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Will Apple hide the iPhone 14 hole punch notch in software?

The iPhone 14 is set to be announced at the “Far out” Apple event in a week’s time on September 7. We basically know the high-level details: upgraded cameras, a new A16 chip, and largely the same chassis as iPhone 13 with a new hole-punch notch design, at least on the Pro models.

However, one thing that remains somewhat unclear is exactly how Apple will present this new sensor housing. Recently, there’s been some chatter by sketchy Weibo postings and an anonymous MacRumors tipster that Apple will actually hide the hole punch at the software level by blacking out the area around the camera and sensors, to appear as a single uniform pill shape.

However, history is certainly not on the side of Apple artificially hiding display cutouts. When the design of the iPhone X was first rumored, there was myriad speculation about how Apple would handle the “inelegant” display compromise. Leading up to its September 2017 unveiling, many mock-ups showed the status bar area as blacked out, with time visible as white text on the left and right, essentially creating a faux forehead bezel.

Of course, Apple didn’t do that. They fully embraced the notch, with content flowing edge to edge in all corners of the screen. To cite Jony Ive, the design was “true to itself.” Look up close, and you can see that the Apple industrial team took great care in carving exacting curves around the protrusion that match harmoniously with the overall corner radii of the device body as it was always meant to be something that was going to be put on display — not as something to be hidden away.

Apple went to similar lengths to ensure the precise rounded corner masking looked just as good on LCDs too, a technology first used to cleanly embed the notch in the Liquid Retina display of the iPhone XR. Although the iPad does not have a notch, the 2021 MacBook Pro and M2 MacBook Air do — and they show it off it just as much as the iPhone does. In fact, the Apple-designed GPU in the M2 chip even has special hardware instructions to precisely alias the pixels around the notch for the best aesthetic result.

iPhone 14 hole punch is here to stay on display

All that being said, Apple would be breaking a lot of their own precedent if suddenly the iPhone 14 used software trickery to hide the gap between the front camera and Face ID Infrared scanner.

It’s not an impossible proposition — and we won’t know for sure until next week — but it just seems unlikely that Apple’s industrial design team would go to the effort of designing a hole-punch housing, only for the OS team to come along and hide the gap using software.

Perhaps, there are certain niche scenarios where it makes sense for the operating system to hide the gap. This is pure speculation, but maybe it looks ugly for a notification banner to come down from the top of the screen, thereby overlapping the new set of separated sensor holes. So, Apple could have created a custom animation for iPhone 14 (and future iPhone generations) to use for showing notification banners that involve temporarily obscuring the hardware cutout.

But most of the time, I expect the hole punch will be on display just like the iPhone’s notch has always been, allowing the user’s wallpaper and content to flow around it. I doubt the marginal extra screen real estate gained by the smaller cutout will have any practical use. It will just look nicer, with the iPhone 14 achieving a higher screen-to-body ratio as a result.

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