In its September 12, 2017 announcement about the iPhone X, Apple made its message abundantly clear: “More screen, less phone.” They almost completely did away with the edges and home button, adding a “notch” where the camera is embedded into the screen — a feature that divided the opinions of consumers just as it divided the notification bar.
As always happens with Apple, the hordes of followers within the iOS ecosystem ran out to buy the new device, which by the way, isn’t exactly cheap. (Whether the price was justified or not is another question.) It soon won the title of “Bestseller Smartphone of 2018,” with 16 million units in users’ pockets, and more than $100 billion in the company’s coffers during the first quarter of the year.
With these kinds of numbers, it’s no surprise that a wave of copycat products has followed, with an infinite variety of quirks and alterations. Take, for instance, the audio connection. Apple wasn’t the first to get rid of the headphone jack, when it did so with the iPhone 7; actually Motorola eliminated it at the start of 2016 with the “Moto Z” and “Moto Z Force Droid,” but it was Apple that got most of the attention. While consumers complained when the jack disappeared, they quickly got used to it. The choice started a trend, as other brands followed suit and eliminated the audio jack to “save space” on their devices and, well, not be left behind.
Today, wireless technology hasn’t yet achieved the quality of that old, reliable 3.5 mm port. Watch for those cases where a phone has kept the jack — which personally, I applaud — as not all of us have the interest or money to switch to wireless, nor the stubbornness to get yet another adaptor that lets us use our regular headphones, only to lose it after a couple months and need to buy a new one for 15 bucks. I know, 15 bucks doesn’t sound like that much, but if you take into account that you could buy decent headphones for that price, like the “Panasonic ErgoFit RP-HJE120-K” (not trying to give them publicity, those are just the facts), you’ll understand why Apple is the such a successful company. There’s always more money to be made.
But I digress. In this article, we’re talking about edges, and the notch that, just as some feared and knew would happen, has risen to the top of 2018 trends. Like with the phone jack elimination, Apple wasn´t the first to introduce the notch; it was Essential, with its “Essential Phone” launched in August 2017. But, once again, it’s Apple that was recognized as the innovator.
LG, OnePlus, HTC, and even Google have fallen into the trap of the notch, as we can see in images of the new Pixel — all this in order to maintain the phone speakers so sorely missing from the industry (at least we hope so). Already, the notch is becoming common enough that Samsung’s joke about it is more apt than ever.
The notch represents the end of the road, a compromise brands have made in their quest for ever larger screens on ever smaller phones: the compromise of “Yeah, we can do that… but it’s gonna be complicated.” With “My Mix” and “My Mix 2,” Xiaomi already showed this is possible, using a piezoelectric speaker (the glass of the screen and the phone’s body vibrate and create a sound you can hear when you put your ear against it — cool, huh?). So did the “Vivo NEX S,” which put the fingerprint sensor inside the screen itself to save space, and used the same approach as Oppo’s “Find X” with their front-facing camera: a mechanical system that deploys the cameras when they’re needed, all these innovations with the goal to push the industry to innovate further. Oppo was the first to develop a 1080 pixel screen, and the company has a long history of taking design risks — either revolutionary or deranged, depending on who you ask.
We’re undoubtedly experiencing a high point for tech innovation. Apple has become the first trillion dollar-valued company — that’s a “1” with 12 zeros after it: 1,000,000,000,000. But at the end of the day, we still don’t have the answer to the question: Do we really need a borderless screen? Or is this just another competition between companies, with our money as the final judge?
Head of Development