Based on materials from Phone Arena
As soon as it comes to the notorious neckline, he's a 'bang', he's a 'monobrow', and you hear the fingers of the haters of this controversial innovation pounding on the keyboard. 'Some ugliness!', 'Why is this necessary?', 'Imitators Apple!' or the more advanced 'Well yes, Apple copied Essential'. And so on and so forth…
And therefore it is tempting to figure out in more detail what kind of neckline it is, and first of all not from an aesthetic point of view, as many people perceive this element, making a choice in favor or not in favor of such a decision. Consider it as a functional part of a modern smartphone, which has entered our lives for a longer period than many would like.
Who was first?
This is probably one of the most common questions about a neckline. By the way, this word itself seems to hint that something was cut, something is missing: for example, part of the screen. But semantic problems aside. The Essential name inevitably comes up in connection with the notch, as the Essential phone, released in 2017, was the first to use a camera notch at the top of the screen. The first, but not quite. Sharp Aquos S2 managed to outstrip it by a couple of days, so we recognize it as the first 'mono-brow' one. Of course, this changes everything! Or not?
Essential and Sharp cutout
Sharp is literally a few days ahead of Essential, so both Aquos S2 and the first Essential Phone can be considered the earliest devices with a notch
The Essential phone and Sharp Aquos S2 share a common design trait: both cutouts are made to simply accommodate the front camera, which could just as well fit into the corresponding thickness of the bottom bezel, but this is not the best place for a selfie module.
Another phone that shares similarities with the aforementioned is the Sharp Aquos Crystal, considered by many to be the ancestor of the typical modern 'bezel-less' smartphone. Aquos Crystal was released in 2014 and had incredibly thin frames for its time, except for the lower one, which was wide enough. Then Sharp placed a selfie camera there, which made it possible to preserve the integrity of the screen, subject to the use of a speaker using the effect of bone conduction.
This decision negatively affected the user experience, when people had to turn their smartphone over to take a selfie, or all the time they risk getting a snapshot of their finger instead of their photo – all due to the strange location of the camera close to the palm. But it doesn't matter where you place the camera, bottom or top – you still have to use some sort of frame or cutout. And the trouble is that currently most manufacturers have both. The only notable exception was Xiaomi with their Mi Mix series.
When Apple announced iPhone X in 2017, many were quick to accuse the company of copying Essential and Sharp, even though iPhone X had no bottom border , and the cutout at the top of the screen was used to accommodate not only the selfie camera, but also seven other components of the TrueDepth camera … and even pieces of the screen remained on the left and right, which were immediately affectionately dubbed horns.
Yes, Apple did not pioneer here. Nor was she the second company to use the cutout, but she did it differently, so that she became a copy. And yes, Apple does use the cutout to sell iPhone X, but that's a side effect, not the main purpose.
Most of the smartphone manufacturers Android managed to join the trend only by offering solutions in the style
Essential / Sharp, that is, only with a selfie camera, earpiece, proximity sensor and LED indicator. Because they have nothing more to put there. They simply chose to copy the cutout aesthetically rather than functionally.
And since most of the cutout Android smartphones have noticeable bezels, manufacturers can also take the Mi Mix approach, placing the camera in the bottom bezel, which is far from ideal, and thus maintaining the integrity of the screen. But this will also be an unoriginal decision.
That is why Apple has succeeded the most with the 'monobrow': the company sees its solution not as a 'notch' that takes away part of the screen, but as a frame into which the screen is cut. And that's better, not worse, isn't it? And this is a very important indicator of attitude to products, which reflects how differently companies do when choosing a particular design solution. Apple never uses the word 'cutout', focusing the other way around on the extra part of the screen that appears when you remove part of the top border.
A future without bezels or cutouts
Vivo Apex looks pretty impressive
There is no doubt that in the future of smartphone construction there will be no room for frames or cutouts. But it is also obvious that for a while we will have to get used to the 'monobrow' in our lives.
Depriving a smartphone of bezels and a notch means moving the front camera somewhere. There are ways, but so far they are expensive and involve engineering difficulties. A great example is Vivo Apex, it does not have a physical fingerprint scanner, the scanner is built into the screen, and its selfie camera is mechanically extended as needed. It looks cool, it seems comfortable, but sooner or later everything mechanical breaks down.
A mechanical camera is a good way to get rid of the notch, which, however, presents new challenges. An item as commonly used as a selfie camera and a mechanical unit with a limited lifespan combined will potentially lead to many unforeseen problems, such as camera sticking.
And if the company needs to use more than one front camera, as is the case with the upcoming Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, it will further complicate the mechanics and increase costs.
And therefore, until the frameless future has come, may the cut-out be with us – a functional solution to a specific problem, and not an aesthetic choice of designers. Humble yourself.