Apple’s botched ‘notch’ atop iPhone X’s display is a design abomination

“Early looks at the iPhone X are missing something — a little bit of every video and a chunk of many games,” Sascha Segan writes for PC Magazine. “That’s because some content on full-screen apps in landscape mode is covered by the ‘notch,’ or the black area at the top of the screen housing the front-facing camera and sensors.”

“Why the notch? Apple wanted to do a bezel-less display, but there’s no technology (yet?) for putting a camera under a display,” Segan writes. “Since Apple wanted to hide the iPhone X’s specs from developers until the last minute, third-party app developers weren’t ready for the notch. But iPhone X doesn’t arrive until Nov. 3, so popular apps have time to get notch-worthy.”

“According to iPhone developers on Twitter, Apple is now pushing out guidelines that tell them to embrace the notch. Don’t block it off, but also don’t draw attention to it, Cupertino says. It’s a lemon of a ‘feature,’ and the best Apple can do right now is to make lemonade,” Segan writes. “I’m sure app developers will work around the notch.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Yup.

As we wrote yesterday, “Apple is making some lemonade.”

Unapologetically notched. Again, it’s an “inelegant kludge.” If Apple could’ve embedded the sensors behind/into the display they most certainly would have done so.

“For more than a decade, our intention has been to make an iPhone that is all display. A physical object that disappears into the experience.” — Jony Ive, September 12, 2017

We’re not there yet, so Apple is making some lemonade.

The iPhone X’s nasty notch is certainly a design compromise (see below), but rather than try to hide it (and likely fail), Apple chose to embrace it (à la the iPhone 5C’s “unapologetically plastic” marketing). You take your most glaring weakness and celebrate it as a feature. Marketing 101.

Jony Ive’s “design inspiration” for iPhone X appears to have been a plastic clipboard:

Plastic clipboard (left), iPhone X (right)
Plastic clipboard (left), iPhone X (right)

A far better, much more elegant, better looking and better functioning design solution than the one at which Apple’s Jony Ive & Co. and/or Craig Federighi inexplicably arrived, courtesy of Nodus and Gordon Kelly via Forbes from back in July shows how iPhone X’s notch should have been handled:

iPhone X notch un-botched by Forbes' Gordon Kelly and Nodus
iPhone X notch un-botched by Forbes’ Gordon Kelly and Nodus


iPhone X notch un-botched by Forbes' Gordon Kelly and Nodus
iPhone X notch un-botched by Forbes’ Gordon Kelly and Nodus

Even if the status bars simply stayed “sideways” when in landscape, this is a more elegant solution than Apple’s current kludge. The simple solution is oftentimes better.
Ive & Co.’s design choice is even more inexplicable when you realize they already have the answer staring them in the face all day: The Mac’s menu bar.

(Even though the clock just struck five, the interns have already done their jobs today! Prost, everyone!)

Apple is turning a design quirk into the iPhone X’s defining feature: Leaning into the notch – September 14, 2017
The lessons and questions of Apple’s iPhone X and iPhone 8 – September 13, 2017
Apple embraces that ugly notched cutout in OLED ‘iPhone’s display – August 30, 2017
It’s time we embraced Apple’s notched/cutout OLED iPhone display – August 11, 2017
Apple patent reveals embedded Touch ID for fingerprint recognition anywhere on display – October 4, 2016
Apple granted key U.S patent for Touch ID fingerprint recognition integrated into Multi-Touch display – May 18, 2016
Apple supplier LG Innotek embeds fingerprint sensor into display – May 4, 2016
3D fingerprint sensors under Gorilla Glass may let Apple kill iPhone’s Home button – July 21, 2015
Apple working on eliminating the Home button on iPhone, iPad, sources say – June 22, 2015
Apple files for patent to move Touch ID fingerprint scanner from home button to display – February 9, 2015


        1. “Should of” instead of “should’ve” is soon to enter dictionaries as common usage. Because dictionaries are statistical compendiums of what is, rather then prescriptive Orwellian solutions to a problem imagined by misguided elitists.

          1. “Rather then?”

            Another pretends-to-understand-grammar ‘expert’ who doesn’t know the difference between “then” and “than.”

            Herself would also like any and all words to be interchangeable so that, to truly be a grammar expert, one needn’t know things, like words.

            1. You’re an imbecile. You made the same kind of mistake (grammatical) as the person you are correcting, and now that someone noticed and called you out on it you are here pretending it was intentional because, well…you’re an imbecile. That’s what you get for trying to…whatever it is you were trying to do. Fucking idiot.

            1. Pompous? You are welcome to your opinion. But accurate? Definitely so. And that is what really chaps your a$$, isn’t it, applecynic? I seldom post anything that is without merit or justification. You may perceive that as arrogant. But I see it as my responsibility when posting on a public forum.

              Pomposity is somewhat more tolerable when the content is indisputable.

            1. Then I suppose that you will be satisfied the next time a lawyer uses poor grammar when drafting a contract for you? After all, if someone understands the meaning, that is sufficient…

            2. Look, I can appreciate the written or spoken word as much as anybody, but there are expectations for each situation. How would you call it syntactically….? Context. I do not expect all to be writers, any more than I expect all to me mathematicians. We have enough “English Police” should we add “Math Police”? He Math Police rules at least are provable, not established by consensus or some monarch.

              To answer your question, what I care about the contract is that it stand up in court. Substance over style….

            3. Intent is often argued, because the language wasn’t clear enough. Again, language IS the substance. Where did you get the notion that the law is about words and not ideas? It is both.

            4. @Lawyer
              Language’s sole purpose is to communicate an idea from one mind to another, and is often not clear enough. Its not based on natural law, rather convention. If telepathy were the ideal, language fails miserably, but it’s the best we have.

            5. To be clear, I did not post the original comment correcting the grammar. I responded to posts defending it as being fine. I do not expect everyone to be a “writer” either, but that does not excuse atrocious grammar. There is a vast difference between basic competence and professional skills. Still, I generally refrain from criticizing weak grammar, and I am sensitive to the fact that English is not the primary language of some people on this forum.

              You mention “math police.” Since a mathemetical solution is either correct of incorrect, my tolerance for basic math errors is far lower than for grammatical errors. Fundamentally, I abhor undisciplined and lazy intellect. Far too many people depend on calculators and spell correction in modern times.

            6. Fair enough, and I respect your well thought out answer. Let me introduce my own pomposity… unlike math, there is no “right” answer in language, the whole set of rules is contrived, and accepted by convention, not some “natural law”.

              The message matters, and it’s precisely due to the inadequacies of language that how it’s presented matters at all. One exception, the Arts.

              It’s NOT wrong to recite the ABCs in a disorderly sequence, the order was simply agreed upon

          2. The smurf I smurf it, smurfing smurfers smurfing around with smurfs just can’t smurf that smurfing with a smurfing smurf just smurfs the smurf and smurfs any smurf that smurfs a smurf.

          3. So, Herself, being in the dictionary is THE determining factor for what is “good English”?

            Besides the fact that “should of” is not there… Even if it is, someday, would you also use kike, spic or fuck in day-to-day conversation with your boss or clients?

            The dictionary is what you say… a compendium of common usage… and that includes the most foul, disgusting, inane and stupid terminology.

            1. Dictionaries don’t prescribe, they describe. I learnt this from the accounts of English lexicographers themselves.

              Speaking of foul, disgusting, inane and stupid, you ought to reflect on how very many words fall into that box—thousands. People learning the language want to know what they mean; that is what a dictionary is for—to help them understand.

            1. Yes – compendia is the plural, from the long dead language.

              Change is not a problem. Languages ALL change, ALL the time. But there is a lot of difference between English speakers substituting “our” plural (compendiums) for the Latin, and “should of”, which has no link to any past tense of any verb.

    1. Your website design sucks, MDN – far worse than the notch on the iPhone X – and you have had years to evolve it.

      The childish griping on this forum almost makes me ashamed to be associated with you folks through Apple. It is just a little damn notch holding some critical sensors on a phone that has no even been released. If I were Apple, I would just reserve that screen area for dedicated displays with a black background. Black uses less power on an OLED display anyway. But I don’t really care. The iPhone X is an amazing piece of engineering that very few of you could even begin to create. So you get petty and start picking at little, inconsequential things. I see people like you in meetings every day trying to make themselves seem knowledgeable and useful and important by trying to pick apart other people’s work. They create nothing of value on their own, but they love to critique the work of others. They hope and crave to find some flaw so they can save the day.

      The iPhone X has not yet been released at retail, but I believe that it will be proven to be another breakthrough design for Apple with incredible functionality. Six months from now I doubt that anyone will be blogging about the notch.

      1. Excuse me — The childish griping on this forum is exactly what attracted me to it — I learn a great deal here about how life works. I must ask, why are YOU here? — to set us all straight, I assume. Gripefests attract finger-waggers like dung attracts flies.

        Like it or not, there exists an undercurrent of resentment in society that never goes away, because society never metes out justice to everyone’s satisfaction. The gripes you haughtily dismiss are often proxies for other hurtful experiences. Discovering those is an important locus of social research.

        You mentioned small-minded gripers in meetings. But an open forum serves a different purpose, and should not be judged by your harsh corporate standard. What is a worthless comment in a meeting can be a valuable data point in marketing analysis.

        The very phrase “first world problems” indicates an awareness of this paradox — whining about minor inconveniences whilst others in the world are more starkly inconvenienced, even killed. But people are always being killed, so when is it alright to bitch about cellphone design? Never, according to critics of the hoi polloi. But Mister Market IS the hoi polloi.

        1. I guess that makes me a fly attracted to the dung posts on this forum. I might as well sow my seed where plenty of fodder exists for maggot development. And, indeed, it is my objective to set a few things straight before I die. Those in which the light shines a little brighter are obligated to illuminate the dimness in others.

          From time to time I find it necessary to remind my kids that their problems pale in comparison to the problems of many others. That doesn’t not render them inconsequential, but I believe that such realization can aid in quenching the extreme angst of the teenage year. Perspective can be quite valuable. My perspective is that this notch is a minor design issue, at best, that will likely be resolved through a few software updates and app design standards. As a result, I consider the griping to be ridiculous in the extreme. Wait until the iPhone X sharts shipping to see if there are *real* issues of concern.

          I concur that there is an “…undercurrent of resentment in society.” There are many struggles and an infinite variety of inequities, real or perceived, about which people often become overwrought. Some are worthy of thought and action and others are not.

          You have a strange sense of humor, Herself. Your prose reminds me of Abigail Van Buren. I feel as if I have been admonished by a rather prim and stately matron.

        2. “misguided elitists” – Since when, herself, do you resort to name-calling and think you’ve made a point?

          And the same for gross exaggeration and put words in others’ mouths…
          “when is it alright to bitch about cellphone design? Never, according to critics of the hoi polloi.”
          I don’t see anyone saying that.
          I’d suggest what is ticking some people off is the explosive torrent of utter outrage and the tone… not just the fact of complaining.

          I think it would be a different response if the complainers kept a sense of proportionality.

          Last one for now… Using something that may or may not happen in the future as the basis for your argument is pretty bizarre:
          i.e. “Should of” instead of “should’ve” is soon to enter dictionaries as common usage.

          1. Funny, I rather thought that the swagger and name-calling so common in the MDN comments could accommodate my doing the same. Folks generalise all the time here. But when I do it, it’s putting words in other’s mouths. OK, then. Back to Nancy Normal, I am. But I want you to know something: the more outrageous a claim sounds, the more likely it is to merit consideration.

    2. NO, THE CONCEPT WILL NOT WORK. The reason is that the device is not symmetrical: the top phone corners are much smaller than the bottom ones. For starters, it will no longer “work” in any orientation.

      The concept would fail.

      Apple had no choice because they couldn’t make the sensors and camera translucent. They are bound by physics: all four corners must be the same curviature.

        1. Technically, the iPhone has never been entirely symmetrical. There have always been more buttons on one side than the other. Interesting, Apple has continued the idiotic mistake of placing the power button exactly opposite the two volume buttons. It has caused innumerable goofs for me especially when attempting to use the camera. But apparently Apple does not give a shit. I highly doubt they give a shit about optimizing the display experience for users either. The fanboys will tell you that you didn’t need to see that part of the photo, or alternatively that iOS11 is going to make letterboxing look really great. Whatever, I think Apple’s designers are more detached from reality than ever.

          1. I think it’s more than a fanboy split. The majority of people really don’t have a problem with it. However, for the subset that do, it’s a very powerful feeling of “something being wrong”. There are those that don’t even have a horse IN this race that are pained by the look of it. This is the same 10 to 20 percent of the population that, say, revel in the fact that the calculator app in iOS 11 is using round buttons OR who will take an extra step if they are walking somewhere and end with an odd footstep OR ensure that when they set the volume on anything it’s on an even number.

            From the inside, it REALLY feels so viscerally wrong to them that they can’t imagine that anyone would look at it and go “meh”. But that’s what the majority, fanboy and non-fanboy alike, are indeed thinking.

  1. Jony Ive is overrated.

    Beyond the iPhone X’s awful “notch,” just look at the iPhone battery case or the friggin’ Apple TV Siri Remote disaster.

    What have you been smokin’, Jony?

  2. Yeah but:

    – The notch tells you which way is up.
    – The notch gives Apple a way to improve visibly from the front in a next iteration.
    – The notch leads to a nice pun: “top notch”
    – The notch holds a fat-ass projector that’s dropping thousands of dots on your face. It couldn’t be incorporated into a tiny edge band.
    – The notch sets the iPhone X apart from every other all-screen phone that is now or ever will be. You see the screen you know it’s an iPhone.
    – The notch gives the screen little ears, which are cute.
    – The notch was either going to be a notch or forehead, and it’s nice to have the little bits of screen on the sides for the time, battery, etc. Why not?
    – The notch lets you know where to look to unlock. You have to make eye-contact. Without a notch you could be looking at the bottom of the screen and nothing would work.
    – The notch helps you orient where to push in your wired power, sync cable, or headphone jack — the other side.
    – The notch can be blacked out really well when you want to, given the OLED screen. Developers are being encouraged not to do this, probably for many of the reasons above, but it’ll probably happen anyway.
    – The notch corresponds to the placement of the camera on the other side, again helping you to orient your hands when taking a picture.
    – The notch is unique, ugly but in a way that will become friendly over time. It adds character.

    Embrace the notch.

      1. All I’m seeing is the same phone, just different background image. The display on these images has the same ‘notch’, but the background wallpaper only extends to the bottom of that notch (leaving the left and right top parts with black background, to blend into the plastic of the notch). They could easily have what you’re suggesting with an iOS update.

      2. Then buy an unidentifiable Android phone that looks just like that and be done with it. What’s the problem? Or get iPhone 8 and get far less screen space just so you can cut off your nose to spite your face.

      1. What is it with you clowns and sales? Did I say sales? Do I care how many Note 8s, or S8s, or V30s, or iPhones sell? I’m writing this on an iPad, does it’s usefulness to me depend on how many have sold? No! It’s the stylus stupid (I refuse to call it a pencil, it’s not a pencil).

        1. Lexicographers are constantly collating citations. Enough of them earns an entry in the dictionary, irregardless of what we think. Soon, this thing of Apple’s will be a pencil, and a stylus will become an ancient Roman artifact. What you and I desire is irrelevant. Usage, defined statistically, is what defines language.

            1. A stylus and pencil are far more similar in function and form than a chicken and an eagle. Your example isn’t very good. What do you call the iPhone or Android device you carry in your pocket? Everyone I know calls that device a phone. Herself is correct, usage defines language. Whether you like it or not doesn’t matter, you’re still wrong. Logic and will have nothing to do with it. The reality is people aren’t looking at chickens and calling them eagles, they’re using things which are similar in form and function and the language is changing.

            2. Your example was terrible, any rational person can see that a pencil and a stylus are closer in form and function than a chicken and an eagle. Apple has nothing to do with this, language will change based on what the users choose to do with the language. If users reject the term pencil and keep using the term stylus then that’s what it will be. I’ve seen a few of your comments, you’ve got a wicked hate on for Apple. I suppose that’s a no-brainer, look at your user name. Bit sad actually, why waste your time on Mac forums hating on Apple? Maybe you’re retired and have nothing better to do.

            3. When Apple is right, I say so. When they are not to blame, I say that too. But I have an aversion to BS, and there’s certainly plenty of that.

              Now, if I were to accept your reasonable explanation on the evolution of language, then it’s language’s failing. Nature doesn’t give a shit on what we call it, it is what it is. And until the reference to pencils vanishes into antiquity, a pencil used lead to writ write on paper, a stylus writes on electronic devices.

              What’s next, we vote on gravity?

            4. re “lead” — graphite, actually.

              But anyway, there are also eyebrow pencils, grease pencils, lip pencils.
              The word pencil already means many other types of items besides the ‘graphite inside a piece of wood’ type.

            5. @John Smith
              Yes indeed. Graphite would be more accurate, and this is an example of the ambiguity in language.

              Lead, Pb, from the Latin “Plumbum”.
              If farmers farm, and bakers bake, why don’t plumbers plumb?
              Well it turns out they do! 😉

          1. Sorry Herself,
            I greatly enjoy your witty and well-crafted posts, but…

            IMHO the appropriate word is “regardless” because the nuns taught me that “irregardless is not a word and has no logical basis. Love you anyway. J

            1. Thanks for your personal note. The nuns taught me the same, so we are of one mind (or upbringing). But because the current debate was about “correct” language usage, I deliberately used the word “irregardless” to smoke out the grammar nazis.

              The reason I did so was to re-introduce a topic—something, anything, other than politics, which has become tedious—for the faithful to fight over. Few topics inflame readers more than violations of the “correct” language usage that was drummed into them. Psychological conditioning can overpower rational thought.

              Regarding the word “irregardless”: lexicographers consider it a word. It means regardless, of course. But it also has another sense, in dialect. See Word by Word by Kory Stamper (2017).

    1. Maybe the notch in the iPhone X will inspire notches in other things, much like the translucent cases of the first iMacs inspired translucent other stuff. I’m sure a lot of things would look cool with notches; I just can’t think of any right now.

      1. There is nothing cool about covering up a part of a display. Expect most apps and video to be letterboxed on your shiny new iPhone, negating the screen real estate that was added.

  3. 8+ is 5.5″ and X is 5.8″ with super res – so the more screen real estate of the X give apple more room to play with. since apple is all about details, you can bet they considered many design alternatives but decided on including the notch to give the best user experience.

    1. Or more likely, Ive’s intern drew a sketch that maximizes display area rather than maximizing rectangular display area. Ive can now claim an ugly design detail just like his buddy Chris Bangle. Then the beancounters went to Samsung, where they were more than happy to build whatever nutty design Ive released inbetween scrapbooking and christmas tree decorating.

      Anyone want to venture a guess as to how many app developers will redesign their apps for the new fragmentation in screen ratio? The only workable short term solution will be to letterbox. Perhaps eventually developers might rework their apps to work around the stupid notch. Or they might not. You’re going to buy the app whether it is optimized for the X or not.

      Say it all together, fans of the notch: F R A G M E N T A T I O N.

  4. It’s better for usability and branding to have the notch be prominent and to know if the phone is up or down, left or right. Now that the front camera is 12MP the notch will make it way easier to aim.

          1. iPhone X Thoughts: It’s a UX & UI Catastrophe

            i love a good rant …but, i love the art of economy even more. 40 published minutes of tortured angst and grief. i’d rather he’d saved a bit of superiority for when the iPhoneX actually does come out or when he actually has one in hand.

    1. When he holds up the image with the two iPhones, one with the notch and one without, I prefer the notch. It’s a distinctive shape. We’re just not used to it. I’m a professional designer by the way, and pretty good at what I do. I also think Apple already knows when the notch will go away and it’s a better path forward to engineer everything in the phone with that in mind. I would guess we’ll have the notch for maybe three years at most and then it goes away.

  5. Because the iPhone X is such a design turd and because the iPhone 8 is only slightly better than the iPhone 7, I wonder how many people will just say enough is enough and leave the platform?

    I need a new phone, and as of today I’m thinking of a stopgap solution like getting a used iPhone 7 Plus now and waiting for next year’s turdless X design. But after hearing how Apple is fully embracing the design botch I have my doubts about next year’s design.

    Do I really have to switch platforms to get something modern and functional!?! What an absolute cluster f*ck this turning out to be.

      1. So you think all apps are going to design around the notch by launch? How are you going to interact with apps that have scroll bars, buttons, text boxes, etc. which will be covered by the notch? What about game play? As it is now, notifications interrupt some game play. The botched notch is many times worse.

        This notch and failure to properly design the UI around it is the biggest design fail I have ever seen Apple or any other tech/software company make in at least the past decade.

      1. You’re comparing a natural human feature to the botched design of a washed up has-been Apple executive who is too full of himself to bother attending any Apple keynote in person?

        1. No, I’m comparing the words of the admiring lover in the song Cielito Lindo to Manny Suarez’s comment. There’s a message in the parallel constructions; not about loser Apple executives, but about the perceptions of fans.

  6. One of MDN’s worse takes. So the “solution” is to extend the notch all they way across the top of the screen? Just throw away the two “ears” of screen space to make yourself feel better because the black line at the top is now even?

    Ridiculous. The iPhone X design gives the user every possible pixel of useable screen space. That was the goal.

  7. It’s simple, the notch is free publicity. The news about what someone hates travels a lot faster and further than the news about what someone likes. Masses of opinionared people screaming about how the notch is terrible. For each person that makes their opinion known, there’s about 1000 that had no idea the Apple was even introducing a new phone and are now going to look into what all of this notch business is about. Even if it doesn’t lead to a sale, that’s one more person that’s probably going to tell someone else their opinion about “the notch thing”.

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