Google's 'Notch-Hiding' Solution On The Pixel 3 XL Is Kinda Crappy

Image: Getty Images

Yesterday, Google announced that the much-maligned notch on the Google Pixel 3 XL is a "removable" feature that can be hidden via a secret setting in Android Pie. Here's why you shouldn't get too excited.

For those who haven't been paying attention to smartphone news for the past few years, a 'notch' refers to a section cut out of a phone's display to accommodate the front-facing cameras and sensors.

While this allows the phone to have an edge-to-edge display, it comes at the expense of viewability, with part of the screen obstructed by a prominent black indent.

It's a deeply controversial design choice that a lot of people really can't stand. The notch can be particularly distracting when viewing video or using other full-screen applications.

Needless to say, a significant percentage of prospective Pixel 3 XL customers were left bitterly disappointed by Google's decision to embrace the notch. Which is why the aforementioned announcement caused much jubilation.

In response to a query from Twitter user @mo7ammad_uj, Google tweeted the following:

For people who prefer a more traditional smartphone look, we’ve added an option to hide the display cutout (the notch).

Unfortunately, this disappearing act isn't quite as magical as it sounds. For starters, the option is hidden deep in Android Pie's Developer Options which can only be toggled by tapping on your phone's build number multiple times and re-entering your PIN. In other words you need to jump through a bunch of finicky hoops to make it happen.

But more importantly, it doesn't actually make the notch disappear. (That would require some seriously impressive camouflage technology from Google.) Instead, it adds a black border to the top of the screen, effectively giving the Pixel 3 XL a digital bezel.

Here's what the end result looks like, courtesy of a tweet from Android Authority:

Image: Android Authority

That's... quite a bezel. For comparative purposes, here's the bezel on the Samsung Galaxy Note 9:

Image: Gizmodo

The problem is that notches tend to bite quite deep into a smartphone's display. An extra-thick border is therefore required to effectively mask them. Tch.

Personally, we think this is a fail, but it might be the lesser of two evils. On the plus side, at least the phone's display resizes itself to fit inside the new screen ratio. (Previous solutions just added a black overlay, which meant you were obscuring an even larger chunk of the screen compared to the notch.)

The same trick should work on any notched Android rocking Android 9.0. You can find a step-by-step guide here.

Whichever side of the fence you sit on, notch hatred isn't going away and manufacturers are starting to take notice. Apple went to great lengths to hide the notch on the iPhone XS Max - to the point that it bordered on false advertising. Oppo resorted to a pop-up camera on the Find X. Now Google has baked a 'Hide Notch' feature directly into its OS.

Perhaps it's time to retire this design choice altogether. It can keep the physical keypad company in Phone Hell.

Oppo Just Solved The 'Notch Problem' For Bezel-Free Phones

For better or worse, an increasing number of smartphone manufacturers have embraced the notch. Making its debut on the Essential Phone before exploding into the mainstream with the iPhone X, it allows phones to have a 'bezel-free' display without compromising the camera, sensors or other front-facing components.

Some people consider notched displays to be a necessary evil. Others think they're an abomination. Whichever viewpoint you prescribe to, it turns out you can have an edge-to-edge screen without relying on a notch - all you need is a pop-up camera. Genius.

Read more


Comments

    This means that an extra-thick 'bezel' is required to effectively mask it. Tch.

    It's actually the same bezel proportions as the Pixel 2 XL if you put them side by side. I hate the notch on this thing, but you could have at least gave it a more suitable comparison in this story.

    I've yet to hear much suggested in the way of alternatives so far. Those sensors have to go somewhere, but why waste that sapce either side?

    Besides, you get used to it. Just like people whose laptops have dead pixels or phone screens are cracked, it looks super annoying to everyone else but that person barely notices it after a while.

    Certainly, do not like that big notch but I do like this and could get used to it much easier than always seeing that notch sticking out so a good compromise from Google.

    I've just bought a "notched" Android. But as the "unnotched" screen area still has a 2:1 ratio I don't see it as a bad thing. Instead I view the extra screen parts either side of the camera etc as extra "status ears" in addition to the actual screen.
    I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about.

    Imagine if your life was so shallow and care free that you were so annoyed by a notch on a phone...I mean wow.

      Imagine if your life was so shallow and care free that you were so annoyed by people not liking a design choice on a phone.. I mean wow.

    The bezels are bigger than the Note because it has incredible front facing dual speakers. They're not just large for the sake of it

    'notch' refers to a section cut out of a phone's display to accommodate the front-facing cameras and sensors...While this allows the phone to have an edge-to-edge display, it comes at the expense of viewability, with part of the screen obstructed by a prominent black indent.

    This is what I find hilarious and crazy about the Pixel 3 XL notch. They have introduced a notch but the phone still doesn't have an edge-to-edge display. It has a chin on it!!

    I am really disappointed with the Pixels. The standard one looks like a 4 year old phone with standard bezels while the XL looks like a cheap chinese knock-off of the iPhone X which did the notch to match the X's look but then still had to resort to having a chin bezel. Horrible, expected so much more from Google.

    Last edited 11/10/18 7:19 pm

    Unlike literally every other notch hiding tactic, this one actually allows you to have the full width of the phone for notification icons and also has the corners rounded for symmetry with the bottom bezel. It's the only proper notch hiding solution. Calling out the 1 cm of bezel compared to the Samsung's 0.5 mm is just pedantic and superficial. Slightly bigger bezels don't affect use at all. The Pixels have dual front facing speakers, Apple and Samsung don't.

    The only way it could be better is to allow you to put some things like the time and battery percentage into the notched area, kind of like the secondary display on LG phones.

      The only way it could be better is to allow you to put some things like the time and battery percentage into the notched area, kind of like the secondary display on LG phones.

      So the standard notch behaviour, then?

        I meant having the areas to the left and right of the notch for stuff like time and battery or whatever, but keep it black so you don't see the notch shape. Put the notification icons and such below the notch like Google did.

        So the notch is used for additional space like the secondary display on LG phones. Not to be used as the status bar itself.

    I have the Huawei P3, that comes with a notch. But there is an easy setting to hide the notch pretty much the same way the Pixel 3 does.

    Accessing developer options is jumping through hoops? It's there for power users and *developers*.

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