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Google Pixel 3 XL: The Notch Problem (A Second Opinion)

Photo Credits to: Adam Patrick Murray, courtesy of PC World. https://bit.ly/2CXO5P6

Photo Credits to: Adam Patrick Murray, courtesy of PC World. https://bit.ly/2CXO5P6

Chris Uustal, Staff Writer

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With Google’s most recent unveiling of fancy new tech came the launch of the next iteration in their smartphone lineup, the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL. Though these come with a whole host of technological innovations which appear to be pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible only a few years ago, Google also appears to have fallen to, what I think at least, one of the most unappealing trends in smartphones today: the notch. When Apple launched the iPhone X (that’s said “ten” not “X”) last year, it came with a stunning new look that stretched the screen as wide as it could go on the face of the device, only leaving the necessary essentials in the form of a notch at the top of the device. Though I personally think this notch looks absolutely horrific and would much rather have a squared off display like those seen on the Galaxy line of devices from Samsung, I can at least respect their goal: have an impressively high screen to body ratio well over 90%. This is where I think an important line needs to be drawn in the sand: a notch is totally acceptable if it is done for the purpose of achieving the highest screen to body ratio possible while still providing the user with all their traditional functions of the device. However, many manufacturers, like they usually do, appear to have missed this core concept, opting to copy the notch design from Apple, but not actually providing a meaningful upgrade to the screen to body ratio. This is no better exemplified through the notch on the Pixel 3 XL, a massive, intrusive chunk cut out of the screen with little support behind its size and a modest screen to body ratio at best due to a massive chin. If someone doesn’t know me particularly well, they may not know I am quite a passionate fan of all Google products, but I also truly believe that you should criticize the things you care about for the purpose of making them better, and that is just what I hope to point out through my criticism of the Pixel 3 XL. Google has hit many things out of the park this year and in many years past, the most popular of which is their excellent cameras, but this notch was a massive mistake which will likely cost them in sales and public opinion.

The two main aspects everyone is taking issue with in the new Pixel 3 XL is the sheer size of the notch and chin and the apparent lack of justification behind their size. If Google had released the pixel with the very same notch and chin dimensions, but they had stuffed it full of amazing new features to blew the competition out of the water, then, though people would still grumble about the size, it could be looked at as a worthy tradeoff. On the other hand, if Google had simply produced a device with bezels much more similar to the current generation of Galaxy devices or iPhones, then no one would have really complained even if the features were rather lackluster, as those have become common of top tier phones in the current smartphone market. However, Google managed to pick a poor combination, putting together a few rather simplistic and underwhelming features into a massively oversized cutout, producing the PR dilemma they have now trapped themselves in. To specify, Google only managed to fit two front facing cameras and a speaker into a notch that is roughly twice as deep as Apple’s notch, a notch which I need not remind you contained a whole new plethora of sensors that Apple used to create their new Face ID system. A similar story comes about with the chin, that bezel on the bottom of the phone, on the Pixel 3 XL: it’s massive and only contains a speaker. If they had gone the route of the Razer Phone with a massive speaker that blew away the competition, then a chin of that size would have been more than normal, or if they had gone the route of Apple and made the chin as small as possible because it no longer served a function, that would have been even better, but for some reason they decided to walk this line in the middle where they put an admittedly good but not outstanding speaker into an oversized and underutilized chin. With how drastically Google has changed the design of their smartphones every year and how strongly the public has reacted to their design choices this time around, I’m sure we will see a drastic change in design once again with the Pixel 4 next October, but this lends itself towards asking the bigger question: what happens after the notch?

Anyone looking at modern smartphones can see the obvious end goal: a device with one full, uninterrupted edge to edge display that still maintains that ever important front facing camera. While people might point towards other components as being essential to the front of the phone, solutions to all of them have already been found. The earpiece speaker can be replaced with resonance by vibrating a certain portion of the phone’s display to generate sound waves, and the fingerprint sensor can either be placed under the screen or on the back of the phone. However, while certain phone manufacturers like Oppo have tried to find ways around the camera issue by moving the camera in and out of the phone mechanically, these solutions are just as ineloquent as the notch. With current OLED technology, it should theoretically be possible to place the front facing camera under the screen and take photos through it, but there is currently yet to be a successful implementation. However, this is where I think Google needs to step in. So far, they have been the leaders in the space in the way of camera innovation for the smartphone, so who better to tackle the challenge of an all screen display with an in-screen camera than Google, the multi-billion dollar tech juggernaut with AI smart enough to take over the world. If Google truly wants to earn back much of the respect and love it lost with the launch of the admittedly unimpressive Pixel 3 XL, they need to be the ones who lead this charge into creating the future of smartphones, as they are now in the position of power needed to make the future, but the true question is: will Google be daring enough to do it? I think so, but only time will tell if Google can truly step up to the plate, or if they’re just going to sit back on the sidelines and wait for a bigger industry giant to pull the rug out from under them.

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Chris Uustal, Staff Writer

As someone who passionately follows technology and wants to pursue computer engineering and computer science in college and as a future career, I enjoy...

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