Sunday debate: Notch vs full bezel

Ivan: The notch gives character.

When the Apple iPhone X came out in the Fall of last year we were split on “The Notch” and the controversy hasn’t stopped ever since.

I’m pretty sure most people (along with my colleague at the opposite end of this argument) find the notch ugly and pointless. But I find it kind of attractive, weird as that may sound to most people.

It gives the iPhone X a character of its own, a face even. It’s an iconic design already, much like the round home button was.

I’ve subsequently bought an iPhone X and I’ve not once found the notch a hindrance. In fact, most of the time I don’t see it at all – notch blindness, maybe?

It seems Android manufacturers like the notch too – the LG G7 will have one, the Huawei P20 will have one, the OnePlus 6 will have one and I’m pretty sure Samsung will embrace the notch too. So the notch seems like a sound choice, if the adoption is anything to go by. Heck, Google is even putting notch support into Android P’s code.

But, as Peter rightfully says “The notch is spreading for no good reason” – let me paraphrase a bit and add that Apple has a tiny Kinect-like device into the iPhone X’s notch for Face ID. Most of the notch-flaunting droids to come just use it to house the earpiece, front camera and existing sensors (like the proximity and/or ambient light).

But there is another reason too – minimizing bezels. Displays with a notch are generally taller (19:9 seems to have settled as the standard) reducing the need for physical bezels. That makes the phone look even better, in my opinion.

The iPhone X has less physical bezel at the top, especially around the notch. Personally I’d prefer the Galaxy S9 with a notch.

And don’t even get me started on the Essential Phone – it’s easily one of the best-looking phones of 2017. Too bad it wasn’t up to standards in other departments like camera or global availability.

So that’s my stance. I like the interesting look of a phone with a notch and I like having my screen stretch all the way to the top, even if that means having a notch there.

Now I’ll humbly pass the keyboard to Peter. There you go!

Peter: Notches do not make a phone better.

I get what Ivan is saying. When writing about all the notched phones at the MWC, I conceded that at least it gives them character. But just because designers failed to come up with another characteristic design element doesnt mean that the notch is necessary.

And I can prove it the best-selling Android flagships of the first half (or maybe all of) 2018 will not have a notch. Samsung is estimating it will sell 43 million units of the Galaxy S9 and S9+. Analysts think its closer to 40 million, but either way the S9 duo will outsell the next flagship by a large margin. Nokia devices saw a meteoric rise last year and look set to continue to grow with nary a notch in sight.

Okay, there are already several mid-rangers with a notch that will sell in the millions just like their notch-less predecessors did.

Some trends I can understand, like killing the headphone jack. But the notch isnt like that, no 3.5mm jack meant Apple and others can push their wireless headphones.

So, if not for market success, why would so many Android makers jump on this particular bandwagon? Fashion is the polite explanation.

The iPhone X is a superstar and of course others will want to emulate it. I still cant quite connect the dots: looks like an iPhone X and is not an iPhone X. I mean, Id be happy to look like Liam Hemsworth even if Im not actually him, but I dont think the same logic applies to buying a phone.

Okay, okay, the notch allows the top bezel to be thinner, another fashionable trend. But what is gained in thinness is lost in usability. Really, the iPhone X barely manages to fit signal and battery indicators and a clock on that top line. Would you really lose much functionality if it was straight bezel?

And at least the iPhone X has an entire Kinect crammed into that notch (a wildly impressive feat, to be fair). Androids with face unlock typically rely on the selfie cam, so theres nothing new there.

The blind, uninspired way some companies chase after Apples awkward designs is quite disappointing. Apple has the influence to push wacky ideas on its users, most Android makers do not. I wish they would wise up to that.

Cast your votes

So, it’s time to cast your votes. Which side are you on – do you like the notch or do you see it as an eyesore?