Even though the iPhone X wasn’t the first handset with a notch (please see examples A and B), after Apple added cutouts to its $1,000 phone, a lot of Android fans suddenly developed strong feeling about the whole notch trend.
Then, at Mobile World Congress in late February, things got even more heated when it seemed like every newly announced phone not named the Galaxy S9 had hopped on the notched screen bandwagon. This prompted OnePlus, in a weird attempt to get out in front of the whole thing, to sit down with The Verge and explain why its next phone (which the company won’t confirm is the OnePlus 6, lol) will come with a notch as well.
But here’s the thing, OnePlus doesn’t really need to explain a notch. Since the original Galaxy Note debuted back in 2011, phone screens have been steadily getting bigger. First, pushing past the 5-inch mark and into phablet territory, to more recent innovations like exaggerated 18:9 or widescreen displays. At the same time, phone makers starting cutting back on bezels to give you more usable screen real estate without needing to make phones physically larger, which is exactly what gave birth to the notch.
By cutting out a portion of a handset’s upper display to make room for a front-facing camera and any other sensors that can be crammed in there, the notch is turning what would otherwise be a boring bezel into something you can actually use.
Sure, it’s not very elegant, and you might not like the way it looks, but that’s not the point. The notch is utilitarian. Getting mad about notches is like being angry about side-view mirrors on cars, or hinges on a door. That is, unless you’re upset that Apple somehow co-opted the entire idea of the notch, which in that case, you’re really just mad about Apple being Apple, which seems a bit petty.
Also, there’s a lot more to worry about with notches than simply who’s copying who. Until Google releases Android P for real, there isn’t any actual OS-level support for phones with notches. To combat the problem, OnePlus says it’s making a few adjustments like moving the clock from the top right to the top left on the OnePlus 6, and individually reviewing how the thousand most popular Google Play apps interact with the notch, but what about the other hundred million apps people might want?
And over in the grass is greener camp, phones like the Huawei P20 are already showing that a notch needn’t be ugly or distracting. Just look at the picture above. Out of the box, the P20's notch is plain to see. But if you’re not a fan, there’s an option to hide the notch with among some little black bars. You can still see all your important stuff like notifications, clock and battery, but now that camera bump is much less distracting. Not so objectionable now, is it?
The point is, if you’re someone who likes bigger screens, the notch is a just vehicle for delivering that experience to you. In just a short time, notches have already gone from being a talking point to what is now an essentially default feature. If you’re really out to take down the notch, vote with your wallet. No one is making you buy a phone that has one. However, I suspect people who feel that way may get left in the dust, until phone makers figure out a better place to put selfie cams and face scanning tech. At least Samsung has your back for now.