Does the notch add screen space or take it away?

After seeing a flood of notched Android phones at MWC, there's been a lot of talk about the benefits and disadvantages of having a cutout in a phone's display. The main idea is that by housing a phone's various sensors and earpiece speaker into a notch at the top of the display, OEMs are able to further slim down bezels and fit a larger screen on a smaller body.

To say the notch has been met with some backlash would be a severe understatement. While the main goal is to create more screen real estate for the user, many view the notch more as an obstacle than an add-on, and find the small display strips to the sides of the notch (also known as "bunny ears" or "horns," among other nicknames) largely useless.

Assuming a taller aspect ratio, a notch can add to a display's overall usable vertical space.

I understand that sentiment. With a notch as wide as the iPhone X's, there's little room for notification icons in the system tray — especially with most notched phones moving the clock to the left side where notifications typically reside. There's also less space to the right for system icons like WiFi and Bluetooth, meaning you may not be able to see certain information at a glance; on my iPhone X, for example, the battery icon is always in the upper-right corner, but I have to swipe down into Control Center to be able to check the actual battery percentage.

Maybe that's why most Android OEMs are using much smaller notches than the iPhone X. The newly announced Huawei P20 Pro has just enough room in its notch for the earpiece speaker and front-facing camera — Huawei even took a moment to brag during the phone's announcement about how small its notch is. Yes, really.

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Likewise, OnePlus has confirmed that the OnePlus 6 will feature a small notch, explaining that they see it as a means of adding screen space rather than taking it away, and I tend to agree with them. With enough room around the notch, you're still able to allocate the very top of the display for notifications, all while gaining a bit of vertical real estate — at least, assuming a taller aspect ratio. Fortunately, we've already seen evidence that the OnePlus 6 will have a 19:9 display, which should easily make up for the notch.

It's up to the user to decide whether the notch is a useful design trait or just an annoying gimmick — though a quick skim through the comments of my last notch-related article is all it takes to see that most Android users aren't particularly fond of it. Maybe that consensus will start to shift as more people get their hands on notched Android phones in the coming year, and as Google builds native notch support into Android Pie.

For now, what are your thoughts? Does the combination of a notch and a taller aspect ratio equal out to more vertical space for you, or is it still simply a design nuisance? Will it even matter this time next year, with nearly every flagship moving to a notched design anyway? Sound off in the comments!

Hayato Huseman

Hayato was a product reviewer and video editor for Android Central.

  • I like what huawei have done wth the p20. An option to have or have not problem solved.
  • Correction:- An option to have or not to have solved the problem
  • In Huawei's case, how much extra screen did we really get? A few millimetres. All this eyesore, lack of symmetry and lack of originality for just a few millimetres. Not worth it, imo.
  • This is how I feel for any notch. I see the argument that it's "additive" screen space, but just not worth the eye soar IMO. Let's just get the top/bottom bezels as small as possible but WITH the speakers/cameras/etc. I'm fine with that, even like a little bezel to help hold the phone and not trigger a screen touch.
  • I would much rather prefer a slightly lower screen to body ratio (a Galaxy Phone) over a notch as it blocks the amount of landscape content u can consume. Watching Netflix, Playing Landscape Games and many other landscape activities are curtailed to going around the "ears"of the phone instead of being presented regularly. The notch also makes the phone seem irregular and the phone also loses it's symmetry. Kudos, however, to Apple though, for being able to manufacture a phone with a similar size bezels all around.
  • Or even portrait games. If I look at Zen Pinball and Marvel's Puzzle Quest (two games I play on a regular basis on my phone), both I play in portrait mode and with a notch, the developer has to change those games because 'vital' information would be placed behind the notch. If the top of an app will be used as filler for those horns without any information, how much value does the 'added' screen actually have.
  • HERE - HERE! 👍
  • Those video don’t go through the notch anyway! It doesn’t not limit the viewing area in a vast majority of cases. Everyone who has a phone with a notch never complains about it (and i had my doubts at the beginning)
  • Nope that is definitely no true. I had an iPhone X and by default it will shrink the video to avoid the notch meaning you now have two black vertical bars and your video is not full-screen. If you force it to go full-screen the notch eats into the viewing area. It was even more of a problem in Desert Golfing as sometimes, the ball would end up directly behind the notch. It's dumb.
  • Ok that makes sense to complain about but Android P was designed around the notch so it won't be an issue for any new notched phone running the OS.
  • When a game has to 'adjust' its menus and gameplay features, to account for those with phone notches, it takes away screen space. As a mobile gamer, on lunch breaks and such 😜, I'd rather have all the screen I can whilst playing. Also, imo, you can't say a screen is 'X' amount when there's a big/small piece of it missing. What if they did that with TVs? Sure, it's a 65" TV vertically, but what about that big 10" x 3" section missing in the middle?? I wouldn't consider that a true 65" screen then. It's missing prime screen real estate and I'm supposed to be ok with that? No.
  • Numbers don’t matter. I can say the same with the on screen buttons or statut bar. The notch is like an interactive bezel
  • .......... Software keys can go away.. The notch is permanent
  • It removes notification space which is why I don't like it. It is the reason google forced the clock to the left in Android P and I hate that change so I don't care if it technically adds 0.00001 inch more screen I will never own a phone with something so pointless. It is an eyesore as well.
  • This. I won't be able to see as many notifications
  • This is my biggest issue with the notch. Maybe I need to do better managing notifications, but there are times where I have nearly my entire bar filled with current notifications and I don’t dismiss them until I am ready to handle them. Otherwise I will forget. The notch won’t allow me to see them all at a glance
  • Fine by me. I can't stand having notification icons all the time. They are more of an eyesore than the notch. My pixel XL just updated to Android P and while I prefer the clock on the right (probably because I'm used to it that way) it only took me about a day to stop gazing to the upper right for it. The notch is the price people pay for wanting as little bezel as possible... personally I'd rather there be a bezel, it offers more protection to the screen and it you don't ever see screens starting to wrap around the edge of the phone which looks stupid.
  • More sales for Samsung and other sane manufacturers. They will certainly not take my money.
  • I'm typing this on a P20 Pro and can honestly say that I don't mind the notch at all. I tried switching on the setting to hide it but after a while just switched it back off again. There's loads of space for notifications to happily fit either side and it's great to loose some of the dead space above the screen.
  • I'm looking at my G6, it's got a reasonably small top bezel with a Status Bar below it. Moving the Status up, beside a "Notch", would actually give me more usable screen. So how about this. Give the usable areas beside the notch a black background. Basic information like the clock, battery and network and maybe a two step shade for notifications. Most of which we really don't need anyway.
    The "Notch" is a hardware feature, do something creative with the screen area beside it. I've read that OnePlus and LG might be heading in that direction.
  • I said the same thing in a similar thread on the V30 forum. If they make it optional (able to just make it black w/notifications as LG is rumored to be doing) I could go for that. Probably wouldn't even bother me to not have it black on the home-screen I guess either. But, if its not optional (ALWAYS part of the screen) and every video I watch, picture I view, etc, has a notch cut out of the side? Absolutely not. Samsung would be wise to stick with their current set-up, because if the rest of the high-end options go that route, they will be getting my business for the first time since my Galaxy Nexus!
  • Essential did the notch in a great way: it added screen space by moving notifications and status bar above where a non-notch screen bezel would be, and then blacked out the notched area to create an analogue to a non-notch bezel screen for videos and games. Win-win.
  • Exactly. Yet nobody talks about it. Not even mentioned in the article. Sad. Amazing phone
  • That't because no one cares about Essential. It's like folks given Samsung credit for phablet when Samsung was not the one who introduced the first phablet device. The company who popularize something usually gets the credit.
  • #stupidnotch
  • I might like notch at both ends: at top, for camera and sensors; and at bottom, for physical home button including fingerprint sensor and surrounded by standard back/tasks on-screen buttons, ready for reordering and customization. Both ends should have an option to always have black background (or similar colour to the front of the phone) and not be used at all in fullscreen mode. Legacy apps would just work and new apps would not have to handle the notch(es).
  • The screen would be technically bigger if the notch was not there. I guess the "half full" way is to look at it like the screen has been extended into what would be bezel space. But, how useful is that? Take a look at the two examples in this article: The screens have blank space all over them. Was it really necessary to crowd the screen into the corners, just for the sake of bragging rights? Look at all the wallpapers designed to hide the notch, and now companies are bragging that their notch is smaller, so clearly the notch is not a good thing if they are trying to hide and reduce it. Then you have the intrusiveness in all media consumption. Can you imagine going into a theatre, and there's a partial two foot section cut out of the left side of the screen? I would not be saying "Oh that's cool, it looks like a sideways iPhone", I would be saying "What the he11 is wrong with you people?" Then there's the last issue: 18:9 phones have a smaller viewing area even without the notch, then you take a chunk out with the notch. The physical size limit to any movie you watch on an iPhone X is 62.39 millimeters high. That's it, and there is nothing you can do about it. Same goes for the Essential phone that started it all, and even the Pixel 2 XL and the Galaxy S8 have a smaller viewing area for media and photos than a normal ratio phone. Seriously... we need to step away from the kool aid.
  • That’s because of the aspect ratio not the notch itself. Videos (unless they have a certzin aspect ratio) don’t go through the notch. If you go full screen on them you will loose on the sides also anyway. Take the rumored larger iPhone X plus: you can have a bigger phone allowing more viewable screen estate and with a notch
  • I only mention that because pretty much every notched phone is the new narrow aspect ratio, which becomes the short aspect ratio in landscape. In order to make the content larger in full screen mode, you get the top and bottom of the movie cropped out, and depending on the phone, you also get the notch intruding. We will have to see if the iPhone X Plus is large enough to compensate. Possibly. The S9 Plus screen is technically larger than a U11, but you lose a couple millimeters on each edge because of the curves.
  • 99% of the time it adds on it as it makes the statut bar less intrusive on usable space. The only time when it takes away is for videos with special ratio! (I don’t make the video full screen because you loose some things on it on the sides anyway notch ir not)
  • The butthurt over the notch is hilarious. It's change and people hate change. I recall the same thing when removable batteries left the building. I'm guessing people adjusted. I have an iPhone X. You get used to it to a point where it really doesn't matter. No, I'm not a fanboy. Have an S9 as well.
  • Please...retire the word "butthurt".
  • Aww, I was just gonna use it over in the Samsung software article... Lol.
  • Why is everyone forgetting (or ignoring) the Essential Phone PH-1? It's been the best phone I've ever used in a decade. I have really grown to appreciate the notch and really hope it's around for the next version of the device.
  • For me it adds screen space and hasn't bothered me one bit on an iPhone or Essential phone. Absolutely have zero issues if the phones have a notch. At the same time it's not like it's a deal breaker if it doesn't have one. Either way is fine for me.
  • Takes away from what the Screen Can be.
  • I'm fine with a little bit of a bezel around my phone's screen. A notch taking up valuable screen space on my notification bar is just dumb.
  • I wonder if the OnePlus will have a software setting to "remove the notch" by filling that area with black? I know they did something similar with hardware v. software buttons.
  • I see this as a cool option for the status bar but only if apps will work properly with it. If their app does not need it then that area is just black and not used in the app.
  • There will always be manufacturers who will produce phones without a notch so its not the end of the world for me.
  • You know what the notch reminds me of? Driving in your car with the sun visor down. Yeah, there's a benefit but not enough to have it down permanently.
  • Apple's decision to use a screen notch was a compromise. It looks terrible and, one of these days (years), they are going to advertise notchless screens once they figure out how to seamlessly embed the hardware that currently occupies the notch under the screen.
  • TL:DR Why copy the notch of the iPhone, but leave the 'chin'? That's the worst part!
  • First off, I've never been obsessed with small bezels. 2nd my notifications and status often go all the way across top so it would take space away from information.
  • **** the notch and **** Apple.
  • The amount of area gained compared to the current size of the screens is negligible. Even the small ones lose space for notifications but the most important thing you lose configure that area to your pleasure, to put the clock where you want, to personalize the colors, etc. Besides, the notch is aesthetically very ugly, horrendous. They have had to patch the system because Android was not prepared for the notch and as more than one CEO has recognized everything to follow Apple to try to capture its potential customers without listening to their own customers and what Android users prefer. Better use a traditional, wide and thin bezel and add more sensors and features there. The notch is the perfect excuse for them to remove and minimize the number of sensor, features and give you less with an increased price for the notch. Like lose the notification's led, the proximity sensor, the light sensor, etc. I do not care if they flood the market with notches. If we do not buy them, they will have no choice but to eliminate them and give customers what they like and demand. I'm not going to buy a notched phone and hiding it by software to burn the screen is stupid. Who buys a phone with a design that does not like it and then try to hide it? It is ridiculous as long as you have alternatives that do please you. If you do not like it, do not buy it, the more we refuse to buy phones with that horrible notch invading the screen more models without them will come out in the future.
  • All this trumped up outrage over a notch. Apple did it for the components for FaceID. Why are Android makers going for notch when they don’t have the technology to fold the screen under so you don’t have bottom chin. Apple did the notch for symmetry.
  • Quite happy to hide the notch with software. All I'll loose is a small amount of screen just like if I had a small bezel.
    If done right notifications will appear in this bezel giving the best of both worlds.
  • Shouldn’t we also be asking if curved screens also reduce the viewable are so screens?
  • Samsung achieves a better display screen-to-body ratio than Apple's iPhone X without a notch. So no, it's not necessary to have a notch to have a good screen-to-body ratio.
  • It depends. The current standard screen ratio is 2/1 ( give or take.) Is the notch an incursion on that 2/1 or is extra height, above it? If it is an incursion then, it takes space away. Either way if you have a notch as big as the iPhones, that area definitely should not be included in the measurement of the screen.
  • We'll have to see what Apple does because everyone else will follow.
  • Well that's the 24 million dollar question.
    Who's idea will Apple steal next and take credit for?
  • I have to bookmark all the anti-notch articles so I can refer back to them if the Pixel 3 has a notch. Because you KNOW Andrew Martonik will rave about how wonderful the notch is if the Pixel 3 has one.
  • Well if done properly it should just look like the notifications are on the left and right of a bezel. Then when you go full screen you should have a black bar like a small bezel hiding the notch. This way you gain the screen used for notifications and there is
    no reason you should ever see the notch unless you want to.
    I see it this way. If you could move your notifications into the bezel on your phone would it be the end of the world?
  • I don't mind the notch. It's just that I expect all the Google fanboys who hate the notch will suddenly change their minds if the Pixel 3 has one.
  • Every "fanboy" of anything shows unwavering support for the decisions of their favorite maker. That is the definition of it. So...of course they will.
  • I don't think it's so simple as the presence of the notch adding/removing screen real estate. Take OnePlus, for example (only because it'a device I'm interested in, and thereby somewhat familiar with). The 5T had an 18:9 display, the 6 is rumoured to have a 19:9 display. If you were to square the screen off under the notch, it'd probably be pretty close to 18:9.
  • I think if the notch is housing things like infrared camera, rear camera, facial recognition, it serves a purpose and if the two sides can be used to display the time, Wi-Fi connection, battery info, then it’s serves a multi purpose, why not have a notch. The technology for under display fingerprint sensor let alone camera doesn’t even exist. The fact that android P has software support for the notch, I’m going to assume it’s getting ready for the pixel 3.
  • I’m getting really annoyed by these Android OEMs comparing their notches to the iPhone X and bragging about them being smaller. Are they stupid? The iPhones notch is that big to accommodate the FaceID sensors in addition to the earpiece and front facing camera. None of these OEMs have a comparable technology they’re just blindly copying Apple but stupidly bragging about something that they have no reason to even have on their phones.
  • You guys realize you can turn the notch off on the P20? The area becomes black with white icons for notifications which does add screen space, wait no more the notch problem has been resolved. This should've been mentioned in the article.
  • Too busy hating the notch! Look at you phone as it is now.
    Now imagine the notifications moving into the bezel and the notification bar becoming part of your screen.
    Is that really that bad?
  • How much you want a bet those complaining about the notch will leave that notch preference ON even after they have the choice?
  • Anyone else feel like the people at Android Central are really trying to get us to like the notch? I don't care about the notch. I am getting annoyed with seeing at least one article a week about how I should change my mind or just get over it and like the notch. I do not care about the notch and I am tired of hearing about it. Luckily we have choices when it comes to buying phones.
  • Picked up the X to give it a whirl and so far the notch is just fine. In fact I think it gives the phone a certain jene sais quo...
  • Thoughts on the notch? Don't need it, don't want it. It's friggin sad how Android hardware manufacturers copy Apple and then try to excuse it.
  • I don't like the notch and tired too to see that Android Central, other sites and some people posting, seems to be paid by some brands trying to change our opinion and encourange us to like it. And the answer is NO, NO and NO. If we don't like the notch, WE DON'T LIKE IT. And hide the notch is not a solution like you try to show and be accepted by us. To buy a product which design you don't like and the try to hide it is stupid at most and never a solution because is there physically and you'll still watch it. SO stop with this. You can repeat the news with the ugly notch every day with 1000 histories that you are not going change our mind and taste. Remove the notch, we already have enough big displays or make the phone few mm taller with a straight display which will be even bigger with all the space for notificiations and other icons plus more space for add more sensors in the classic bezel instead of remove them with less features. Due to the stupid notch some are removing the notification led, the proximity sensor or the ambience light sensor because they don't have enough space trying to minimize it or use it as an excuse to put less features at the same or higher price.. Stop this.
  • Lol at all the angry nerds. If you don't like it, don't buy it. These articles are obviously click bait preying on our misplaced anger over something so damn trivial. Personally I like my phone screen using all available real estate and don't notice the notch because how often are you looking at the middle of the notification bar??
  • Haven't sifted through all the comments so it might've been said, but why not make the notifcation bar around the notch black? The Halide camera app on iOS does a beautiful job of this - the app interface is black, and they use the areas on either side of the notch to display useful information. Check it looks great!
  • Hate it, looks absolutely ridiculous.
  • Looks like notifications are in the bezel, and the screen is 4mm taller.
    I suppose if you zoom in and look really closely you might be able to tell some of the bezel is actually screen.
  • Whether the screen comes from a phone, tablet, laptop or television, the notch is stupid, 'cause it doesn't really add any space to the device.
  • #stupidnotch
  • « Maybe that's why most Android OEMs are using much smaller notches than the iPhone X«  Ir because they weren’t able to replucate face id
  • Face ID is a very backward step.
    You need to wake the phone before use.
    You might as well just unlock it when you touch to wake.
    I have it on my 5T but can't use it as I wake the phone by touching the FPS...
  • If FaceID is a step backward why is Samsung rumored to have it by S10?
  • Haven't a clue!
    Maybe because compared to iris scanning it's an improvement.
    Or god forbid Samsung are jumping on a craze for no good reason?
    But I'm still hoping they manage to sort out a good rear FPS to make face id redundant.
  • If Note 9 comes out with under display FPS, they will sell like hot cakes for those not wanting FaceID. If anyone can do it Samsung should.
  • As long as you don't have to wake the phone first.
  • the notch is THE most over-blown NON issue on the internet. I have an iPhone X and the notch literally disappears. it doesn't look bad, people just love to hate, specially apple...
    But hey, lets beat a dead horse... why not.
    non issue. adds.
  • I totally agree, moving the camera down into the status bar in otherwise unused space does allow the body height to be slightly reduced. As big as the phones are getting I appreciate that little bit. I just picked up a Mate SE and the bezels are about the size of my V20 and to be hones that's about as small as I care to go. The bezels on my Pixel XL really don't bother me but yes they do occupy a substantial amount of area that could otherwise be display.
  • "Maybe that's why most Android OEMs are using much smaller notches than the iPhone X." No, they are smaller because Apple packed a lot more stuff into that notch.
  • "Maybe that's why most Android OEMs are using much smaller notches than the iPhone X." No, Apple just crammed more stuff up there. Infrared camera, Flood illuminator, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor, Speaker, Microphone, Front camera, Dot projector. (sorry about double post. site crashed while looking up specifics and I didn't realize the partial post, posted. No delete option.)
  • It taketh away.
  • Top notch is like a top knot on a guy......******. Don't do it LG.
  • One thing for sure, they are plain ugly.
    I miss the front facing fingerprint sensor of my Galaxy S7e.
    I hate the one in my new S9+.
    And the face/iris scanner doesn't work well.
  • This is my biggest issue with the notch it's just ugly plane and simple as that I would never buy a phone with one don't care how it's implemented
  • I can think of two solutions to make a notch easier to live with:
    1) Do what OnePlus is doing with the OP6 and make a 19:9 display, so if you removed the notch and status bar, it'd be a regular 18:9 display.
    2) Do the same as above, except the status bar could be a second AMOLED (or monochrome) display and have the pixels turned off except for those being used to display the icons (think LG V10/V20, just combined with OP6 rumors). Eventually (within the next five years), people will have been pushing for higher and higher screen:body ratios, and so a solid upper/lower bezel will be obsolete, if still effective. By that time, game and app developers would have likely created workarounds for notches. However, maybe by then, notches, too, would become outdated. But by that time, you should be able to do yourself a favor and buy a production Vivo Apex.
  • I would hate a notch on my phone!
    Hope Samsung and LG don't make phones with notches.
    I have the Note 8, if the Note 9 has a notch, I'll have to look elsewhere... that'll be sad but can't have a phone that looks like a kid without front top teeth.
  • The notch is not an addition to a phone.
    It's just a small bezel with ether side removed. If done properly a black bar can be added to this space and it looks like a bezel again.
    Only difference is notifications now appear in this fake bezel and the notification bar becomes part of the screen.
  • I do not want notches for the simple reason that they also take away the top bezel. Notch presence means the glass display extends up to the top edge of the phone and this decreases drop impact durability. Notch-this, Notch-that... its all a cleverly disguised smoke / mirror cover-up Matrix to blind us from the truth. They are selling us increasingly fragile devices that will self destruct from the slightest drop impact. It all feeds into the overall philosophy of planned - forced obsolescence.
  • Best anti notch post I've seen.
    Looks wise, you probably won't see the notch.
    Copying Apple, maybe but if it's a good idea (like the touch screen) I don't care who did it first.
    Making an event more fragile device, can't be a good idea unless absolutely necessary.