Such before Asus unveiled the Zenfone 5 at MWC 2018, leaked images of the smartphone told us that the iPhone X’s much-debated notch cut out would be catching on. The official unveiling confirmed this to be true as the Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 5Z indeed come with a forehead, albeit slightly smaller in size. The smaller notch was possible because unlike the iPhone X, the Zenfone 5 doesn’t have a lot of sensors housed inside it. It does come with a Face Unlock option, but its not going to be nearly as impressive or secure as Face ID. But for some good reason, the notch is there and it seems to be spreading.
It is nothing new for smartphone makers to copy or borrow certain design elements or features from competition. The reason OEMs do this is obviously because it works well with users. When Apple dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack, a lot of people were furious as it required them to give up their old wired earphones and adopt either wireless options or take the annoying dongle process. Google, for example, took shots at Apple by keeping the headphone jack when it launched the first Pixel. But with Pixel 2, Google also decided to drop the jack. As did a number of other manufacturers, because it was an inevitability with bezels getting narrower.
While some companies refuse to admit that they have been inspired by other companies, Asus has been quite transparent with its move (both visually and verbally) when it launched the Zenfone 5 with a notch. Asus global head of marketing, Marcel Campos said, Some people will say its copying Apple, but we cannot get away from what users want. You have to follow the trends. Thanks to the slim bezels, both the Zenfone 5 and Zenfone 5Z come with an impressive 90 per cent screen-to-body ratio. They also come with some AI functions as well as an Animoji-like feature called ZeniMoji, which is yet another thing inspired by the iPhone X.
Notably, Asus is not the first Android OEM to copy the iPhone X-like notch. Some lesser known companies like Leagoo have also introduced iPhone X clones in the past. In fact, the Chinese company was also present at MWC 2018 where it unabashedly showcased the Leagoo S9, which is not just a blatant iPhone X ripoff but also shares the same name as Samsung’s latest flagship.
These brands know that consumers will inevitably compare their smartphones with the iPhone X – and that’s not a bad thing as far as publicity goes. If an Android OEM can offer a design that can otherwise only be bought by a wealthy few and attach an affordable price tag with it, you are going to see some takers. If Asus can justify the iPhone X-like design of the Zenfone 5Z and back it up with impressive internals like Snapdragon 845 SoC, 6GB of RAM, Full-HD+ display, Android Oreo among other, all at half the cost of Apples flagship, we could see a winner here.
Love it or hate it, the notch stays
Smartphone makers are trying to get rid of the bezels that have long been a part of the display. We are now amidst a shift in smartphone design where consumers expect nothing less than full-screen displays, especially mid-range up. When Apple launched the iPhone X, many felt uneasy with the notch since it strikes the eyes more than uniform bezels. The notch became notorious as some felt it ruined the bezel-less display while others say it doesn’t bother them all that much.
After the dust settled, all that one can say for sure is that the notch has achieved an iconic status. For better or for worse, It’s a great marketing tool and easily recognizable today. You can tell the notch from a distance or by looking at a its outline on a board and just know that this is an iPhone X. Apple knows this, it embraces it, which is why it is planning to keep it for its future iPhones as well, at least as per all the reports we have heard so far.
Here’s the thing, the iPhone X comes with a notch and a brilliant edge-to-edge OLED display, and as much as some people found the notch to be ugly, the company justified it by loading it up with next-gen features, especially Face ID. In terms of shipments, the iPhone X isn’t the biggest selling iPhone to date, but that is largely due to production delays and a higher-than-usual price tag. However, it has sold close to market expectations and has garnered Apple a lot of revenue. More than anything else, the notch has given Apple a new identity after a design stagnation and people are lapping it up.
Embrace the notch, Google says
Don’t blame Asus for following the trend when bigger giants like Google are embracing the notch as well. Earlier this month, a Bloomberg report claimed that Google working on an overhaul of its mobile software that could make way for more Android smartphones with iPhone X-like notch cutouts. As per the report, a key goal of Android P, the successor to Android Oreo, will be to persuade more iPhone users to make the switch to Android.
Google plans to do this by improving the look of the software, which includes embracing the notch. A software redesign will mean OEMs will be able design phones with notch cutouts to house the camera and other sensors. This will also allow Android phones to support new features, helping it keep up with Apple.
This is what companies like Asus and most likely Huawei as well with its upcoming P20 are trying to do – introduce the notch on their Android smartphones to lure Apple customers away. Now, how well these companies implement the notch remains to be seen. The iPhone Xs notch keeps a whole bunch of sensor including those required for its Face ID feature. Whether Android OEMs actually use the notch for such features or keep it merely for aesthetic purposes will probably decide whether they can actually take on the iPhone X or not.