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Apple’s App Guidelines Instruct Designers to Avoid the Display “Notch”

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Apple announced the iPhone X on Tuesday, the “future of the smartphone,” featuring a gorgeous all-glass design with a 5.8-inch Super Retina display, A11 Bionic chip, wireless charging, and an improved rear camera with dual optical image stabilization.

The smartphone features an edge-to-edge OLED display, but one of the most striking details is the tiny “notch” at the top of the phone, which intrudes ever-so-slightly into the screen.

That cut-out, or notch, intrudes into the top of whatever’s on screen. If, for example, you turn the phone on its side to watch a video, that black notch will be forever covering up a sliver of what should be showing on the side of the screen.

According to a report from The Next Web, Apple is working to develop new apps that are specifically designed around this “notch,” though it obviously will always be there and can’t be worked around in particular instances, such as watching videos.

While Apple is instructing app designers not to “call attention” to the display, recently release guidelines tells them not to “mask” the display features.

“Don’t attempt to hide the device’s rounded corners, sensor housing, or indicator for accessing the home screen by placing black bars at the top and bottom of the screen,” the guidelines read. “Don’t use visual adornments like brackets, bezels, shapes or instructional text to call special attention to these areas either.”

Whether you’re a fan of the “notch” or not, the iPhone X certainly marks a massive leap forward in Apple’s smartphone lineup.

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  • I knew that would be an issue with the display zone including the physical ‘notch’. What about previous apps? Will they need to be updated so visual content is lost behind that notch? Why not just make the app API have a mode for not including the full notch ‘row’ in the display resolution? I dunno. I’m still more sold on the 8 plus for now. Too many things of concern with the X design and price.

  • Shameer Mulji

    Agreed. The 8 Plus is a great upgrade despite looking the same. You’re still getting:

    1. Wireless charging capability
    2. Better Retina display with True Tone
    3. Retina display has a wider color gamut.
    4. Upgraded camera with better low-light capability
    5. A11 Bionic CPU (Vastly upgraded from the A10)
    6. Higher standard storage capacity 64GB up from 32GB

  • J Tagg

    Display notch is fugly… deal breaker

  • …though it obviously will always be there and can’t be worked around in particular instances, such as watching videos.

    I don’t really see why not. Videos can simply stop at the edge of the “notch” and not protrude into the status bar area. I’d be very surprised in fact if the standard iOS media player APIs don’t already do this, since the alternative just seems really silly.

    Keep in mind that the aspect ratio of the iPhone X is considerably wider/taller than the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus (2.17:1 vs 1.78:1), and since most content is 16:9, unless you zoomed in (which cuts off the top and bottom of your video), you’re going to end up with “pillarboxing” on the left and right sides anyway. Only movies with a “cinemascope” 2.35:1 aspect ratio will really take advantage of the new screen, and they’ll still need to be slightly letterboxed (although less so than on the other iPhone models).

  • bbousquet

    Existing apps work just fine. Nothing is lost behind the notch.

  • So they weon’t be using screen realestate edge to edge. My presumption (per the API comment above) is that any app using the edge-to-edge format of the X will be the ones taking the design point into consideration, and any creating the apps for use on ‘standard’ (non-X) screens won’t have that issue because the app environment itself won’t extend past the notch. (given the longer aspect ratio of the X compared to other phone models) And that to me makes sense.

    So Apple’s recommendation wouldn’t be just for all developers, but rather for those intending to make use of the longer screen realestate afforded by the X wherein the notch becomes an issue.

  • bbousquet

    I obviously haven’t tested the actual device but the simulator used with Xcode behaves properly with navigation bars. Not sure how full screen apps (i.e. games) behave.

  • I think the key point of Apple’s design guidelines, as cited above, is to ensure that the experience is as “natural” as possible. This means that for many developers, just avoiding the entire notch area will be the right thing to do — trying to display information in that status bar area beside the notch would by definition be “calling attention” to it.

  • Well, judging by all of the photographs on Apple’s iPhone X page, I’m really starting to think that the expectation is for full-screen apps like games to use the full screen real estate, including the areas around the notch, which really does seem weird, but I guess it’s just something that folks will get used to.

  • disqus_Q9fcouOhaA

    And, it’s cheaper on contract than the 7+ was last year.

  • Shameer Mulji

    Thanks. Didn’t know that.

  • disqus_Q9fcouOhaA

    This is what I thought too, but according to these guidelines and according to snaps developers have posted on twitter, it literally wastes that space. And the bar on the bottom seems to be every present. It is quite disappointing and a design oversight on Apple’s part. The original iPhone had a design oversight with the headphone jack, this will be ironed out over time…but the more one looks into it, the more one questions the notch design. I think the portrait mode should be fine but landscape for videos and scrolling in webpages looks to be a major let down unless that changes (I think it will as feedback reaches Apple)

  • I totally agree that it’s going to be a weird problem for full-sceen apps like games, since every indication suggests that the full screen will in fact be used and the notch will be cut out.

    My point above, however, was that videos aren’t going to be affected by it as much as most people think — at least not unless you choose to always “zoom in” to fill the screen (thereby cropping off the bottom and top of your videos). The aspect ratio of the screen in landscape mode is such that all TV shows and most movies won’t use the full screen width.

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