That iPhone notch? It’s probably not going away anytime soon

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iPhone X notch
You're used to the notch. It's likely going to be around for a while.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s 2020 flagship iPhone is rumored to have a pristine screen free of that dreaded notch.

But a social media post from a Xiaomi vice president claims the “entire industry” is far from solving the light transmission problems caused by placing front-facing cameras behind the screen.

“Everyone is very concerned about the application of CUP (camera under panel) on mobile phones to achieve a true full-screen effect without sacrificing space,” Lu Weibing wrote on Weibo, a social media platform in China. “The current technology implementation has many difficulties.”

A brief history of screen cutouts

As screens began going edge-to-edge and corner-to-corner, the notch became necessary, giving the selfie and facial recognition cameras a kind of dugout at the top of the screen.

Apple was the first big smartphone company to feature a notch with the iPhone X and the snarky criticism was well underway even before the close of the WWDC keynote in 2017. And competitors joined in on the laughs. Samsung and Huawei poked fun at Apple design in ad campaigns for their phones.

Apple, as they always do, kept quiet even as their competitors started releasing smartphones with notched displays. LG and Huawei made phones with screen cutouts. Samsung went with a hole-punch design for its cameras.

Companies, like Xiaomi and Oppo, have eliminated the notch on prototype handsets but engineers found the challenges hard to overcome.

Why the notch is here to stay

Xiaomi’s Weibing said modern smartphone screens are pixel-dense and thus block the light hitting the small image sensor. Removing enough pixels from even a tiny portion of the screen to give the front-facing camera an unobstructed view would create color gaps on the display.

“The current screen PPI is about 400,” Weibing wrote. “The light transmittance in the camera is very low, which seriously affects the photo (quality).”

Some Android handsets have explored options like pop-up selfie cameras.

But Apple, according to its own patents, has the problem solved. While some analysts say the notchless future is now, others say Apple will eliminate the notch in 2021.

Apple giveth the notch. It can be the first to taketh it away.

Source: DP Review