There’s a fresh story out of randomly accurate rumor site, DigiTimes, saying Apple is once again working on minimizing the Notch, this time for the iPhone 13.
Meanwhile, ZTE has just shipped the first phone with no nightmare of a notch, no punchole, no forehead, no mechanical choocher. But with the dream — an actual under-display camera system. That’s… still kind of a nightmare.
Either way, any way, I figured it was time for an updated look at Apple’s iPhone 13 options, and how close we are to really, truly, finally deleting the Notch.
I’ve got a ton of iPhone 13 coverage coming your way so make sure you hit that subscribe button and bell so you don’t miss any of it.
Let’s do this.
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When Apple wanted to take the modern iPhone X design full screen, they had to delete the bezels, the Home button, and Touch ID along with them.
Sure, they could have moved Touch ID to the Apple logo on the back of the phone, or the power button where they’ve since shipped it on the iPad Air 4.
But Apple didn’t want the same, they wanted better, more transparent, harder for other companies to copy, and also in line with the AR — augmented reality — plans they’ve been not-so-subtly having all of us beta test for years.
So, Apple used a depth-sensing camera array — TrueDepth — instead. But, that meant, instead of just a single RGB selfie camera like most other phones on the market, Apple Apple also needed an infra-red camera, flood illuminator, and dot projector as well. Throw in the earpiece and you have wide… like the Enterprise D wide… of notches.
Now, Apple could have stuck with the forehead. They had Klingon sized foreheads on all the iPhones from the original to the 8, and even the current iPhone SE.
It would have prevented a full on corner-to-rounded-corner display, and removed a small amount of usable pixels, but it would also have removed the cosmetic abomination of the notch.
That’s what Google did with the Pixel 4, after all, which I think is the only other phone to ever field a Face ID-like facial geometry scanner.
But Apple wanted to market corner-to-corner, full-ish screen for the display, so they decided to embrace the notch. Make it something distinctive. Even iconic. Shove the status bar all up into those corners, to make it look even more expansive. So the spent a ton of engineering resources on sub-pixel masking to cut first OLED and then LCD around it.
They didn’t do it for the modern iPad Pro design with Face ID. That one only Thanos-snapped away half the bezels, so no notch needed. Just foreheads all the way around.
But, with the iPhone, it sure seems like the forehead is just never going to be an option again.
Samsung did full screen different. They never got into Face ID-style biometrics so they’ve only had to deal with that single RGB camera or, for a brief period of time, dual RGB cameras.
So, Samsung literally cut the screen just around those single or dual RGB cameras. Like hole punches. And they’ve gotten better and tighter at doing it.
That let the display go not just corner-to-corner but truly edge-to-edge. It just doesn’t give you a truly full screen or that much more in terms of usable pixels.
Apple could go with something similar but, unlike Samsung, they’d have to deal with more than just one or two RGB cameras. They’d have to have cutouts for the dot projector, flood illuminator, and infrared camera as well.
And, while, subjectively some people might prefer it in an enter-the-spiderverse kind of way, like the Mac Pro case, objectively it’s no better or worse than a notch.
To avoid notches and hole punches and get that full-on full screen, other companies have resorted to mechanical choochers what pop the front-facing cameras up and down or spin them around.
No matter how fast a mechanical choocher chooches, it’s just never going to be as fast as a camera that requires zero… choochage. Choocherage?
Also, mechanical parts aren’t great for water resistance but are terrific at being potential points of failure. And Apple hasn’t gone to all the trouble of deleting the Home button headphone jack and soon, maybe, the lightning port just to stick popup in the top.
Meanwhile, ZTE has just shipped the first phone with an under-display camera. Basically, just what it sounds like — they paved the camera over with pixels, then shrunk and spread the pixels out to try and clear a path for light to get to the sensor.
And… it’s not great. Not yet. There’s enough interference that they have to use machine learning to try and extract a usable image and even then, it’s not that usable….
Or even that well hidden at times. Especially if Apple would be paving over all four Face ID models, not just one camera.
If it matures fast, though… in a few years… come iPhone 14 or iPhone 15… who knows?
So, yeah, that leaves us with the DigiTimes rumor, and rumor Jon Prosser has reported on as well — that Apple has been and continues to prototype a notch-less iPhone — as in less of a notch.
They’d do that by moving some of the components like the receiver up higher, maybe even to the top, or replacing them with physical acoustical components like the under-display phones use, so that the Face ID TrueDepth system proper can be condensed closer together.
Still a notch but not as much of a notch… if the rumors prove true.