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Hole punch displays are worse than notch displays

Holey Honor View 20
Holey Honor View 20 (Image credit: Android Central)

I have no love for the notch. I don't understand the techy Stockholm Syndrome I see when pundits and commenters say they "get used to it" after a few days of use. The notch is a miserable compromise to give us something we don't actually need to compromise for.

But there's a darker evil on the horizon, friends. The gadget nerd in me had hoped the mechanical slider would have caught on while the industry figured out how to functionally hide everything under the display, but instead another solution has emerged. A solution in name only, a pretender prancing around as our savior, and after spending some time with a couple of upcoming phones with this new design I found myself actually wishing I could use a phone with a notch instead of this abomination.

Hole punch displays suck. They're worse than notch displays, and they don't actually fix the thing they claim to fix.

More screen, only not really

Even with the less terrible teardrop notches, where the display cut out is just about as small as it could possibly be, there's still this weird black shape in the middle of the display when you're trying to do something. Notches take up space where information could be displayed, no matter what you do. Even with Google making UI guidelines for notch-friendly interfaces, it's clear this cut out gets in the way sometimes and makes the interface less functional. At the end of the day, there's no screen there. It's always going to cause at least a little bit of a problem.

On some phones you actually lose more of the notification tray space to the hole punch camera than you do a teardrop notch.

Holepunch displays remove the black material connecting the camera to the bezel and replaces it with pixels. It makes the camera less noticeable when the display is off or showing something dark, and admittedly looks much nicer. But that's it, the only real benefit is the look. There's never going to be anything useful displayed in the 12 pixels between the top of the camera cut out and the bottom of the bezel. The camera is in the notification tray still so, you're still losing space for notifications and actually useful information to make room for the camera.

In fact, on some phones you actually lose more of the notification tray space to the hole punch camera than you do a teardrop notch. The Honor View 20 puts the camera to the far left of the display, making the entire top left of the display worthless. Nothing useful is ever displayed to the left of the camera, so that whole area just does nothing while the rest of the notification tray shifts to the right by a quarter inch. And worse, you only get the camera. No infrared dot-projection sensor for better facial recognition or eye tracking, just the camera.

How is this better?

Asymmetry is gross, stop it

My biggest issue with these hole punch displays is the awful asymmetry that inevitably comes with this idea. We can't put the camera in the middle of the top of the display like we do with notch displays, that's crazy talk. Instead, let's put the camera over in one of the corners! That way, when someone is watching a video the hole in the display is down in one of the corners and less noticeable. Weirdly, when Samsung had a 5G prototype with a notch on the far right of the display there was no shortage of people with Very Strong Opinions, but the hole punch doesn't elicit the same response for some reason.

The display is wrong in two ways, and the longer I stare at it the louder the buzzing sound just under my scalp gets.

I get that many people spend lots of time gaming and watching movies on their phones, but that designing for those experiences instead of the day to day browsing and notification checking that happens all day every day is so weird to me. There's a hole in the corner of your phone that you can never unsee, and you're going to notice it 100 times every day when you casually unlock your phone to check for messages or respond to a comment. Like the notch, that hole never really goes away. And even if it disappears for you some of the time, it's never going to be totally gone.

Worst of all, the radius for corner of the display and the camera circle don't match even though they are side by side. So the display is wrong in two ways, and the longer I stare at it the louder the buzzing sound just under my scalp gets. Sure, I could see a therapist for this, but these companies could also just not make a display with a big awkward hole in it.

We're going to suffer through this together

Unfortunately, none of my complaining is going to do much. Huawei, Honor, and several other companies have already demonstrated the hole punch is the way forward. And now, if the leaks are to be believed, Samsung is at least partially adopting the hole punch in an attempt to keep pace and make it seem like Galaxy phones are setting the trend instead of following it.

By the end of 2019, most new phones will probably be hole punch displays. And I'm going to hate most of them. I hope Google keeps close the smaller Pixel 3 design with its next phone so I can be saved from this fate, but it seems like this is the direction most phones will be going for the forseeable future.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

104 Comments
  • Just like Non-servicable batteries, glass bodies, and missing ear bud connectors, another reason not to buy. The fact that the price goes up is icing on the rock cake.
  • Agreed! These crappy trends and high prices just encourage me to keep my phone much longer than I usually would.
  • Very well said brother....smh 🤦🏾‍♂️💁🏾‍♂️
  • If I broke this phone beyond repair I would probably buy the same one use or refurbished anyways. I am not buying the new version for this same reason.
  • No battery is non-serviceable, unless you can't buy a replacement. Just finished replacing my wife's HTC M8 battery with a brand new one, and swapped the USB port as well. It wasn't easy (M8 is one of the most difficult), but I did it without using a chainsaw ;)
    I still have a collection of removable batteries from LG and Samsung, and I don't miss carrying a spare just to make it through the day. Going a day or two (or five) on one charge is better, for me at least.
  • They are definitely the type of thing where they are making them just because they have the ability to make them. They are functionally no better than a notch yet you know Samsung will act like they aren't notches and are somehow the best thing since sliced bread. They look just as bad if not worse than a notch. I can't wait to see Google's horrible take on this trend with the Pixel 4. Knowing Google there will be a glory hole up top and a notch for a speaker on the bottom. Personally, I am hoping to sit out the hole/notch fad. I am still using a Pixel 2 on Oreo which should get me by for a couple more years. After that hopefully phones will be back to just minimal regular bezels with a UI to match (Clock on the right side where it belongs and notification icons not being limited). I know companies don't like to admit they make mistakes but the headphone jack refuses to completely die and that may be making a comeback so there is hope these horrible display trends will go away.
  • Ikr and it's the same thing said for the cameras.we don't need 3 or 4 lenses. They just make them because they can when the devices don't need them at all but there they are along with the obnoxious prices to boot.😒
  • I agree with you, I also have a Pixel 2 but we are not on Oreo, we are on Android Pie.
  • But...no... bezels
  • Get over it. Bigger things to worry about Russell. Like bigger batteries please!!
  • Far better battery life is definitely something that should always be improving. With that being said don't downplay his concerns, as aesthetics is something you'll be interacting with every single day
  • First of all, I agree on battery life. Second of all, no dookie there are bigger things to worry about - but we aren’t ranking “Earth’s Conundrums” here. Russell is commenting on the culture of his industry...almost like it’s his job?
  • I was talking smartphone terms! We all know sooner or later we're gonna get the full bezel less notch less hole punchless screens!
  • Fully agree that bigger/more efficient batteries are the most important thing. But this also sucks.
  • I purposely picked up an s9+ on Black Friday. I want nothing to do with holes or notches. This works out a lot better for myself! Plus I got the 9+ for 529.00 with Verizon's 24hr sale!
  • Minimal bezels and a great amount of screen real estate. Notches and Holes (Eww) are all solutions to a problem that never existed.
  • Same reason I'll be a happy camper with my Note 9.
  • I'll second that. I may have issues with some of the software experience with Samsung (which can mostly but not totally be sorted with a bit of effort), but from a hardware design perspective the Note 8/9 are the perfect blend of maximising screen with minimal bezels just deep enough to hold speakers/sensors etc. No distracting notches/holes or whatever. The notch etc is change for changes sake.
  • Thank you for writing a realistic opinion piece on the hole punch variation of the awful and stupid notch design phase that will hopefully soon pass. Glad I am just not a grumpy old man who hates new things...My Note 9 screen real estate is fantastic with a small bezel up top for sensors and a modest chin below. At least its honest. Plus, my Note 9 is high enough spec'd I just can wait a few design cycles to upgrade. This part of the reason smart phone sales dropped for the first time ever this year..innovation has lulled and the market is saturated.
  • They both suck. Just make a variation with all screen and no selfie cameras for the adults who don't need to video chat or take a million pictures of themselves for social media. That's more practical than just making larger variations of every flagship.
  • Agreed. My first smart phone (Evo Shift 4G) didn't have a sexting cam and I got by just fine.
  • I use my front camera to record content. I'm glad they are still included.
  • Amen brother! Amen!
  • Nope. Much rather have the hole punch.
  • You're a cry-baby. The hole replaces the GD notch, idiot.
  • Your intelligent and reasonable argument has persuaded me to love the punch hole. Well done!
  • I know what you're doing Russell; reverse psychology. "Let me say the the hole punch sucks, and they'll defend it and get used to it quickly". 😋. Notches suck, and so do holes. Yeah. But it is what it is. In reality, the hole leaves a little bit more of information tray available, for the companies that will know how to maximize it, and you get very little bezels, therefore more screen real estate. Thus the solution to Apple's horrible trend. Oh, and BTW, since Google is not a leader, but an Apple follower, they'll see what those guys come out with and clone it. 🤦🏻‍♂️ Written with my awesome Google Pixel 2 XL.🖖
  • You've figured me out :)
  • You only suffer if you buy one. Don't buy one and don't suffer. Manufacturers get away with this notch/hole punch trend because millions of dumbfounded dipsh!ts that continue to buy the product regardless.
  • Is that you Maynard? Lol
  • Maybe those people that buy phones with notches/punch holes simply don't mind them and aren't actually dipsh!ts buying into the latest trend for the sake of it?! It's not obligatory to hate those design features is it? Many people will be fine with a notch/hole hence they buy a phone featuring one. Calling people dipsh!ts just because they don't mind having a feature that you hate says a lot more about you than it does about them...
  • I think you ever estimate the intelligence of the average human being.
    There is a reason things like viral advertising, propaganda, product choice limitations, mob mentality, etc.... Exist. Most people are pretty stupid and very easy to manipulate.
  • SAY NO TO NOTCHISM
  • I only wait till the Note9 is 50% down. Then I buy and won't upgrade until that notch/hole nonsense has faded.
  • I'll be going that route myself.
  • Yes, yes, yes! I hole-heartedly (pun intended) agree with this strategy.
  • If you're going to wait until the note9 is 50% off then you weren't going to buy a new phone with a 100% pricetag anyways, notch or notch-less. You're not fooling anyone here dude.
  • I got my Note 9 for over 50% off on release day from T-Mobile (got $500 off for trading in an S7 Edge valued at $175 and got a $250 pair of over the ear headphones for free).
  • The fact that you actually want sliders invalidated your whole argument for me. Plus, this is still a dumb argument to be having. In a year or 2 they will be gone
  • Anybody who spends time outdoors knows that IP68 is the best thing to happen to phones. Sliders were nice when no phone was waterproof but are now obsolete.
    I think the hole punch succeeds with those of us who grew up in the paper world where paper was filed using punch holes. You stop noticing them after a while. The space they take out of the notification bar is minimal. It isn't space that is normally used.
    But my next phone is likely to also be a Sony because I like having something to hold at the top and bottom.
  • As much as it pains me to say, I will be holding on to my Pixel 2XL a while longer if the Pixel 4 has a hole or notch. I find both to be ridiculous and would rather have a minimal bezel for the camera and sensors.
  • Looks like a lanyard strap hole.
  • Now that would be useful.
  • I have a theory: Samsung has the technology for under the screen cameras now, but is holding onto it for the Note 10.
  • Makes no difference whether the display is LED or OLED, there is stuff in there that would get in the way of light and prevent good image formation.
  • Seriously....You state that the small hole punch displays are worse that the giant notches on Pixel and Apple phones. Your opinion is laughable.
  • Laughable? So your opinion is always the right opinion and his is laughable? Talk about narcissistic.
  • I actually specifically mentioned the teardrop notch, but I get it man reading is hard.
  • Hey Russel, why not show a video of the whole punch vs the notch so we can see if its that bad. Saw this and I prefer it for sure over a notch. https://youtu.be/ATM4_hrtsNY
    I wish we didnt have either but definitely prefer the hole over a notch
  • Perhaps you should re-read your article. You said "Hole punch displays suck. They're worse than notch displays", hmmmm.
  • That was obviously some sort of clickbait to get some people triggered
  • 16:9 displays never go out of style. There was never a need to change them, really. The upper and bottom bezels are easily lessened by a rear fingerprint scanner, and no playing of the brand name on the front. Phones would actually become smaller, with the same screen size. No notch, no punch. What's not to like?
  • I could not possibly disagree with this article any more. The notches are WAY WAY worse in every way. As for this: "On some phones you actually lose more of the notification tray space to the hole punch camera than you do a teardrop notch.", Russel you know that is Google's fault I assume, yes? Their awful software update in Pie which now leaves the middle of the notification bar empty WHETHER THERE IS A NOTCH THERE OR NOT is utterly baffling and simply a terrible design decision. So Google needs to fix that ASAP. In any case, the hole punch is FAR more pleasing than an notch IMO. YMMV I suppose
  • Both are bad design.
  • I agree here.
  • Yes, it's Google's fault. But if it's not going to be fixed I still have wasted space. Doesn't really matter who gets blamed. Design hardware for the software if you don't control the software.
  • Maybe Samsung can , in fact , control that area of the software .. I guess we will see.
  • Honestly, I'm getting sick of reading about people whining about every little thing about cell phones. Waaaa they took away the headphone jack!!!
    Waaaa the bezels are too big!!!
    Waaaa the notch is ugly!!!!
    Waaaa the hole punch is ugly!!!!
    Waaaa it doesn't have an IP rating or isn't waterproof!!!!
    Waaaa it doesn't have wireless charging!!!! Seriously!!!! Just....STOP! If you think you can do a better job and include all of the things you guys keep whining about, change your job and design your dream phone!!! I'm sure you'll quickly discover that in order do add one thing, you need to sacrifice another. Want a front facing camera and a full edge to edge display...sorry you need a notch/hole in your screen. Oh wait, you say how about a sliding mechanism, oh sorry you'll have to sacrifice water resistance and/or headphone jack. Think before you whine please.
  • I moan about every single thing you mentioned in your holier than thou comment. If I spend more on a phone than a computer then I want it to be how I like it ie lean bezels, wireless charging, headphone jack, decent water resistency, no poxy notch etc. Your comment is asinine! I am a consumer and if my favourite brand of whichever product I buy starts going off in a direction that I am not happy with then I will exercise my right to voice disprovel before moving my loyalties to another company.
    As an aside of we followed your flawed logic then I guess we would all still be supping new coke that we bought after filling up our Ford edsels from a standard oil petrol station
  • I just wasted precious seconds of my life reading this worthless post.
  • How dare I have opinions about things I spend $1,000+ on, right? I should just be happy I've been gifted with the opportunity to give this faceless corporation my money.
  • Literally nobody said the bezels on the Note 8/9 or S8/9 or countless other phones from 2017/2018 are too big. Notches are a solution to a problem that didn't exist. So, yeah, we get to complain about it.
  • I agree completely and honestly what did the notch accomplish. How much screen to body ratio does the iPhone have next to the s8 ,9 or note 8, 9. Table for comparison at-a-glance PhoneScreen sizeScreen-to-body RatioSamsung Galaxy S95.8 inches83.6 percentAsus Zenfone 5 or 5Z6.2 inches83.6 percentXiaomi Mi Mix6.2 inches83.6 percentApple iPhone X and XS5.8 inches82.9 
  • Yeah we're all going to stop because you said so. This.....trend.....sucks.....we won't.....shut.......up.
  • I don't need no stinking notches
  • I rather the hole than a notch, both are bad but the hole looks interesting.... maybe because I like holes..
  • I'm not sure "it's different and interesting" is really a justification I can get behind, but you do you man.
  • I have a crazy idea... why don't we just leave a slim, non-screen bar across the top of the face of the handset, put all the camera and sensor gubbins there and (stay with me, this is where it gets crazy) put a full width notification bar DIRECTLY BELOW the bar with the camera in it! I know. I know. It sounds absolutely mad. But I reckon it just might catch on.
  • That's the dream, right?
  • This is the best solution by far.
  • Wow, that's just crazy! Who would do that! I would buy that in a heartbea... Oh, wait.
    ;)
  • When I look at Russell Holly I, see a man with giant, weather beaten, tanned saddle brown balls, pendulating at the mighty root of an oaken shaft of truth. All I can think of when seeing this “hole punch non-sense,” is “are the lanyards sold separately?”
  • My being right has nothing to do with my scrotum.
  • Actually due to symmatry... It does
  • Actually due to symmatry... It does
  • Well, except scrotums are asymmetrical depending on the temperature, and that's good because it makes closing your legs less painful. Just speaking from a medical perspective, lol.
  • Is that the strangest comment you've ever written? 🤔
  • It is more a statement about saying something that a lot of Android review sites will quite literally not be able to afford to say after the 20th of Feb. The peephole sucks!! [samsung redacts check]
  • I'll be sticking with my S9+ if the S10 has this horrible screen, I can upgrade every year so I may just jump ship to Apple because I would prefer a notch to a hole for my screens.
  • Sitting here with my notchless V30 like, what's the point of having them?? If it's just about less bezels, I don't understand the need for getting millimeters more of display.
  • I agree 1000% on the hole punch is far worse than the notch.
  • Looks like I'm keeping my S7 for a few more years. I've already outlasted the garbage notch, what's a few more years?
  • Moto G5 Plus, still going strong, but yeah I'm there with you...
  • Long live my LG v20!!!!
  • Well if the hole punch notification area can be turned off in developer settings, the problem is solved.
  • I've never understood what was actually wrong with a bezel. I guess you could argue that a bezel is just a notch that covers the whole top of the screen, but because it does, you aren't missing any data behind it. I think both the notch and the cut-out are solutions for a problem we didn't have.
  • I never understood why bezels were wrong either. If you want a lesson in frustration, try playing a full screen action game on a "bezel less" phone. The pauses induced by false touches, the controls being too close to the edge, the cramps in your thumbs. Even when they get rid of the notch and hole punch compromises and have an edge-to-edge display, a bezel less phone is poor at some things. I think we bought the bill of goods that bezels are "dated".
  • Reminds me of The Office when they thought it would be a good idea to have a tablet in the shape of a triangle. They called it The Pyramid. LOL
  • by Sabre lol
  • Hole punch screen are terrible. The Notch on iPhone looks way better and next year, it's going to be even smaller. (on iPhone). I have pretty much given up on any 2019 android phone. won't buy a hole punch screen and that takes out all Samsung and likely the Google pixel 4. not interested in any other name brand when it comes to android.
  • Lord, mechanical sliders are awful. At a time when more people are keeping their phones longer, your solution is to introduce a mechanism that will absolutely break or get loose after a year or two? We've been down this road. Notches and hole punches aren't great, but they will go away soon, mechanical sliders will never be a widespread trend again because the trade-offs simply aren't worth it for most people. You're trading durability for a bit more functionality, hard pass.
  • No notches, no tear drops, no hole punches for me! I'd either pay extra money for a slider (my preferred device) or else I'd just hold on to my existing phone for however long I could (right now that's a Moto G5 Plus that I got on launch day and it's still as great as ever...). Personally I think a slider, particularly the mechanical slider such as the possibly leaked OnePlus Seven prototype, is the best solution to the problem of people wanting one-hundred bezel free screens. Sure folks want their selfie cameras and their iris/face map tech for unlocking their devices, but with the exceptions of the few seconds they're used they normally just sit there (and some of us never use any of that tech anyway). The ratings against the elements you ask??? Sure okay, but many buy an SUV capable of among other things going off road and then never go off road which led to the rise of the crossover; cell phones as much the same in that many of us have devices that have a weather/water ratings and it never sees a splash let alone submersion in the pool (or other bodies of water) in the span of its life. My G5 Plus isn't even rated, it's "splash resistant" and I've never gotten the thing splashed let alone actually wet.
  • Good thing it's my "sit out year" since I upgrade every 2 years. I have the smaller S9 since I got it last April. The only fault I find is it's smaller battery, but since I don't even go away from a power source for extended periods of time enough to drain it, then it's not that bad.
    Ice Universe tweeted that Samsung employee conference thing with the in display camera that's not a hole, and that it's working with the only problem being not enough light yet is getting through for acceptable pictures. Hopefully one extra year is long enough for them to fix that by the S11.
  • I wouldn't count on it. You are like me, I upgrade every two years, but based on Samsung's phone release scheme, you and I won't see that technology until 2022. See, the S10 is the new version of the phone, while the S11 will just be a "fixed" (aka, working out the bugs) of the S10. Then the S12 will be the new version with this technology while we'll be getting the S13. So it's gonna be a spell. The S9 you have and the S9+ I have are just the updates and fixes to the S8.
  • Know what's better than a notch/hole? A quarter-inch bezel!
  • Thank you! Nobody asked for this stupid trend. Samsung has it right currently. But noooooo. They want to F up a good thing by putting holes on their screen. Man I can't wait until this crap ends.
  • The notch was a piss poor design element, if anyone wants to accept it that is your prerogative. Putting a hole punch in any functional portion of the display is worse in my opinion. First of all the hole punch will pull your eyes away from whatever content or games someone will play, a distraction that should not be.
    Those of you saying to get over it are really just plain stupid for telling others to get over it. If you want to pay hundreds of dollars for a bad design, go for it. STFU for telling others to get over it for voicing their opinion. I will simply keeping my Note 9 until something with no notch or hole punch is worthy of upgrading to. If these words offend those who like to troll others, too bad... great article Russell.
  • Russel, if you were here, I'd high-five you! But, as a guy with more unused and broken slider devices than I can count, I don't think sliders are the answer. You give up water resistance, introduce more mechanical failure points, and you reduce the camera sensor size because a camera in a half a phone can never be as large as one that has the full depth to work with. I think notchless and punchless are the way to go for many reasons, and I often enjoy using the Note and U11 for many of them. As a matter of fact, you've helped convince me to go ahead and buy the U12 Plus. The asymmetry perspective is interesting, but it raises the question of why it only matters in portrait mode. You get the symmetry destroyed by notches in landscape mode, and no one wants to mention that. However, I can see where having a hole punch would be worse to some because it ruins the symmetry in both positions. "Waiter, there's a hole in my screen!"
  • Yes! This article needed to be written. Russell is saying what many of us are saying. This era of smartphones has reached an all-time low with this stupid me too trend of notches and holes. I'm truly not excited to purchase a new phone this year if this crap continues. I have no faith in Google as I know they'll continue to implement this nonsense and copy what everyone else is doing but make it worse lol. Im hoping that Samsung uses that new infinity screen with the Note 10 or else I don't know where I'm going.
  • I laughed at the Stockholm Syndrome line! Pretty good. Do the manufacturers ever focus group these design decisions or is secrecy before launch more important? Seems risky on their part to assume people will overlook these asymmetric designs. Personally, I don't understand the "get over it" side of the debate. If it's weird, I think it's okay to say it's weird.
  • Frankly, I don't care one little bit about a selfie camera, because I don't take selfies enough to warrant one. Just give me all screen!!!!!
  • The hole punch is small and relatively unintrusive. I prefer it to the notch aka the apple type notch.
    I'd rank them like this 1) S9 plus small top and bottom bezel
    2) Hole punch
    3) iphone notch
    4) pixel 3 notch.
  • I think someone needs to re-evaluate their life .... such strong opinions about such inconsequential stuff. lol
  • Who uses cell phones to check notifications? That's what smart watches are for, lol.