Apple’s iPhone 14 could look very different when it arrives this fall. And it all comes down to what Apple decides to do with the notch.
If you’ve seen an iPhone released since 2017, starting with the iPhone X, you’ve seen the notch. That’s a black strip that runs down from the bezel at the top of the iPhone’s screen to the screen itself. It’s there to house the iPhone’s front-facing camera, as well as all the sensors needed to support the Face ID unlock feature.
For one thing, the notch gives Apple phones a very distinctive look. But it also means that iPhones don’t offer a screen that stretches from one end of the device to the other. As Android phone makers have reduced their device’s bezels and resorted to teardrop-sized cutouts and notches to accommodate their front-facing cameras, the iPhone’s notch seems to stick out even more, and not in a good way.
The iPhone 13 made an effort to minimize the notch, reducing it by 20% from the notch that adorned the iPhone 12 models. But the iPhone 14 could take things a step further, doing away with the notch entirely in an effort to offer a full screen device.
If Apple goes this route, and a notchless iPhone is still a rumor, there are several options Apple can choose from on how it can change the notch and still have room for a front-facing camera and Face ID sensors. Here’s a close-up look at the different designs Apple could use for the iPhone 14.
For the purposes of this exercise, we’ll assume that all four anticipated iPhone models will remove the notch. Initial rumors had suggested that only the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max would take this step, but we’ve also heard rumors that a notchless design is in the works for the other iPhone models as well.
Option 1: iPhone 14 without a notch and with a pill-shaped cutout
If you can’t beat them, join them – that seems to be the philosophy with this iPhone 14 design option where Apple would replace the iPhone’s notch with a cutout to house the TrueDepth camera.
However, because this is Apple, we wouldn’t get a simple circular cutout like you see on the Galaxy S21 or OnePlus 10 Pro. Instead, rumors suggest a pill-shaped cutout for the iPhone 14.
However, this is more than just Apple being iconoclastic. The likely reason Apple would resort to this unusual shape is to also expose the necessary sensors used to support Face ID.
Advantages: No more notches; the iPhone retains a distinctive design
Cons: A pill-shaped cutout is more noticeable than a perforated one; Would the cutout be big enough for a FaceID camera and sensors?
Option 2: iPhone 14 without a notch and multiple cutouts
It might be more accurate to call this option 1B, as the iPhone 14 would once again sport a pill-shaped cutout. But off to the side, there will be a second circular cutout.
This approach comes to us via display analyst Ross Young, who suggests that the pill-shaped cutout would house the front-facing camera along with the infrared camera needed for face unlock. That second cutout, meanwhile, would be where Apple places the Face ID dot projector. Again, the idea is that a single cutout wouldn’t be enough to expose all the sensors needed for Face ID to work properly.
The best we can say about this look is that it would certainly be a unique design. But with so many cutouts appearing on the screen, you should be wondering if Apple would be better off sticking with the notch. At least we are all used to that by now.
Advantages: Enough openings for both the front camera and Face ID to work properly
Cons: that’s a lot of holes
Option 3: iPhone 14 without a notch and cameras under the screen
This would be the dream, right? An iPhone with a seamless display: no notch, no cutout, no thick bezels. Just a wide panel to enjoy videos and use applications, with lenses or sensors hidden under the glass.
The key word in the last paragraph is “dream”, of course, because that approach just isn’t realistic at the moment.
Rumors have suggested that Apple is exploring the possibility, at least with Face ID. But it seems that the technology is not there yet for everything to work properly. “Face ID under the screen is not ready yet”, young tweeted, adding that the feature is more of a possibility for the 2023 or 2024 iPhone models.
As for under-display cameras, other phone manufacturers have already built them into some devices. But based on our experience with Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3 under-display camera, we’d suggest this technology isn’t quite ready for prime time either, certainly not at the level Apple would demand for its iPhone.
Advantages: it would look great
Cons: The technology is not there yet.
Option 4: iPhone 14 with the notch intact
There is another course of action for Apple to take with the design of the iPhone 14: it simply could not make any changes, leaving the notch as it is.
Despite all the complaints you hear about the notch in the tech press, it’s clear smartphone buyers don’t share that concern. Or, at least, they won’t let the notch stop them from buying the iPhone in record numbers. Apple sold just $192 billion worth of iPhones in its 2021 fiscal year, suggesting a notch in the display isn’t a deal breaker.
Still, if Apple were to keep the notch in place for another year, that would mean the basic look of the iPhone would be the same as it has been since the iPhone X debuted in 2017. Six years and counting of the same design looks very different to Apple.
Advantages: If it is not broke, do not fix it