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Stop freaking out over hole punch displays, they're actually good

I have a lot of love for Russell. He's a great guy, has a wonderful sense of humor, and is someone I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I do, however, disagree with his recent Hole punch displays are worse than notch displays editorial.

Hole punches are the latest trend when it comes to smartphone displays in our never-ending quest to eliminate bezels, but no, I do not think they're a worse solution than the notch. They're not 100% better, but they do come with a benefit that notches don't.

We've seen a lot of different solutions for cutting back on bezels, ranging from traditional notches, waterdrop notches, hole punches, and even sliding mechanisms that introduce moving parts to hide certain components behind a phone's display. All of these serve the same main goal, and hole punches seem like the obvious step forward from notches.

Apple popularized notches with the iPhone X, and since then Android OEMs have been in a race to add notches to their own phones and make them as small as can be. The first wave of phones had notches that looked identical to Apple's, then we got ones using the waterdrop style, and now we have hole punches — a small, circular cutout in a screen to accommodate the front-facing camera.

Looking at the current implementation of hole punches, they differ from notches in a couple different ways:

  1. They're positioned in the left or right corner of the display rather than the middle.
  2. They aren't connected to the top bezel and sort of float freely on the screen.

It's a pretty different look compared to what we've grown used to with notches, and that's created for a lot of excitement/anguish over them. I get that the left or right positioning has a greater impact on the status bar and that the implementations we've seen so far aren't perfectly symmetrical with the rest of the phone's design, but hole punches have a pretty big positive to them, too — media consumption.

I've become quite accustomed to the notch over the last few months, but whether it be on my OnePlus 6 or iPhone XS, the time the notch bothers me the most is when I'm watching a fullscreen video. Having that large black bar in the middle cover the content I'm watching is always a pain, but with the hole punch notch, you see a lot more of what's playing. Instead of a huge unibrow staring back at you, there's now this small circle in the bottom corner. It's less invasive, leaves more of the screen free for you to watch your shows, and in this sense, does a better job at getting us to the bezel-less future we're trying to get to.

Hole punches mean more screen real estate, and that's something I can get behind.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but I'm all for having more screen real-estate at the expense of having one or two fewer icons show up in my status bar. I really don't rely on them anyways with our current notch setups, but again, I could be in the minority there.

Going throughout 2019, it'll be interesting to see if OEMs keep with this current hole punch fad, continue to evolve the notch, or come up with yet another solution we haven't even seen yet.

All of these things are just transitional pains we have to put up with until the day we have a phone that really is all display and nothing else, and if you ask me, the hole punch is one of the better ones we've had yet. It leaves more space for movies/games, doesn't compromise a phone's structural integrity, and is a pretty impressive engineering feat compared to where we were at just a year ago.

We got used to notches pretty quickly, and we'll get used to hole punches, too.

Slider phones are an important step in eliminating bezels, but nobody should buy one

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

86 Comments
  • No they aren't. People literally used to send computer monitors back because they found a cluster of 2 or 3 dead pixels distracting, that makes it hard to believe a black dot with a diameter of nearly a centimetre isn't noticeable. I don't actually care all that much about this hole punch, though it is stupid, but don't piss on my boots and tell me it's raining.
  • nearly a centimeter in diameter? closer to 5mm to be fair.
  • Better than a giant notch but still unnecessary gimmick to garner sales.
  • Counterpoint: They're both terrible, and all-display phones without some sort of bezel to provide a gripping point that won't trigger the touchscreen are a terrible goal to strive for.
  • I was going to say the same thing
  • I couldn't agree more! I can't stand curved edge screens, no square corners or no bezzels. If I can't get a decent phone with a flat display, square corners and bezzels then I want an option in settings to change the effective screen size to eliminate any notches or no bezzels. This setting should also change the touch sensitive areas to match.
  • Eh we'll see, that's what we all said about apples notch and now everyone had it
  • Isn't this kind of a pick your preference situation? Neither better/worse, it's just what you prefer.
  • Nothing wrong with a small bezel and no notch/glory hole.
    Phone manufacturers need to get real.
  • I don't want bezels. I consume lots of media and appreciate more viewing area. And I don't like smudging the glass on my phone by grabbing the bezel area.
  • So... you'd rather drop your phone by being forced to hold it on the edges than smudge a bezel? SMH. Next folks like you will say they'd rather hold their drinks by gripping the edges of the glass.
  • I don't hold my phone that way. That's idiotic. I hold it from underneath. Or lay it on a surface.
  • There is nothing wrong with bezels in my opinion. This attempt at bezelless phones and notches and camera holes is nothing more than a fashion trend. If you ask me the bezelless trend has really screwed up the phone market. It's not innovating it's stagnating.
  • It has nothing to do with fashion. Just like flat screen TVs, I appreciate a larger viewing area now that I consume more content on my mobile devices.
  • But you don't need to grad your TV to look at it. Kind of a big difference in your analogy.
  • I don't grab my phone either. Who the hell does that when watching a 2 hour movie? 👀
  • Who the hell watches a 2 hour movie on their phone?
  • But the Galaxy note 9 has one of the largest screens on a smartphone and it has bezels which keep the screen a perfect rectangle.
  • A rectangle has 4 90-degree angles. The Note 9’s display has 0.
  • It has also been a (worthless) excuse for OEMs to get rid of the 3.5mm jack.
  • Nah you have apple to thank for losing the headphone jack Actually you can probably thank apple for the notch too
  • Thank you! They're just creating something that should have never seen the green light in the first place.
  • Bring back some bezel for goodness sake. Sure they're not as eye catching but they're WAY more practical.
  • How many videos or broadcasts are actually optimized for 18x9, 19x9 or even 19.5x9 display? The majority of videos/broadcasts are 16x9 so the content that you're losing by zooming in to fill the screen is no different than the content being lost by the notch or the hole punch. Most videos are formatted to have important content in the center of the screen, where its fully visible. Sports and news broadcasts are the few I can think off the top of my head that actually use the edges (top and bottom) of the screen for displaying information and again, this info would be lost when zooming a 16x9 broadcast to fill a 18x9 screen. I know I picked one point of the argument to dispute but its one that I've heard over and over again as an argument against the notch and I've always found it funny that the notch bothers people but losing the top and bottom of the video doesn't. I personally love the wider display and usually zoom in on my videos to fill the screen, but if there is content being lost, then I leave it at the original ratio. I have a Huawei P20 Pro that I have disabled the notch on, so it has more of a Galaxy S9 display ratio than an iPhone X display.
  • Yes, we lose alot more by zooming in, but it is substantially less annoying of a loss. Go grab a bunch of old pictures and trim a bit of the top and bottom off. Now go grab a bunch of old pictures and pop a pencil through them in random spots. Tell me one doesn't bother you MUCH more than the other.
  • But they're not in random spots. They're along the edges, just the side instead of the top and bottom. Any time valuable content is being lost, it bothers me. Whether it be from zooming in on a 16x9 image to make it fit a 19x9 screen or from having a notch/hole punch running along the side. And I'm not sure how much of a substantially less annoying of a loss it is when you can't see the score of a sporting event. But everyone is entitled to their own opinion and preference. That is part of the reason why we have so many options when it comes to cell phones.
  • But having to look at it for any content that isn't a video is annoying as hell. Way more annoying than a small bezel like on the Note 9.
  • They are definitely not better and have no positives that separate them from a notch.
  • They have the same positives as notch that they give you more usable screen space!
  • Yes they are not bad, as are notches !
  • As I said on Russells's post, if you want to spend money on a phone with a notch or cutout, that is your choice. The notch and hole punch is still a design flaw of modern smartphones.
  • Still don't get the rush for all screen design. It's like calling those annoying Segway-like scooters "hoverboards".
  • I don't really like either, but it sounds like I'm going to have to deal with it for a year or two if I want to upgrade, unfortunately. I would prefer what Samsung does now. Small bezels that house everything.
  • This, love my Note9, but won't be getting another Samsung that has a hole punch.
  • It's better than notches until they find a way to put camera under the screen. But for someone who doesn't take selfies I don't care for cameras in the front. But apparently everyone else does.
  • I was coming here to say this...i dont take selfies because im not a middle school girl (dont get me started on all the gay pics i see adult men taking with the selfie cam it should be illegal lol). And i couldnt tell you the last time i video chatted. The front cam has always been a spec i pass over when looking at a new phone. Give me all screen and no selfie cam and id be happy as a clam.
  • All it takes is a little courage and the front camera is gone!
  • Do I want a hole or a notch? For myself I choose neither. So on Black Friday I picked up the s9+. I was waiting for the s10 series but decided against it. I keep my phones for 2yrs so hopefully after the next two yrs OEM'S will come to their senses about these display distractions. What are the chances?
  • In my opinion they are equally as bad as notches, just like anything else that "bites into" the screen. Removing every single bit of frame around the screen is not important to me. It doesn't enhance the smartphone experience in any way and it looks ugly. But hey, people like it and buy it so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • I don't like either, I think the notch is better as a lot of manufacturers allow you to hide it. The hole is just there, all the time. However I prefer having none and having a 16.9 display. Which is getting harder and harder to find unfortunately.
  • The notch doesn't get in the way of anything on my LG V40.
  • That's not a big notch either, they minimized it well on the v40
  • I see nothing wrong with a phone having a chin and forehead for speakers and cameras and such. This ridiculous effort to get rid of the bezel is not what I want in a phone. I want a good screen, good battery life, good camera, lots of ram and a fast cpu. Everything else is a gimmick, well other than the S pen. Stick to this formula and phone makers can't go wrong.
  • Quit complaining it's just a phone.
  • They're worse than a notch and if you want to hide it with fake bezel it will be way larger than the fake bezel on something like the OnePlus 6T. I will never own a phone with a glory hole or a notch until I have absolutely no other choice. It isn't surprising that tech sites that rely on advertising are going to praise Samsung for this though. I am sure for the next year, until the glory hole goes away, it will be the best thing since sliced bread. I can't wait to see Samsung's commercials that criticize the notch but not the glory hole. The Galaxy S9 and Note 9 look so much better than the S10 leaks. A glory hole isn't going to get people buying Samsung phones if they weren't before and for people like me it is actually doing the opposite as I will avoid anything like this. The only people that care about a bezeless future are the people trying to sell you a new thing every year. I am sure the Pixel 4 will have a hole. It will probably have a glory hole up top and a notch down below. Google loves to be a follower of this kind of thing.
  • Exactly why I don't have any faith in Google. They're going to copy this stupid trend and make it worse.. guaranteed.
  • Add a bezel to a phone by using a case. Turn off the hole punch or notch in developer settings.
  • Hole punch displays ARE horrible!! I have a Pixel XL 3 and iPhone X. I much prefer the shallow notch of the X over the Pixel, but have become used to both. Sorry by hole punch is stupid, either do a shallow notch, or do a slim bezel.
  • My take is that any wasted screen space is bad. A hole seems to be better than a bezel or a notch ? It should be smaller than either alternatives.
  • People insist on a screen with no bezels. People would freak out with no front-facing camera. But they don't want a notch OR a pinhole OR a slide-up camera. I ask then - how the heck do we go bezel-less AND have a front camera without one of these options? The pinhole seems like the best option at this point, but people keep declaring it a "fail" that is dead on arrival. Thoughts?
  • I prefer the hole punch. It's less intrusive. I've somewhat gotten used to the notch on my iPhone but I don't like it when I'm watching videos.
  • Because I don't use front cameras so often, because I'm not a selfie junkie, I actually don't need any kind of front camera. But if I could choose, I prefer the tiny dot punched whatever camera instead of the huge and ugly notch.
  • Front cameras are used for more than selfies. I film content with my phones so I appreciate a good front camera. Even on my iPhone XS which has a major forehead lol
  • I don't take many selfies either but I do use video calling quite a lot so a front camera is pretty essential. For those occasions I'd rather have a pop up or slide out front camera than a notch or cut out tbh. The other issue with hole punch cameras is that more is getting taken away from the front of the phone too like notification LED's or front firing speakers
  • I'm okay with the hole punch. Better than the notch.
  • Agree with article 100%. Now Google, fix your damn notification tray software to show notifications across the entire top where space is available. If there is no middle notch, show notifications there! This is not rocket science. Stop leaving the middle empty when there is no notch there!
  • Sorry, I'm going to have to agree with Russell on this one.
  • Yup same here.
  • Russell's article> your's You like compromised screens then good for you. Sorry but I'm never getting used to this notch/cutout crap trend that's going on with tech these days. You don't speak for everyone. As long as this stupid trend continue, they will never see one cent from me. I'm just waiting for Samsung to utilize that infinity screen. Until then, I'll stick to screens with no compromises.
  • Interesting that the first photo has a gradient wallpaper to make the hole in the screen less jarring. Neither the notch or holes in the screen are necessary, and a reasonable bezel is not evil. You ever wonder why all gaming phones have bezels? A bezel less phone is a fashion statement. Anyway, I avoided the notch, holes in my screen, and missing corners as well by buying a U12 Plus last night. Have fun with the holes... Anyway, I bit the bullet
  • But, what if I don't want the all-screen phone? I like edges that I can actually hold the phone with, without activating some icon or another just putting it down - like I constantly do now with my S8. And, no, I won't get used to a dot on the screen. I want my screen completely clear of debris, and I'd be constantly trying to swipe away that big-ass dot in the corner of my viewing area.
  • Thank you for saying this.
  • Yep, agree with this completely.
  • This article proves Russell's point even more; theres definitely some Stockholm Sydrome going around with tech customers these days. How are you, the customer, going to let the seller tell you what you want and what you choose to buy? Why don't you vote with your wallet and stop buying products you know you don't want? You can say all you want that most people will buy the product even if you don't, but that just shows they have the syndrome too. Or that they want the hole. Or that they don't care. But by coping with whatever they throw at you, you're not even putting your vote on the table. You aren't even telling them that you hate the notch or the hole punch. They don't care about your tweets or your articles; they care about your dollar. And if you don't vote with that, they don't hear it. And lastly, if you're gonna buy it anyway, then stop making articles like these. Stop mentioning what you don't like about the tech trends. Because even though you say you hate it, your wallet says you don't.
  • I would rather have a hole punch than a hideous gigantic pixel or iPhone style notch. People will never be pleased with anything. If you don't like it don't buy it.
  • They're worse than a notch. The screen on the sides of the notch is screen area that wouldn't even exist with a full bezel. A holepunch actually takes away from screen area. If I don't want to notice the notch on my OnePlus 6T I can just use the settings to mask it, and still have a full uncluttered screen for media. With a holepunch I'd always have a missing area no matter what I'm watching.
  • Hole punches mean more screen real estate, and that's something I can get behind. Screen estate that serves no purpose really.
  • But, how is a screen that is 95 or 97% usable better than a screen that is 100% usable?
  • How does part of the screen missing not bother EVERY SINGLE PERSON that looks at these? If a HOLE in your display doesn't bother you you're a heathen. *looks at photo of a person* "Why is there a black hole on his face?" "Oh, it's just my display hole". Or, say you're watching a show and someone pulls something out of their pocket which is key info for what you're watching but you can't see it because it's missing because of the hole. How is that okay with anyone?????
  • Because it's not just some random hole. It's a camera.
  • One big reason I bought the Pixel 3 was because it has no notch. I won't compromise in this area. Screen cutouts are just not my bag. Good for those who aren't bothered by them, but I can't join that club.
  • I did the same, the 3 is amazing and I was always a big phone guy, after using the 3 made me feel liberated
  • Like you, I admire and greatly respect Russell. But, I'm with you on this one, Joe.
  • Notches and holes must die. Don't want it.
  • A bezel is just fine and notches and hole punches are solutions to a problem that didn't exist. Notches are ugly but at least they allow for a symmetrical top area of a display with notifications and so forth. A hole punch is much worse because it is a total waste of pixels. Even worse it will no doubt lead to some major light bleed issues with any display that has one.
  • Android Central Lead Editor; "Folks, we need someone to write an article to combat with Russell's Anti-Notch argument. I know it's a tough sell but there's pros and cons to every situation and the notch is no exception. Who's going to step up and be the hero for the Pro-Notch movement?!" *The room is quiet. Then moments later, Joe stands up and a slow clap begins* Across the room, Joe and the lead editors eyes meet and they nod at each other Lead Editor; "Thank you son.... Thank you."
  • Let's have a public poll: Are holes and notches in your screen a good thing?
  • It's a half arsed solution to a problem created by a design fetish. Like most problems created by style, it really just needs to stop. Like glass bodies and the quest for reducing thickness that result in fragility, just NO!
  • Just say no to the hole or notch gang. It's not my cup of tea. A major distraction especially when viewing movies or videos!
  • I have severe OCD so anything that is off-center is a non-starter, centered notches are also a non-starter. I purchased a S9+ when I saw the confirmed pictures of the s10. Really sad but Samsung has a history of making dumb design choices(See the change from the S5/Note4 to anything after that). Unfortunately, my 3rd Note 4 just bit the dust, 3rd read_mmc_failure which is truly unfortunate, Note 4 was still the best phone Samsung made. If they made a Note 4 with modern processor/RAM and gave it waterproofing without COMPLETELY making the battery inaccessible, I'd be in for $1000.
  • They're terrible I refuse to ever own a phone with a hole in the screen, would rather get a notch. Looks like I'm sticking with my 9+.
  • I prefer the bezels on my Note8.
  • Well, got the U12 Plus today, and I'm SO glad it doesn't have a hole in the screen! It's wonderful having EVERY one of the 4,147,200 pixels functional from end to end without interruption or distraction!
    End violence against pixels today... don't let them get punched out!
  • Paradoxically, the same people commenting "oh my god, look at the notch/hole/teardrop!" are the EXACT same people 2 years ago on here saying "oh my god, look at the size of the bezels on that Nokia/Sony/Google phone! They're HUGE! It's not 2014 any more! It's got a chin like Jay Leno!" I remember reading them. And you know who you are. So maybe the problem is - designers DID listen to you. That being said, my biggest concern about the holepunch is that well - Gorilla glass is BRITTLE. We all know this. The more a material can resist scratches, the easier it is to shatter. And now, it has a hole in it. so my inner physicist (granted he only completed quantum physics in college, so not an engineer) is telling me that an already brittle substance with a hole in it is an insurance claim waiting to happen. So for me: Small Bezel>Teardrop>Notch>Popup Camera thingy>Holepunch.
  • Dead pixels on screen are now cool? Huh strange times:-)
  • « Having that large black bar in the middle cover the content I'm watching is always a pain, but with the hole punch notch, you see a lot more of what's playing«  It is still hiding a part anyway... hole or notch, just watch a video in their original format (in Fullscreen every corner is cut off anyway). That leaves only a small portion of videos which native resolution expand through the notch/hole