The new MacBook Pro probably killed the no-notch iPhone 14 dream
OPINION: The launch of the new MacBook Pro makes me doubt that Apple will dispense of the notch when the iPhone 14 rolls around.
Since Apple introduced the infamous display ‘notch’ on 2017’s iPhone X, I viewed it as a necessary evil. It boosted the display size without increasing the girth, minimised the bezel size, while facilitating the switch to a more secure biometric security solution. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t hate it as much as some.
I envisioned it’d be a stopgap until the holy grail of the full-screen iPhone with a display-to-body ratio above 90%; complete with a Touch ID sensor, Face ID sensors and a powerful front-facing camera – all beneath the glass! Smartphone utopia.
I presumed there would be a moment in time when, like other manufacturers who followed Apple into notchville, the company felt confident enough in the replacement technology to restore that missing chunk. That hasn’t happened. Aside from a slight narrowing of the notch within the new iPhone 13, it’s has stayed largely the same.
Now I feel like I might have been barking up the wrong tree all along. While there are credible rumours that the iPhone 14 might dispense with the notch completely, yesterday’s MacBook Pro release has me greatly doubting that it’s on the agenda. If Apple was planning to ditch the notch on the iPhone, would it really introduce it to another product?
Not-ch too shabby
Apple adding a notch to the new MacBook Pro display tells me one thing: it doesn’t resent the concept. It doesn’t see it as a means-to-an-end, and it doesn’t believe that it damages the look of their pristinely presented gadgets.
At this point, the notch’s presence is now a design choice. The company has made the decision to use of every millimetre of display real estate it can, regardless of how jarring it can look.
As with the iPhone, the MacBook Pro notch has been placed in a space that often lies empty, between the app menu and the status icons. It’s much the same as the how critical indicators straddle the iPhone notch. macOS Monterey will also nix the notch when apps are in full screen mode, helping to negate its unsightly effects.
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The inclusion in the MacBook Pro is a more significant design choice, because it is an unforced one. Apple needed a notch on the iPhone to incorporate Face ID. When it unexpectedly popped up in that MacBook Pro reveal, my first thought was that it meant Face ID would be coming to Mac for the first time. Apple loves this tech, but alas no.
Traditionally, MacBook webcams have lagged behind other bleeding edge aspects of Mac computing, and the notch does harbour more than the much-needed boost provided by the 1080p FaceTime HD camera. There’s a TrueTone sensor, a light sensor and an LED light to indicate when the camera is on. Important elements, sure, but the lack of Face ID feels like a big missed opportunity.
The reaction, as you’d expect, hasn’t been overwhelmingly positive. Other laptop manufacturers have managed to create razor thin bezels without taking a chunk out of the display. Many of them offer facial recognition as a means of unlocking the devices (via Windows Hello), something Apple isn’t including here.
It’s a significant omission and one can only assume it’s because there isn’t enough depth in the display to incorporate the many Face ID sensors. Side-on images suggest that isn’t the case, but perhaps Apple is laying the groundwork for next-year’s MacBook Pro model. Apple does like to keep a little bit in reserve for future generations, of course.
However, the point remains. If Apple is prepared to add a notch just to improve the webcam, it’s not likely to get rid of the one where it’s deemed necessary for Face ID.
This is unlikely to be a one-and-done design. Apple will probably stick with the notch for multiple generations of the MacBook Pro. It wouldn’t be surprising to see it carry over to the next-gen MacBook Air, scheduled to arrive next year.
One day Apple will give users that full-screen iPhone, but the notch rebirth within a new category suggests that it won’t be on the iPhone 14.