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iPhone X: The devil is in the details

Apple’s new flagship phone has plenty of new features to get excited about. If you want to pose as a cuddly teddy bear and send your love some snuggles, you can now do that with the front-facing TrueDepth camera using what Apple is calling “Animojis.” You can also just set your phone on a Qi-compatible charging surface for quick wireless charging. But the key feature that intrigues me—and has already been the subject of scrutiny—is the edge-to-edge display with the, what some say distasteful, “notch” out of the top.

First off, it’s common that Apple isn’t the first-to-market with new features. In this case they are not the first edge-to-edge phone (i.e. Samsung Galaxy S8 or the Essential phone), however, I do believe they’ve confirmed that edge-to-edge displays will be the standard moving forward. We as consumers benefit by getting a larger screen in a smaller form factor, which is great for those with tiny hands or smaller pockets, but they’ve done one thing different from the competition: the notch! Oh, the nerve. Some have already called this “horns” as it makes the display appear to have horns in portrait orientation. You may have also seen the phone display in landscape (see below), creating some interesting presentation issues for websites and other apps.

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Image credit: WebKit

As a designer, I’m suggesting we embrace the notch, just has Apple has done. Apple has taken advantage of as much real estate as possible and converted it to pixels in the new display. The notch was necessary to do it within the current limitations. I’m sure we’ll see hardware live beneath the display in the future like the camera and 3D dot projector, but until then, the only way to convert the top of the display to usable space is to have a notch.

I’ve designed my entire career keeping constraints in mind. This is just another constraint that we have to consider. And to those who will turn the phone sideways and say “look how horrible my site looks on this”—my response is: when was the last time you turned your phone to landscape? The first words out of your mouth would likely be to watch a video, or possibly play a game. The notch should not hinder videos and again game designers will just need to consider the constraint.

I’m excited to see what interesting things come to light as a result of this new semi-rectangular display. I’ll be waiting to hit the purchase button on October 27th for the new Model X, and if you can’t get past the notch, great news! You can alternatively purchase the iPhone 8, which has most of the upgrade benefits of the IPhone X.