The Apple iPhone X Effect: Get Ready For Notched Android Smartphones

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Apple is often criticized for playing it safe when it comes to its smartphones’ design, and rightfully so. Beginning with iPhone 6, the basic design of the Cupertino-based company’s smartphones hasn’t really changed much, save for a few subtle changes over successive generations.

But even after that, the iPhones continue to “inspire” other (Android) smartphones, with some Chinese manufacturers (e.g. Oppo, Vivo) going so far as completely imitating the hardware (and even the Android UI overlay, to make it resemble iOS) design. And the iPhone X is no exception.

Apple’s priciest smartphone yet, the iPhone X comes with many firsts (for an Apple smartphone), such as an OLED screen and facial recognition-based security. But the biggest standout feature is at the front of the phone. And it’s, yep, you guessed it.. dat notch!

The iPhone X comes with a 5.8-inch bezel-less display that covers its entire facade, except for a horizontal notch running along its top edge. Underneath it lie the earpiece, as well as the TrueDepth camera (along with some sensors) used for FaceID-based authentication.

Now, it maybe hiding “some of the most sophisticated technology” (at least Apple thinks it is!) to be ever used in a smartphone, but there’s no denying the fact that the iPhone X’s notch doesn’t exactly make the smartphone a looker. If anything, it makes the display look asymmetrical. Even though Apple has customized iOS’s UI to accommodate the ‘ears’ that the display gets due to the notch, the thing still is an eyesore.

However, it seems that a lot of Android OEMs think that the notch is cool, as a lot of Android smartphones with notched displays have been launched recently, with more coming soon.

At MWC 2018, Asus launched its Zenfone 5 smartphone, which not only has an iPhone X-like notch, but also a vertical dual-camera setup at the back. Asus also mocked Apple during the launch event, calling Zenfone 5’s notch to be smaller than that of ‘Fruit Phone X’.

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LG didn’t launch any new phone (except for an AI-powered version of its V30 flagship) at this year’s MWC, but if a leaked video captured by someone at its MWC booth is to be believed, it seems that the South Korean has decided to hop on the notch bandwagon as well. The short video shows an unannounced LG smartphone with a notch above the display, and there have been rumors that it could be the G7 (Even the name label beside the smartphone in the video reads G7). That said, it’s also been rumored that LG has begun working on the G7 afresh, after scrapping the earlier design. So take this one with a grain of salt!

Huawei has decided to embrace the notch as well, as the Chinese telecommunications giant’s upcoming (launching on May 27) P20 flagship will come with a notched display. The P20 Lite, launched a few days back, has a notched display too.

Speaking of more Chinese iPhone X wannabes, Vivo has just launched the V9 in India. The smartphone comes with a notch at the front, though it’s a bit smaller than that of iPhone X.

Lastly, the next ‘flagship killer’ from OnePlus, the OnePlus 6, is all but confirmed to come with a notched display. Considering how OnePlus and Vivo have the same parent company, the above-mentioned V9 might act as a reference device for OnePlus 6.

It’s obvious that Google has also realized that smartphones with notched displays are going to keep on coming. Probably this is the reason that the company has included support for notched displays in the first developer preview of Android P, the next major Android version that’s due to launch later this year.

As bad as the notch on the iPhone X is, at least it’s there because Apple has put cameras and multiple other sensors behind it. In case of the Android wannabes, the notch just has the earpiece, selfie camera(s) and the usual sensors. While it can be argued that Android was the first to get a taste of notched displays (with Essential Phone), there’s no denying the fact that they’ve gotten popular only after the launch of iPhone X.

In a way, the emergence of notched displays could also be seen as a step towards smartphones with truly bezel-less (end-to-end) displays. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Vivo demonstrated a concept smartphone with fingerprint sensor embedded in the display. As the technology matures, we’ll be seeing more and more smartphones use in-screen fingerprint sensor. This in turn will free up space on the smartphones’ front panels, which will be especially beneficial for devices that have front-mounted fingerprint sensors.

How long will it take for smartphones to have only screens on their front panels, remains to be seen. For now, the next best thing seems to be the notch. And regardless of what current users’ perception of the trend is, it seems that 2018 is going to be the year of the notch.

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