Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 7th Oct 2017 19:55 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Joshua Topolsky:

The "notch" on the new iPhone X is not just strange, interesting, or even odd - it is bad. It is bad design, and as a result, bad for the user experience. The justification for the notch (the new Face ID tech, which lets you unlock the device just by looking at it) could have easily been accomplished with no visual break in the display. Yet here is this awkward blind spot cradled by two blobs of actual screenspace.


Plenty has been written about the mind-numbing, face-palming, irritating stupidity of the notch. And yet, I can't stop thinking about it. I would love to say that this awful design compromise is an anomaly for Apple. But it would be more accurate to describe it as the norm.

Apple really, really wants you to "embrace the notch" and consider it a design element. With the home button gone, the iPhone X lost the iconic shape we've come to expect from iPhones, and to set a recognisable shape for the iPhone for the next decade, Apple chose the notch, and decided to embrace it.

The goal of the industry is clearly to move to truly fullscreen displays; no notches like the Essential phone or the iPhone X, and no thin chins and foreheads like the Galaxy S8 or the LG V30. With Apple trying to build a visual brand around the notch, we're going to be inundated with article after article explaining how the notch is great design, how it's a good idea, how it actually makes a lot of sense to have the notch because of [insert pseudoscience], how it is the pinnacle of design.

And all those articles will look entirely foolish once Android phones start moving to true fullscreen with under-display cameras and sensors in a few years from now, after which Apple will drag its feet, only to eventually move to true fullscreen displays 2-3 years later, at which point the authors of the aforementioned articles will do a complete 180 overnight, as if the notch never happened.

Notches and chins and foreheads are necessary imperfections due to technological limitations on the way to fullscreen perfection. Pretending they are not will only make you look foolish five years from now.

Order by: Score:
Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Sat 7th Oct 2017 21:08 UTC
Member since:

Apple folk on the Moto smart-watches:

"the flat-tire displays on their round faces were one of the worst designs in recent memory."

Apple folk on the iPhone X:

"Embrace the notch."

Reply Score: 16

RE: Comment by Kroc
by name99 on Sun 8th Oct 2017 02:31 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
name99 Member since:

(a) Please don't lump all "Apple" people as the same thing. There are plenty of us who are willing to cheer the good things that Apple does AND complain about the bad things Apple does. And yeah, the notch is bad.


(b) Why is it bad and why is it there? The REAL problem here is the idiotic pushing of sensible design trends beyond the point where they make sense. Smaller bezels makes sense when bezels mean a more physical space is used up than is paid back in screen space. But the fact that the iPhone 1 bezels wasted a huge amount of space does not mean that the iPhone 7 is at a bad design point, or that that point is best fixed by moving both the forehead and chin of a phone.

Likewise the fact that a remote control has too many buttons does not mean that an iPhone, with 4 buttons had so many that it made sense to pull that number down to 3.

The point is --- pushing design beyond the point of idiocy is not something unique to Apple, it is a pathology that runs through the entire design profession. Metro --- perfect example of pushing an idea that made sense in context WAY too far. Likewise Android has its fair share of people pushing the "utterly featureless black rectangular block of glass" ideology to the point where you can't tell which direction is up or down, front or back, of the phone.

Let's spend less time criticizing Apple and other individual companies, and more time calling out design insanity WHEREVER it occurs.
- Apple round mouse --- CRAPPY CRAPPY design
- Siri remote --- CRAPPY CRAPPY design
- iPhone X --- the notch is certainly crappy, and I suspect (though I can't say without using it) that losing the front button is likewise crappy --- makes many things slower and more clumsy for the sake of something no--one with a brain gives a fsck about.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Comment by Kroc
by Kochise on Sun 8th Oct 2017 11:46 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Kroc"
Kochise Member since:

You haven't seen the design review of the iBabe, have you ? The Special Edition with more powerful processor and color choice is even better.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Sun 8th Oct 2017 17:52 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Kroc"
Kroc Member since:

Apologies; by "Apple folk" I meant professional Apple bloggers -- that is, dependent on towing the company line no matter how much Apple craps the bed each time around -- but the word skipped my mind.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by Kroc
by CaptainN- on Mon 9th Oct 2017 16:08 UTC in reply to "Comment by Kroc"
CaptainN- Member since:

Meh- I'm no fanboi, but the flat tire thing on a round watch was pretty horrible looking, where as the notch is designed around well.

I'd say the issue is whether the design is compromised by the defect, or whether the defect has been adequately designed around. With the otherwise round face of the Moto watch getting cut off, it was not adequately addressed by the design, and just looked broken. Apple and Essential both adequately designed around the problem - both solutions do look quite lovely (despite some updates needed in the Apple and Android app ecosystems to account for it - Apple will have an easier time here due to their integrated tooling, and relative lack of phone varieties for developers to support)

Reply Score: 1

Front-facing cameras
by JoshuaS on Sat 7th Oct 2017 21:35 UTC
Member since:

I can see the notch disappearing, however ... What about front-facing cameras? People want to be able to take excellent quality selfies. I'm sure there will be a way to put a front-facing camera behind a screen but this might hurt image quality ...

Also, do we even like a fullscreen phone? Common sense tells me that it will only make our phones more prone to screen damage. I've had an iPhone where the bottom of the front was cracked. But since the screen was still fine I had no uncomfort whatsoever. I don't think fullscreen is nice for us consumers at all. I think it's just a way to rip us off like ultra-thin laptops: reducing durability and covering it up with design.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Front-facing cameras
by leech on Sat 7th Oct 2017 21:48 UTC in reply to "Front-facing cameras"
leech Member since:

I can't recall which movie it was, but it was a Sci-Fi movie and the phones in it were transparent squares with displays.

All I could think was "wow, that is the most horrible design ever..."

Now I could kind of see something like Firefly news paper, where it's a single sheet of paper that has an active display where you can look up articles and such, then fold it and put it in your pocket. But a transparent phone?

As it is, I think the flat glass bricks we have now are badly designed. Drop, shatter, batteries that last little over 2 days, etc. Remember when you could go on a long trip and not care if you brought a charger? All gone because we've accepted that our phones should be portable computers.

Worse yet, you take a sim card out of a modern smart phone (I did this when I swapped from the Note 4 to Note 8) and instantly it'll last a week on a charge. The most important part (being an actual phone) is what drains the battery the most! And here we are, stuck in this stupid non-consumer friendly bull crap..

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Front-facing cameras
by zima on Sat 7th Oct 2017 21:56 UTC in reply to "RE: Front-facing cameras"
zima Member since:

I can't recall which movie it was, but it was a Sci-Fi movie and the phones in it were transparent squares with displays.

"Prometheus" had something like that ...though it wasn't used for ~calling. Still not as useless-looking as mobile phone in "eXistenZ" - a glowing ...blob. ;)

batteries that last little over 2 days, etc. Remember when you could go on a long trip and not care if you brought a charger? All gone because we've accepted that our phones should be portable computers.

Well you can always keep a phone which lasts few weeks, for such situations. ;) (I definately keep my old Nokia 1208)

Edited 2017-10-07 21:58 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: Front-facing cameras
by leech on Sun 8th Oct 2017 18:35 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Front-facing cameras"
leech Member since:

Yeah, I recall Prometheus too. The movie I am talking about were definitely phones, they walked into a board room and everyone had their transparent phones out as someone was taking a call...

Then there is the reboot to Total Recall, where the phone was embedded into their hands. Of course they had to randomly throw in the chick with three boobs, not that it had anything to do with the revised plot.

Reply Score: 1

RE[4]: Front-facing cameras
by Kochise on Sun 8th Oct 2017 19:07 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Front-facing cameras"
Kochise Member since:

And putting your hand on a glass surface is pretty neat side effect/feature too.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Front-facing cameras
by panzi on Sat 7th Oct 2017 23:51 UTC in reply to "RE: Front-facing cameras"
panzi Member since:

What do you mean "a SciFi movie"? Its every SciFi movie and TV show ever! Even The Expanse! So stupid.

Reply Score: 5

RE: Front-facing cameras
by sj87 on Sun 8th Oct 2017 15:26 UTC in reply to "Front-facing cameras"
sj87 Member since:

There is already tech for transparent OLED displays. I suppose they could use a transparent panel and add a electrically polarized layer behind it. You know, drive some electric current through it and it turns opaque, turn power off and it becomes transparent.

This way the camera optics could be behind the panel and when camera is activated, just remove the polarization to allow shooting photos.

Reply Score: 3

Much ado about nothing if you ask me...
by galvanash on Sat 7th Oct 2017 21:53 UTC
Member since:

The notch is a compromise for the sake of front camera and sensors. The notch being a "design element" is marketing bs. Apple is good at marketing bs.

Right now it is impossible to put a front camera under the screen, and as long as that stays impossible you either have a bezel taking away real estate from the display, you have some kind of notch thing like this, you have some kind of "reverse notch" creating a bump in the shape, or you simply don't have a front camera. There are currently no other options if the goal is maximum display area.

Personally I don't see much difference between a notch or a "forehead" or whatever. The later is probably more practical, the former is more complex and creative but creates new issues for developers.

I don't see why it matters to be honest. Yes, eventually someone will come with a better design for this, but in the meantime developers will just have to work around it.

Its a compromise, design is compromise. Calling it a "design element" and asking developers to "embrace it" is marketing speak - its no different than any other design limitation, screen size, aspect ratio, lack of physical buttons, etc.

Its not good or bad imo, it is just an temporary bump in the road. Its a pick your poison kind of thing, no solution is optimal if the goal is 100% display coverage.

I personally think the lack of touch Id is a much more glaring issue, because that isn't a design compromise, that is a cost compromise. I personally don't think faceId is a better solution, and they could have put a touch sensor on the back of the phone and had both. They didn't to cut costs, and probably to a degree because they would have been accused of copying others. I think they should have done it anyway, because touchId is just a better way to control security imo. But it is already a $1k phone, which is pushing into the realm of absurd if you ask me.

Reply Score: 6

MadRat Member since:

Maybe they could have forgone the notch and added a speaker bar to the top and bottom. The iPhone 7 sounds okay, but giving it more dedicated real estate is one of my favorite features on my HTC. Surprisingly there is no vanity light for selfies.

The battery on the 7 and 7+ hasn't been sufficient for my teenagers on a daily basis. They like to use headphones with the jack, which prevents charging. Maybe the iPhone X should have two jacks, or the cable support simultaneous charging.

Reply Score: 4

weckart Member since:

There are adapters that allow charging while using lightning port headphones. Plenty to choose from.

Reply Score: 2

iPhone X
by MadRat on Sat 7th Oct 2017 22:03 UTC
Member since:

Apple is stuck in 2010. The Apple investors should be collectively asking themselves... Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is going on at Apple?

1. Storage is ridiculously small for a 2017 product line coming from a MEDIA vendor. iCloud is not producing the alternative to local storage. Quite frankly nobody trusts Apple to keep their data safe from prying eyes.

2. Quality Control is horrible, especially if you - God forbid - had your teenager break their phone from a simple drop. I've dropped my HTC without a break, once even hitting from the top of stairs and launching into a wall below. My kids have all had their glass break from simple drops in comparison.

3. iTunes. The single biggest monolithic failure. Operates like dog excrement on both Windows and my kid's MacBook Pro. Terrible compared to Google Play store. Are they even trying here?

4. Find My iPhone tied to the vendor. My experience trying to recover the oldest kid's data when the screen shattered was not positive. We could operate 75% of the touchscreen, but because your on/off toggle can't be manipulated anywhere above the bottom 15%, it was futile. We were able to use the online option to kill it, but because it kept randomly rebooting it took about 25 attempts to succeed. Disgusting waste of time due to their go***amn kludge solution to security.

If my wife and kids didn't prefer Apple then they wouldn't see another dime of my money.

Reply Score: 12

RE: iPhone X
by project_2501 on Sat 7th Oct 2017 23:36 UTC in reply to "iPhone X"
project_2501 Member since:

I agree.

And so does my local authorised apple repair centre. They told me that over the last few years Apple product quality has fallen drastically. They said they actually think Apple don't test products with internal or external users anymore .. they can't explain how design flaws and bugs get through.

I personally think it is arrogance and complacency. Apple are not short of brains, money or any resource really.

Here is my review of the 2017 MacBook Pro 13 nTB. Experience of the months since it was available. First one returned due to screen glitches and rattling fan .. and now failing keys, overheating, glue failing ... never mind the dongle hell.

If only Windows wasn't so painful .. why o why didn't Linux succeed as a viable and supported end user desktop? By that I mean beautiful and carefully designed desktop, an good app ecosystem (Affinity Designer for Linux?) ..

Sack Johny Ive.

He is insisting on stupid design constraints. Overly thin laptops that no-one was asking for but cause overheating and failing keyboards .. never mind a terrible keyboard anyway. Phones with a stupid non-rectangular screen ... developer hell .. imagine the technical debt from that ... worse than win32 ...

Reply Score: 9

Comment by ianm
by ianm on Sat 7th Oct 2017 22:36 UTC
Member since:

Why isn't the notch being called exactly what it is? It's a top bezel with idiotic tiny indicator panels embedded in it.

Reply Score: 7

design comprise
by kristoph on Sun 8th Oct 2017 00:25 UTC
Member since:

Apple doesn't want the notch. There is simply no technical solution now, or in the near term, that will eliminate it.

I've been told that future devices will have progressively smaller notch but that, realistically, it will be with us for years to come - this is why Apple is 'embracing' it.

Reply Score: 1

RE: design comprise
by _txf_ on Sun 8th Oct 2017 02:25 UTC in reply to "design comprise"
_txf_ Member since:

Or maybe they could be sensible like most other phone makers and just have a section above and below the screen, in-lieu of butchering screen real estate?

Reply Score: 6

Member since:

It's branding, marketing, and trademarking - plain and simple. There's no technical reason, there's no design reason, those are just public spin to distract from the real purpose.

The home button is gone. The iconic image of a rectangle with curved edges and a circle at the bottom is very clearly "iPhone". Look how bent out of shape they got with anyone having a physical home button, especially a round one.

Going full screen and getting rid of the round button means there's not a way to visually distinguish the iPhone from any other full screen smart phone if you used just the basic outline or shape.

However, with the notch at the top, the line drawing of the phone now has a unique distinguishing shape again, even without the round home button at the bottom. This means they can trademark it, maybe even design (patent? I forget what it is now), probably even copyright it to some degree. In other words they can lock up and "protect" the generic shape of their device. If they didn't have the notch, it wouldn't be possible to "protect" it as well.

So, when they're, or anyone else really, is spinning a yarn about technical reason this, or design reason that, just remember, it's really all about branding and marketing and "protecting" their cash cow. The rest is just smoke and mirrors.

Reply Score: 6

by tylerdurden on Sun 8th Oct 2017 07:32 UTC
Member since:

With all the shit going on in the world, and some people are obsessed over a couple-millimeter notch on a random consumer product.

This is why a "full screen" phone is an idiotic idea: being able to listen to a phone call is a fundamental thing for a phone.

Nobody is forced to buy an iPhone X. Not that the majority of readers can afford one anyways. Don't buy it. Move on with life.

Edited 2017-10-08 07:33 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Jaysus
by rener on Mon 9th Oct 2017 08:07 UTC in reply to "Jaysus"
rener Member since:

Who are you to judge weather "readers can afford one anyways"?
Also while the USA is lead by an mentally ill nazi who apparently wants to start another world war does not mean everyone else needs to keep calm and carry on with their lives and discuss whatever their profession is. E.g. UI/UX design.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Jaysus
by tylerdurden on Mon 9th Oct 2017 18:43 UTC in reply to "RE: Jaysus"
tylerdurden Member since:

The iPhone X is a very expensive, nicheish, product targeted to the highest end of that market. This is a random small amateur blog. It does not take much to put 2 and 2 together on where the majority of the readership, here, stand regarding this being a priority purchase.

People have every right to be offended by a millimeter-level notch on a random consumer product all they want. And I have the right to point out how ridiculously ill adjusted that is.

Reply Score: 1

by agentj on Sun 8th Oct 2017 08:04 UTC
Member since:

iPhone 8/8+ - pathetic screen resolution, pathetic non-expandable memory (if you buy 64GB model, you're screwed), no headphone jack (you can't use BT in the plane), pathetic lightning SuxPods which you can't connect to anything else than iStone. You can't even charge this crap from the new, fancy MacBook "Pro". Oh yes, you can waste your money on dongles in order to get dongletitis (or similar STD).

Edited 2017-10-08 08:04 UTC

Reply Score: 5

"Full screen perfection..."
by jbauer on Sun 8th Oct 2017 22:16 UTC
Member since:

Is an oxymoron. Bezels are necessary.

The real problem is that manufacturers have nothing of value to add to phones anymore, so they're in full gimmick mode now.

Reply Score: 5

Comment by Luminair
by Luminair on Mon 9th Oct 2017 03:45 UTC
Member since:

If Apple made the notification area stay dark 24/7 then these people wouldn't have noticed there was a notch!

Reply Score: 3

Comment by Sidux
by Sidux on Mon 9th Oct 2017 15:10 UTC
Member since:

What if everybody else does this just because Apple did it?
They've been criticized with headphone jack removal as well but now others are following the trend ..
Not very fond of this, but Apple does have something to say in this environment. :-)

Reply Score: 1

RE: Comment by Sidux
by darknexus on Mon 9th Oct 2017 16:44 UTC in reply to "Comment by Sidux"
darknexus Member since:

They've been criticized with headphone jack removal as well but now others are following the trend

To be completely fair, it was Motorola who were the first to do this with the Moto Z, removing the headphone jack and expecting you to use either Bluetooth or USB C headphones. That said, I don't think anyone would have bothered copying Motorola, so your point stands.
Oh, and by the way, to everyone here and everywhere else... one period ends a sentence. One. Not two.

Reply Score: 3

by atsureki on Mon 9th Oct 2017 15:38 UTC
Member since:

Notches and chins and foreheads are necessary imperfections due to technological limitations on the way to fullscreen perfection.

Back in the day, a phone could be held and operated by a human hand (yes, just one!)

I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone. Why is everyone OK with all-screen-no-handle? It's not a TV. You don't mount it on your wall and just look at it. It's a portable device where display == input. (At least the notch isn't as ass-backwards stupid as Samsung "edge" displays...)

Another guy posted about how his kids keep throwing their phones at the pavement and they just don't hold up like they used to, and I'm thinking why are they doing that -- oh, right, because there's literally nothing to hold onto. While I haven't personally mistaken my phone for a bouncy ball and dashed it into the ground with full force, my iPhone 6s with its round, aluminum edges and no side bezels sure feels like it *wants* to be dropped, and when it starts to go, I have to claw-grab the entire display sending who-knows-what life-altering commands to whatever app I was using at the time.

Enjoy your spherical keyboards, I guess. I'm holding my breath for an updated iPhone SE. Fine, I'm not allowed to have a nice camera, but at least I'll have a usable device that fits in a human hand.

Reply Score: 4

by franksands on Tue 10th Oct 2017 13:07 UTC
Member since:

It takes real courage to embrance the notch! Apple is as revolutionary and innovative as it ever was and if you disagree, you're seeing it wrong.

ps. No, I'll never let go of the "courage" BS. Such a jewel.

Reply Score: 2

Wierd worship of arbitrary conventions
by mutantsushi on Wed 11th Oct 2017 01:34 UTC
Member since:

"Notches and chins and foreheads are necessary imperfections due to technological limitations on the way to fullscreen perfection."

I really REALLY don't get this Why is this particular tendency worshipped as THE ONE SOLUTION? How is this actually critical in usability? It's not, it's just fetishism for one tendency enabled by current technology. That isn't the definition of "good design".

The same people engaging in this hype don't have problem with... frames on paintings or photos they hang in their house. The same people don't have problem with... protective bumper cases for their 'full screen' phones. It's just entirely arbitrary worship of technogizmos.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with Apple's design here. What is at the top edge of modern smartphone's fullscreen displays? A bar with notifications, time display, other iconography. Well, there isn't really a problem with splitting that in two on either side of a camera. So it's not really taking away usable space. It just offends the arbitrarily chosen technofetish worship object of "fullscreen perfection". Without specifying why that central region of top notification bar is critical to functionality.

Reply Score: 2