Being fully engrossed in the tech world, I sometimes don’t realize that things that irritate the tech enthusiasts don’t seem to bother the average users. I have discovered this as I have discussed the controversy of “notches” with coworkers and friends. The overall consensus I have come to is that the average user doesn’t care about the physical appearance of their phone, and simply wants a device that works well and does what it is advertised to do. So, what are notches and why are they important? Let’s dive a little deeper on that subject.

It was August 17, 2017. Release date of the Essential PH-1. This was the first phone that really introduced and drew attention to having a cutout on the top of the screen for a camera. This caused a lot of controversy.

Many said it was ugly, that it was obtrusive, and that it was a distraction to the usage of the phone. Any of these may be true, but the real truth of the matter is, that phone manufacturers were trying their very hardest to push the boundaries of smartphone displays. They wanted that dream of an all screen slab of glass that you can hold in your hand to be a reality. The problem with this dream is that the technology just isn’t there yet, so manufacturers are forced to create all kinds of designs to push the screen further and further to the edges, while creating designs that look very unique and interesting, to say the least.

Basically, the notch is a home for the cameras, sensors, and earpiece speaker. As the screen moves more to the edges of the front of the smartphone, these sensors and cameras still need to be somewhere. They can’t be under the display (yet) so there needs to be a sort of “cutout” on the screen. This is what is known as a notch. There are many many phones with such a display. Among the most prominent are the iPhone X and XS, the Google Pixel 3 XL, the Essential PH-1, and the Samsung Galaxy S10.

The iPhone got a lot of buzz because it was the first mainstream device to get a notched display. Many questioned the design choice and many hated on it. But, as with all trends in tech, other manufacturers quickly followed suite and included their own versions of the notch.

The Google Pixel 3 XL got a lot of attention because it had a ridiculously large notch that looked extremely awkward on the device. I remember a conversation I had with a friend once around the time of the Pixel 3 launch.

Friend: “I want to get a new phone, probably a Pixel 3, it seems pretty cool”

Me: “Don’t get the XL model, the notch is SO ugly!”

Friend: “The what?”

Me: “The notch, you know, the cutout on the top of the display?”

Friend: “I hadn’t noticed.”

This conversation is one of the things that lead me to begin believing that the “controversy of the notch” wasn’t actually as widespread as I was lead to believe. Since then I have discussed it with several friends to which I received similar responses. Tech enthusiasts seem to be the only people who know about the notch and either hate it or love it, whereas the average user doesn’t even notice.

So why bother even talking about this? Honestly, I just want people to understand these technology terms. So, the next time you hear someone talking about a “notch,” you will know that it is the cutout on the top of the display that houses cameras, sensors, and the phone earpiece. Basic!

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