Should the iPhone Adopt the Punch-Hole Design?

The Xs Max notch

Apple wasn’t the first company to launch a smartphone with a notch, but the company definitely brought all of the attention to the design philosophy. As a result, we saw a lot of different phones with their own take on the notch.

And while that design choice dominated last year, and there are still some new smartphones set to arrive in 2019 that will keep the notch for a bit longer, we have already started to see how 2019 will differ from last year. Namely, the notch is getting the boot and we’re starting to see the “hole-punch” design. Samsung calls it the “Infinity-O”. Huawei and Honor have already introduced handsets with a similar design, and leaks have pointed to Nokia, Motorola, and others following suit with their own incoming smartphones.

So, we’re going to see a lot of the hole-punch design, and I’ve already started to hear speculation about how Apple is going to address this situation.

I don’t know if Apple is necessarily happy with the notch in its current state. It’s hard to argue that the company isn’t necessarily going out of its way to show off the notch in marketing for the iPhone XS and XS Max, for instance. (But it’s clearly present in the iPhone XR marketing, which is interesting.) Still, it’s a necessary evil to fit the TrueDepth camera system and Face ID biometric security measure, so the company lives with it for now. I have no doubt that Apple is working on reducing the size of the bezel, all in an effort to get rid of it altogether so it can finally have an iPhone that is all unimpeded display.

Sure enough, there are plenty of rumors suggesting that is indeed the case. We’ve heard in the past that Apple has set its sight on 2019 as the year it will ditch the notch altogether. And just recently an analyst weighed in saying that his company expects Apple to reduce the size of the notch in some way or another this year. So this could very well be the year that we start to see the reduction of the notch before its ultimate demise at some point in the future — maybe in 2020.

I think the future sees Apple introducing technology that has the important front-facing sensors embedded below the display. And it sounds like we’re at least one step closer to that reality, thanks to a major Apple supplier recently announcing this sort of technology. The front-facing camera itself still needs to be solved, but that’s why we’re seeing these smaller notches, and especially the punch-hole design. It’s just enough room for the front-facing camera.

We’ve actually seen what a punch-hole design in an iPhone could look like, albeit with a dual front-facing camera design. That idea has a pill-shape cutout, one that’s certainly bigger than what we’ve seen in real phones already. Personally I think it’s too big, but the single camera setup might not be terrible. Of course, I’m a firm believer that anything that somehow ruins the viewing experience on our smartphones is bad. I don’t want anything impeding my display. But until all the pieces fall in place for under-the-display tech, this is what we’ll have to live with.

The Samsung Galaxy S10 may have a punch-hole design. At least, that appears to be the general consensus ahead of its February 20 unveiling. (Samsung did also announce a “New Infinity Display” late last year, which doesn’t feature a notch or hole-punch design at all, so the phone could use this design, too.) That may put some expediency to whatever Apple is planning for its own future devices, or it might not at all. This is Apple we’re talking about, a company that traditionally does whatever it wants, irregardless of whatever’s happening in the mobile industry.

So, the question is: What does Apple do after the notch? Do you want to see the company adopt the punch-hole design that’s becoming so popular this year? Or would you like to see the company simply reduce the size of the notch until it doesn’t need any bezels, or hole punches, at all?

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