iPhone’s controversial notch could shrink in 2018

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Apple Watch
Apple is working to make the 'notch' smaller.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The iPhone’s controversial “notch” will get smaller this year, according to one group of investors.

Apple is expected to integrate Face ID into all three handsets it has planned for 2018. A smaller TrueDepth sensor means the cutout at the top of the iPhone’s display won’t need to be quite so big.

iPhone X is the start of a new era of smartphone design at Apple. It does away with big bezels and a physical Home button to make room for an edge-to-edge OLED display and Face ID. But Apple had to put sensors and speakers somewhere, and so the notch was born.

iPhone’s ‘notch’ is getting smaller

To most iPhone X owners, the notch isn’t a problem. You quickly get used to it and never think about it again. It’s a small sacrifice you make for a larger display in a compact form factor. But for a small number of fans, it just can’t be ignored.

So, Apple plans to make it smaller. Andrew Gardiner, Hiral Patel, Joseph Wolf, and Blayne Curtis, analysts at investment bank Barclays, expect that to happen this year. It will be one of a small number of changes to this year’s iPhone lineup.

“Given the complexity and multiple years spent developing the current generation of module, combined with supplier comments over the past month regarding multi-year customer commitments, we do not envisage a major change to the architectural make-up in 2018,” reads a note obtained by MacRumors.

“We do expect the sensor to evolve slightly, potentially reducing in size (i.e., smaller notch) and improving in specificity.”

This will help drive “very strong growth,” the analysts add.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that Apple plans to reduce the size of the iPhone’s notch. However, a previous report warned that it wouldn’t get smaller until 2019. Many expect this year’s iPhone lineup to look almost identical to iPhone X.

Apple plans 3 iPhone models for 2018

Barclays corroborates claims made by reliable KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who expects Apple to launch three new iPhone models this fall. Alongside a refreshed iPhone X with a 5.8-inch OLED display, we are anticipating a larger iPhone X Plus with a 6.5-inch display.

Apple is also said to be planning a more affordable iPhone X lookalike with a 6.1-inch LCD display. It will have Face ID like its siblings, but it will skip some features, like 3D Touch, to start at just $699. Kuo expects this device to be the best-selling model, reaching 100 million sales in its lifetime.

Beyond 2018

Barclays adds that Apple is “working hard” to bring its TrueDepth technology to the iPhone’s rear-facing cameras. But thanks to complications associated with the greater range and a wider field of view, and “the potential safety implications for the human eye,” that won’t happen this year.

“Our discussions with suppliers suggests Apple and its partners are working hard on a world-facing solution, but development is ongoing and with over 18 months to go until the 2019 iPhone cycle, not all is yet determined,” the note continues.