A year of display

By sam | @samjjmm

In their quest for a bezel-less, all-screen smartphone, manufacturers have struggled for a spot to put the front camera. This meant that in 2018 almost every phone had a notch up front. The notch on the Pixel 3 XL is narrower than the one seen on the iPhone XS and OnePlus 6T has a relatively smaller notch. Even then the notch on the Pixel 3 XL is not the same as the one of the iPhone XS or the OnePlus 6T. But whatever their size or shape, there is no denying the fact that in 2018 notches became an integral part of smartphone design.Advertising

Research firm Counterpoint had anticipated that over 300 million smartphones with “notch displays” will be sold by end of 2018. By the end of the year, the notch has ended up in phones priced even under Rs 10,000.

The trend of a cutout at the top of the smartphone display was started by Essential with its Phone PH-1 in May 2017. However, it was Apple which made the notched display “mainstream” with the iPhone X, launched towards the end of last year. Now, almost every manufacturer offers smartphones with the notch.

When Apple chose to add the notch over the iPhone X’s display, criticism came from every corner. Some even called it a marketing stunt, but you know that’s not true. In the introduction video of the iPhone X, Apple’s Jonathan Ive described the device as part of the decade-long goal of creating an “iPhone that is all-display”. Simply put, there was no other way in front of Apple but to include the notch in order to create an edge-to-edge screen on the iPhone X.

At MWC 2018, Asus launched the new ZenFone 5Z and the ZenFone 5. The two phones offer all-screen displays with a 90 per cent screen-to-body ratio. Both featured notched displays. A few months later we saw the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro. The premium, camera-centric smartphones were pitched as rivals to the iPhone X and Galaxy S9. Once again they had notched displays, though the notch was smaller in size.

Things veered to a different path when Oppo introduced its F9 smartphone with a waterdrop-stye notch design. Rather than blatantly copying the iPhone X, Oppo opted for an unusual notch design. It’s small, rounded cut-out that gave the impression that there was no notch in the screen.

Xiaomi, Honor, and Lenovo are also not far behind. All three companies launched smartphones with a slider form factor. The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, Honor Magic 2 and Lenovo Z5 Pro have tried to reimagine the slider phone. But here’s the core issue: the mechanical moving parts in these phones may cause an issue in the long run. Sure, the slider phone form factor is less gimmicky but again, it’s not a perfect way to create a notch-free smartphone.

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