Why Asus Zenfone 5 and OnePlus 6 copying iPhone X's notch is bad news
Android smartphone makers are failing to innovate.
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Back in September 2017, Cupertino-based tech giant, Apple, announced at the Steve Jobs theatre the iPhone X. Announced to mark the 10th anniversary of the launch of the first iPhone, this new device was described by Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, as a phone that "will set the path for technology for the next decade." Barely six months from that day, the prophecy of sorts has already started to come true.
In all honesty, there is no doubt that the iPhone X is a brilliant smartphone, one that not only comes with a modern design but also packs within its metal-and-glass frame technology that in many ways is very forward-looking. Amidst a sea of boring glass and metal slabs, the iPhone X with its bezel-less display and glass back is a jewel that stands out from the crowd.
But even this jewel has its flaws, with arguably the most notable one being the blot on the iPhone X's pretty face in the form of a bulky notch. For the uninitiated, the notch is this blank area at the top of the iPhone X, which comes at the expense of valuable real-estate on the device's display.
In terms of design, the notch drags this "futuristic" device right back to the past. It is nothing short of a strange design choice that takes away from the phone's minimalistic layout and undermines Apple's claim of an "all screen" front of the phone.
Yet, it would be unfair to not point out that the notch on the iPhone X is more a consequence of necessity than a poor decision by the designers at Apple. The iPhone X to some extent justifies the notch by filling up the space with a highly advanced camera module that houses a main camera, an infrared sensor and another camera sensor capable of throwing 30,000 invisible dots at the user's face that are used to create a detailed 3D model of the face for facial recognition.
However, as is the case with most things Apple, even the worst of the company's decisions eventually take up a life of their own and end up becoming popular among rival phone manufacturers. Evidence of this is the news of the upcoming OnePlus 6 coming with an iPhone X-like notch. As per a report by Android Central, the OnePlus 6 will have an iPhone X-like display with 19:9 aspect ratio – taller than the 18:9 panel on the current generation 5T.
Interestingly, the OnePlus 6 is not the only phone rumoured to take up to the notch. Apart from the cheap Chinese knockoffs of the iPhone X, there are also phones like the Huawei P20 and OPPO R15 that are being tipped to come sporting an ugly notch at the front of their displays. Worst, there are reports that even Google will embrace the notch with its upcoming Android P – the successor to Android Oreo.
For a long time, the smartphone industry has been looking at ways to make completely bezel-less phones sporting only all screen fronts. Physical buttons have been replaced with onscreen ones and fingerprint scanners have been moved to the back – or even done away with – to achieve this dream. Yet, manufacturers are no closer to achieving success in this quest. This is pretty much down to the fact that OEMs have yet to find an answer to the front camera conundrum.
But with the iPhone X coming up with the notch, looks like Android smartphone makers have taken it as a lazy excuse for not being able to find a solution to the problem. Worse, OEMs have even started to shamelessly copy the notch as a design element to further their sales. Case in point the Asus Zenfone 5. Speaking on the matter, Asus global head of marketing, Marcel Campos said:
"Some people will say its copying Apple, but we cannot get away from what users want. You have to follow the trends. Thanks to the slim bezels, both the Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 5Z come with an impressive 90 per cent screen-to-body ratio. They also come with some AI functions as well as an Animoji-like feature called ZeniMoji, which is yet another thing inspired by the iPhone X."
But is it really as simple as Asus, and other manufacturers would like you to believe? Sadly, not.
The artificial intelligence (AI) inside every #ZenFone5 | 5Z makes it more than just a smartphone: it’s your intelligent companion that’s always there for you. #WeLovePhoto #MWC18 pic.twitter.com/zNXOzLTpA9— ASUS (@ASUS) February 28, 2018
Vivo Apex Concept
As Vivo recently demonstrated, the all screen look, and not the notch, is what the consumers really want. Vivo Apex, which comes with a number of really interesting features, also brings a front-facing camera that is embedded inside the phone and pops out of the body when the user wants to click a selfie.
This mechanically hidden camera means that the phone achieves a true all-display design, which is what OEMs like Asus and OnePlus should be looking to emulate. The Apex is also a reminder that it is about time that manufacturers stopped trying to sell old ideas in new packages to their loyal customers.
The smartphone industry is based on innovation, and innovation is what should drive it forward, not blatant copying of ideas – such poor ones at that. As for Apple, the Apex Concept should serve as a wakeup call to a company that once prided itself on being a pioneer of innovation.
The notch may very well become an industry standard in the coming months and even turn out to become one of those iconic things that make the iPhone X stand tall as a winner. But behind the smokescreen, what will remain is the truth that exposes the tech giant's failure to innovate.