Let's Talk About The Notch

You might be aware a little company called Apple held a keynote event this week. In a brand spanking new Theater, the rather impressive looking Steve Jobs Theater no less. I was slightly more interested in this year's presentation because of the phone rumors. That's what we all watched for, right? I don't think anyone really cared about the retail or Apple TV portions. Just get to the phone announcement!

And so the worst kept secret in tech (thanks leakers!) was revealed to the public and the iPhone X made official. My immediate reaction was, I don't really like it. So I sat on it for a few days and watched the presentation again last night. I don't really like it.

Before I go any further, in case there's any doubt, I consider myself an Apple fan. You pick a side, right, you're either all in with Google or all in with Apple. For me it really boils down to Apple being the company I chose for my first smartphone and I'm really not interested in retraining my muscle memory to learn something new. So Apple it is.

But I was underwhelmed with the iPhone X. I understand many will love it and it will probably sell like hotcakes. It's just not quite for me. Yet. Take all this with a pinch of salt, it all sounds rather negative, and obviously I haven't even used or seen one in real life.

That Notch

Phew boy. Alright, all those sensors have to go somewhere, I get that. But why not make the thinnest possible forehead on the phone and have the notch just be a bar that goes all the way across? Now we have that ugly bump with silly looking tiny rabbit ears that once seen cannot be unseen. Was the marketing draw of "hey we have an edge to edge screen now" important enough that it won over every possible argument against more aesthetically pleasing options? "That would never have happened if Steve Jobs were alive" is often said and most of the time it's bollocks. But I can't help feeling it hits close to home on this one.

Control Center

And while we're talking about those rabbit ears. I'm in control center constantly. It's one of my most used gestures on the phone. The iPhone X handles this differently because you swipe down from the top right rabbit ear instead of swiping up from the bottom. The iPhone X is taller than the non-plus phones, and I can't help but wonder if my thumb will reach the top corners? And if you're a left hander, you're really going to have to stretch to get at it. My wife has a 7 Plus and when I use her phone, I can't get to anything at the top of the screen using one hand. Maybe this is a time will tell situation and when I get the phone in my hand I realize there's nothing to worry about and I can reach it no problem?

Face ID

I'm not sold on this at all. Why is this better? I kinda like my home button. And I just love Touch ID. It's so blazingly fast at unlocking the phone as I take it out of my pocket that I can't imagine a better experience. From the demo onstage, they made it seem like you have to now bring the phone up to your face, wait for the little unlock animation to fire, and then you can swipe up to start using it. Which will be far slower than my current place my thumb on the fingerprint sensor in the same motion as I pickup the phone action. Perhaps they didn't do the best job at explaining the unlock mechanism in the demo. Maybe it will be faster in practice than it appeared onstage?

Inductive Charging

Nothing revolutionary and Apple are catching up with other phone manufacturers in this space. I'm just not really sold on this either regardless of the phone you own. I'll have to go buy a charging pad thinger at $40+ only to have to plug it into a socket in my kitchen and then walk over to it every time? I already do that kitchen walk today, and plugging the cord in is no big deal, and it's saved me $40. Never mind the fact that I'll need a charging pad for different areas of the house. That's a lot of money just because I can't be bothered to plug a cord in.

So You'll Get One Then?

No. Shocker! I only just got an iPhone 7 a couple of months back when my 6 died. So this upgrade was never on the cards for me personally. But I'm not excited to get an iPhone X, and that's perhaps my biggest take away here. It just looks like a bigger 3GS, and a bit like an existing Android phone if I'm honest. I dunno, maybe in a few years they'll have changed the notch design. Maybe any kinks in Face ID will be worked out and it'll be just as fast as Touch ID ever was. Time will tell.

  1. martymankins says:

    I'm ready to upgrade my 6S Plus. I love the size, even if it was something that took a bit to get used to (mostly carrying it around in non-cargo short pants and shorts). I like some of the iPhone 8 features, but I have to admit wanting to get my hands on an iPhone X.

    Your use of Touch ID is exactly how I feel. So fast. I have an iPad Pro 9.7 and wish the Touch ID on it was just as fast. I can imagine the iPhone 7 and 8 are that much faster. So to add a complex feature as Face ID and how it would slow things down, I'm on the side of wishing they would have found a way to keep it on the iPhone X. I understand the full screen, but that seems to be more than just a simple adjustment.

    I'm wanting to upgrade, but it might be a month or more before I decide. Up in the air explains my feelings on the new iPhones.

    • kevin says:

      That's almost why I didn't write anything about Face ID because until anyone has actually used it, saying well it must be slower is just speculation. I'd be happy to be proved wrong. I look forward to reading the hands on reviews when the masses get their hands on the new phone.

  2. kapgar says:

    I'm hit or miss on iPhone X. I don't think I'll be getting one but I will be paying attention to how the tech evolves.

    • kevin says:

      Yeah, luckily as it worked out with me getting the 7 just recently, the early adopters can help beta test the new shiny and maybe the next generations will have a lot of possible kinks worked out.

  3. Ren says:

    I'm probably getting the X. Time will tell if I regret it, but I'm optimistic. I think the issues with the notch are overblown. In normal use, I think of it as less of the sensors intruding on the screen and more of the clock, battery, etc. being pushed up by the sensors to make more screen space available for content. That does put pressure on app developers of fullscreen apps in portrait mode to decide whether they should really be full screen — and if so, make good use of the "ears" — or just leave the header data in place rather than being fullscreen.

    Landscape is a different matter, and as more information has become available, it's looking like column bars are going to be a default for lots of use cases, which is fine. If an app does go to the edges, then again, it is up to they developer to either have that be optional or to make the experience reasonable.

    I will say that my initial feeling on Apple advising developers not to avoid the ears is that it seems like a mistake. The default behavior for portrait mode, I think, should be to either leave the header info in place, or replace it with black sections. With the OLED screen, it would look like a thin forehead as many people think they should have done in the hardware. This seems kind of like a best-of-both-worlds: gain space by moving the header up, but turn the header black if the app wants to hide it.

    Again, landscape is a different issue and I'm not clear on what Apple has advised. For example, if you have a scrolled area and you rotate the phone such that the notch is on the right, then does that mean the scrollbar is hidden by the notch part of the time? That seems like a terrible experience, and argues that leaving that area black is almost certainly the right answer for that scenario.

    Have you seen any of the hands-on videos with FaceID? From what I've seen, it looks like it's either as fast as TouchID, or nearly so.

    As I said, I'm optimistic.

    Or, Pollyanna.

    • kevin says:

      I'm also a little unclear on the advice for developers for landscape mode. I have to imagine the 'embrace the notch' recommendation only applies to portrait right? You raise a very good point about scrollbars in landscape being a poor user experience.

      And no, I haven't seen any actual user hands-on with Face ID. My reaction was based entirely on the on-stage demo. So in practice it could very well be fast. This is the one I'm most interested in because the phone already unlocked as I take it out of my pocket experience is simply amazing with Touch ID.