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Opinion

Why Samsung has nothing to gain from embracing an iPhone X-style notch

Samsung has worked diligently over the past few years to shed its reputation of being an Apple copycat and started blazing its own trail in smartphone design. It was far ahead of Apple in adopting edge-to-edge displays for smartphones and one can easily credit the company with popularizing the trend for the entire industry.

Apple has had a profound impact on smartphone design as well and even though at least one Android manufacturer embraced the display notch well before the iPhone X, Apple’s flagship smartphone has really popularized the idea so much so that scores of Android manufacturers are moving in that direction now. It’s imperative that Samsung not jump on that bandwagon.

We first need to understand why the notch exists anyway. Samsung’s Galaxy Note lineup kickstarted the trend of smartphones with substantial displays and while initial models of such handsets were difficult to use one-handed, smartphone manufacturers have been able to fit larger displays in smaller bodies by slimming down the bezels and adopting “taller” displays.

While bezels around the displays were the first to go, symmetrical bezels were kept at the top and bottom to house the front-facing camera, sensors and fingerprint readers. Subsequent iterations took it one step further by relocating the fingerprint reader to the back and slimming down the bottom bezel even more.

It’s at this point that smartphone designers arrived at a dilemma. How do you maximize the screen-to-body ratio without having to make the device bigger? They would have to find a way to house the camera and sensors somewhere while claiming additional screen real estate and so the notch was born.

Essential, Android co-founder Andy Rubin’s company, introduced the notch to Android smartphones with its first flagship device called the Essential Phone (released well before the iPhone X last year). It had a cutout or notch for the front-facing camera which segmented the status bar at the top while allowing the display to be stretched up to the maximum.

Then came the iPhone X. Apple didn’t try to hide the notch, rather it embraced it in all marketing materials for the new flagship. It was significantly larger than the one on the Essential Phone because not only did it house the front camera it also housed the advanced sensors for Apple’s Face ID facial recognition feature.

The Essential Phone didn’t really inspire, for lack of a better word, other Android smartphone manufacturers to embrace the notch but the iPhone X did. Several Chinese OEMs introduced new handsets at the Mobile World Congress 2018 last month with notches that appear to have been lifted straight from the iPhone X.

It’s not just the obscure manufacturers like Noa and Ulefone who did this, even well regarded manufacturers like Asus have jumped on the bandwagon. The company’s new Zenfone 5 looks like a shameless iPhone X clone and Asus even talked up the notch during its event claiming that it was 26 percent smaller “than Fruit Phone X.” This is just the beginning as Huawei’s upcoming P20 lineup is reported to embrace the notch as well as the upcoming flagship smartphones from LG and OnePlus.

Google has acknowledged that its OEM partners are going in this direction and it has made a subtle yet substantial addition to Android which is going to open the floodgates to notch-touting Android smartphones. Most manufacturers weren’t able to have their software properly work around the notch as the core Android OS wasn’t designed for that segment screen but all that changes with Android P, the next major Android platform upgrade.

The first official Android P developer preview was released earlier this week and Google confirmed that it has “display cutout support.” This means that Android OS will be fully capable of supporting smartphones with notches and developers will now be able to test how their full-screen apps will work on those devices.

It’s no secret that many Android smartphone manufacturers look to Apple for design inspiration and tend to copy its moves. This is particularly true for those based in China. It’s not surprising to see that Google is embracing the notch as well, it must support its OEM partners and if they’re adopting this trend then Google can only nudge them along. Most of them aren’t really worried about being branded as Apple copycats and haven’t really worked to shed that reputation.

This is why I feel that it’s imperative for Samsung to not follow this trend. Samsung’s smartphone design has come a long way and there’s no denying that the company is in a league of its own. The Galaxy S8 was widely regarded as having one of the best smartphone designs last year and with good reason.

Samsung has evolved into a trendsetter for the entire industry and the company should not put that reputation on the line just to follow the pack. It really doesn’t stand to gain anything by this but would instead reinforce the notion that it exhibits knee-jerk reactions to whatever Apple does. That’s a charge that it has had to refute because of the Animoji-like AR Emoji feature on the Galaxy S9 as well.

Smartphone manufacturers who are embracing the notch present it as some sort of innovation but the truth is that it was born out of necessity. There have already been reports that Apple wanted to house all of the components in the iPhone X’s notch underneath the display glass but wasn’t able to because the technology wasn’t ready. Some reports even suggested that it tried for months to integrate a fingerprint sensor under the display but technical difficulties prevented it from doing so which is why it came up with Face ID instead.

It really doesn’t seem like the notch is here to stay for long. Word on the street is that Apple will eventually ditch the notch when the technology that enables it to house those components under the display glass is ready. Some rumors suggest that it might do that as soon as next year. When Apple does that, what do you think the OEMs that followed it on the notch bandwagon will do next?

Does Samsung really want to risk its reputation by shifting to a notch a year after Apple does and then doing away with the notch after Apple does it first? If Samsung does that, it runs the risk of alienating its diehard fans who have come to the company’s defense in online forums and blogs when it’s accused of copying Apple. The fans have stuck by Samsung and have relished its evolution into an industry trendsetter. They wouldn’t want to see the company take one step forward only to take two backward. It might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak, and they might decide to give up on Samsung smartphones entirely.

It really isn’t worth it, in my opinion. Samsung should instead be focused on achieving that goal before Apple and get a leg up on its main rival by putting out a device that doesn’t need a notch in the first place.

DJ Koh, the CEO of Samsung’s mobile division, recently said that the company is no longer obsessed with being the first in the world to bring new smartphone technologies to the market. It will take its time to perfect in-display fingerprint sensors and foldable smartphones before it launches them. So, hopefully, it will take its time in perfecting technologies that eliminate the need for a notch and bring them to market instead of relegating itself to a band of copycats.


Do you agree that Samsung has nothing to gain but a lot to lose by embracing the notch? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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kfzhu1229
kfzhu1229

Notch is one of those things that if you hide it with black OLED bar, you get burn mark.
If you don’t hide it, it just looks disturbing to my eyes and looks like a display panel that took damage up top.

vNezcro
vNezcro

The iPhone X Notch is the least attaractive thing ever put into a smartphone design. Of course Samsung would not gain anything from it.

preime101
preime101

I would think the iphone X’s bulging, off-centre camera is strong competition for hideous design awards.

superg05
superg05

what makes you think they would add an ugly notch they made fun of……………………………………………….?

sgs2aus
sgs2aus

They would do it. They use to tease Apple about battery life and that they had a removable battery, then they removed that feature. They teased Apple about the location of the headphone Jack (from top to bottom), then they copied this as well.

VIRGIN KLM
VIRGIN KLM

The fact that they have nothing to gain from copying the notch does not mean they are not going to do it. A little of research in the past 6 years or so will be enough to see that Samsung likes to go with Apple’s flow. I wouldn’t be surprised if in the near future Samsung phones get that notch too. You shouldn’t be aswell.

preime101
preime101

I would say that Samsung’s approach is pretty much perfect. The amount of bezel top and bottom is just enough to prevent accidental screen touches, particularly when handing your phone to another person, without appearing too bulky.
What’s more, looking at my note 8 the amount of sensors ans speakers almost cover the entire top strip so even if they wanted to use the notch design it wouldn’t gain them much anyway.

Astralmind
Astralmind

Samsung…. hardware wise there’s no denying, best in class, puts to shame Apple or any other OEM out there. Software, this is where they need to improve.. not so much in having the latest .dot release from Google but to have stable and steady releases: 1. New major release from Google: Put a 3 to 4 month release schedule for current flagships and 2 generations behind. For mid tier phones 6 to 8 months for current phones and the 2 generations behind. etc 2. Optimize battery life. We have all this great hardware yet the battery consumption remains the same.… Read more »

preime101
preime101

Update wise they are getting better and with dull implementation of project treble it will be pretty much irrelevant as an issue anyway. What they can do with though is the reduction of app and services duplication and redundancy. Whether it is the duplication of browsers or even within their own app ecosystem the duplication of Samsung pay for both phone and watch. Allow the user to completely remove any apps they don’t want would be a great start.

vNezcro
vNezcro

And the funny thing is Samsung battery still lasts longer than Apple even with always having higher resolution.

abolds4397
abolds4397

I can see a bunch of Apple fans visit Sammobile quite a bit to show their love for Apple…I just hope Samsung stays AWAY from the notch, it doesn’t look good at all, PERIOD!

samsunggalaxy82
samsunggalaxy82

They will copy notch very soon. Samsung is biggest copy cat. They copy Apple- we know that

vNezcro
vNezcro

More like Apple copies Samsung* Look at the similarities between the S8 and the iPhone X.

gurmeet056
gurmeet056

I m a regular reader of sammobile .why your article is very long.it can be boring.tommorow article of of s9 revies is also very long.think about this

Mario387
Mario387

It’s not so much that the notch is a bad idea, it’s more about how it’s executed.

To the left and right the of the notch, the screen should be black and be used for icons like connection, power, notifications, and should never be showing programs etc, that way we gain almost a half a cm, then for symmetry cut same amount on the bottom.

So we either get a bigger screen, or a smaller phone. But we get to use some of the dead space we got on top.

preime101
preime101

I like the idea of mirroring the top and bottom (including mirroring the speaker. If you had to have a notch you could use the bottom slots for the apps & return buttons and put a physical home button with finger print reader in the bottom notch 🙂

JSH1973
JSH1973

iPong X is a disaster altogether, with or without the notch, there is a reason Apple decided to discontinue it so quick, initial sales forecast reduced from 50m to 20m, phone didn’t impress at all compared to the S8/S8+ and most certainly not compared to note 8 and now S9/S9+ is here, and talk about seriously overpriced compared to the other phones I mentioned

samsunggalaxy82
samsunggalaxy82

You think that ? Well – reality is different. iPhone X is the best phone ever made. People acknowledge that. (Excludes blind lag lover, I mean Samsung fans)!

SAMgalaxyXXX
SAMgalaxyXXX

Sorry but the iPhone X has the worst design I’ve seen in years. It’s not just the notch which is completely unnecessary, looks bad and intrusive whether one can get used to it or not. For me personally the worst thing about the design is that vertically aligned protruding camera lenses at the back which a lot of OEMs are also copying. It’s simply awful. I just can’t believe that a lot of reviewers are calling it a sleek design and even mention it in the pro column of their final verdict. If any other company had released this design… Read more »

vNezcro
vNezcro

And no headphone jack, no physical or virtual home button. Only IP67 waterproof. Is fragile and breaks easily. Overpriced just like every Apple product like always. Close to QHD resolution but still likes to have a weird resolution and not fully QHD. Terrible battery like always.

Martin Eugeniev
Martin Eugeniev

Don’t mind the notch but why are companies doing it? I mean Apple needed it for the Face ID sensors but why are others doing it? Thats the dump thing. For some (including me) wouldn’t and don’t see any problems with the notch on the X but others to do it only because the X haves it doesn’t mean they should do it. Though tbh they are doing it only because of the “Fame” which is on the X with this notch but they don’t have all these sensors.

Abhijeet
Abhijeet

Because the masses usually will try to get something that looks like the thing that they might not be able to afford, and too many are just inspired by looks rather than functionality. Chinese OEMs have been making phones look like the iPhone and also their software like iOS, so this is just another way they’re trying to be similar so they can sell more devices.

ironbat
ironbat

Got 450mb+ software update with February security patch for galaxy a5 2017.

phajiyev
phajiyev

Well, in my opinion it is up to your interpretation if the notch is a disaster or not. I agree that in Apple it causes distraction while watching video or playing a game in full screen mode, but in Android you will likely get an option to CUSTOMIZE it (e.g. Sides of the notch may be configured to be used for notifications or clock but not for video playback or games, or turn it off completely so that it will get purely black and you will get a very similar look to Galaxy S8/S9 at the end of the day.… Read more »

Biransahin
Biransahin

Totally correct. The notch is a disaster. Even Apple are reportedly dropping it in 2019. Those Android manufacturers who included a notch this year will look very stupid in 2019, including Google who seems to have made provision for one in Android P.

heisenberg001
heisenberg001

Well you can’t fault Google here. It’s just a support just the same way Android supports SD card and headphone jack and Pixel 2 / 2 XL don’t have them

SMGE79
SMGE79

Well, from one point of view Samsung did a great job shedding their reputation of copying Apple, but from another, limiting the dual camera and the bigger RAM to the bigger s9 plus model, and the vast increase in price makes me think that Samsung is slowly turning into Apple.
I’m not saying that Apple is better, but not everyone is willing to buy a phone that won’t fit in his pocket.

Shenoysiddhant
Shenoysiddhant

And the price point for that matter

brendonx
brendonx

My S8+ fits in my pocket with ease. But then I don’t wear those silly skinny jeans which no phone probably fits in those. I don’t know why people are saying Samsung are copying Apple. How? Many things Samsung has had years before Apple. Wireless Charging, Landscape mode, Notification bar. Phone manufacturers copy each other. 1 sets the trend the others follow suite. Its business. So it is right that Samsung has done so many world firsts for mobile that they have decided to just do it right first time rather than being first. That is the better option and… Read more »

Blood Wolfe
Blood Wolfe

The notch is a terrible and ugly design choice and I can’t believe it’s gaining popularity. WTF?!?

Also, from development side (my wife is a front end developer) and has seen issues caused by this notch when designing mobile friendly sites. Samsung please do NOT ever make a phone with this “notch”, it’s ugly, useless and more trouble than it’s worth all because one company tried to be too different then crApple copied it. Apple is not innovative and I hate how people flock to apple or try to copy apple.

NO to the “notch”!

heisenberg001
heisenberg001

Big NO to the notch.

Off topic, I reckon that you have lots of registered members but they hardly make comments. I hope you guys find a way or two to ensure your site gains more traffic and old members return to make comments while new ones create account to do same thing. Go sammobile

strazzi
strazzi

The notch is ugly and patetic. please don’t….

vitorvedder
vitorvedder

iOS status bar doesn’t have as much info as Android’s. Even so, they still had to sacrifice the battery percentage. The android status bar has much more information with the notification icons. I’d not be willing to sacrifice the full width status bar just for the sake of increasing screen ratio in a way that it’s not that useful at all. I think we should be over with this freaking mess of 0.5 mm thinner bezels. We’ve got good enough processor speed, good enough ram, good enough screen, good enough storage. Just give us decent batteries ffs, that’s all.

Lukasz1536
Lukasz1536

iPhone notch is ugly af. My S8 (and now S9+ which just came) looks much better. Hope that Samsung only make a smaller top and bottom bezel in the future. Big NO for notch.

digvijayshinde
digvijayshinde

I prefer whole bezel over a notch, let that be of any size. From what I know and think about Samsung, notch will not be part of any of their top tier smartphones.

cristiano matos
cristiano matos

Please Samsung, no notch. It’s horrible and I can’t see the need of it. Maybe engineers and designers lost they creativity. Keep minimum bezel on top but don’t go to the notch side. It will ruin smartphone future.