-screen apps including games, video players, and photo viewers, then they may provide more screen space… but they also seem to take a bit out of that screen space in a visually distracting way.
So OnePlus plans to do something Apple hasn’t done with the iPhone X: when you’re looking at photos or watching videos, the OnePlus 6 will put black bars around the notch so that your images and movies don’t look like they’re missing a piece.
OnePlus isn’t the only company developing this sort of software-based solution. In fact, Google’s building better support for notchphones directly into the next version of Android, currently code-named Android P.
Huawei’s new P20 and P20 Pro smartphones also effectively let users decide whether they want to see the notch or obscure it with black bars that create a virtual bezel. And the upcoming LG G7 is expected to have a similar camouflage-the-notch option.
So maybe display cut-outs really are the future… and maybe the future’s not so bad after all.
But it’ll certainly take some getting used to.