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How Apple can salvage an iPhone 8 design that looks embarrassingly bad

Zach Epstein
June 15th, 2017 at 9:43 AM
iPhone 8 Release Date

Apple has been a leader in consumer electronics design for as long as most people can remember. The company has been a pioneer in so many key segments, from desktops and notebook computers to tablets and smartphones. Where that last category is concerned, however, Apple has taken a curious turn in recent years. There’s no question that iPhones are gorgeous devices, but Apple’s decision to recycle the same iPhone design for three consecutive years has left many people scratching their heads.

In 2017, Apple will give fans the completely redesigned iPhone they’ve been waiting for. The iPhone 8 is going to feature a stunning design, according to the leaks we’ve seen so far, but there’s one problem area in particular that many users are unhappy about. It’s far too soon to say exactly how this new design might work, or even if it’s accurate, but it really might not be as bad as people think.

If recent rumors pan out, the iPhone 8’s nearly bezel-less screen isn’t actually nearly bezel-less all the way around. Instead, there may be a large area near the top of the display that’s cut out in order to make room for things like the speaker, camera, and sensors.

Ever since the first day this gross display design emerged, I wrote about how Apple might implement it in a way that actually isn’t gross at all. Here’s a quick snippet from the most recent time I explained the solution:

In terms of usability, a design like this would only make sense if the top portions of the screen were off-limits to the majority of the phone’s UI, reserved only for status bar items like signal strength and battery life. Then the background up there would always be black, and you wouldn’t be left with photos and other graphics that have a big chunk cut out of them. Of course, this would only work if Apple decides not to make the iPhone 8 in light colors, since the bezels on the face of the handset would need to be black.

In other words, the usable portion of the display would end beneath the cutout where the speaker, camera, and sensors are located. Then the top portion of the screen on either side of the cutout would only display status info with a background that remains black at all times. The barrier here is obviously silver, gold, and rose gold iPhones, which have white faces. It’s certainly plausible, though, that Apple will only release a black iPhone 8 — remember Jony Ive’s dream of an iPhone that looks like a single sheet of glass? — leaving the color options for the iPhones 7s and 7s Plus.

Long story short, if the iPhone looks like this, it will be embarrassingly bad:

But, if the iPhone looks like this, it will be fantastic:

Image source: Benjamin Geskin

The image above was posted on Twitter by budding graphic designer Benjamin Geskin, and it envisions the implementation that I and other industry watchers have been pondering for weeks. Geskin has focused much of his attention of late on Apple’s unreleased iPhone 8, and he was among the first people to suggest that the iPhone’s display would have a cutout at the top for the speaker, camera, and sensors.

In the end, the bottom line is that it’s far too soon to panic. While it’s true that Apple has made some bizarre design choices of late across several of its product lines, this particular move could end up being just fine.

Zach Epstein

Zach Epstein has worked in and around ICT for more than 15 years, first in marketing and business development with two private telcos, then as a writer and editor covering business news, consumer electronics and telecommunications. Zach’s work has been quoted by countless top news publications in the US and around the world. He was also recently named one of the world's top-10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes, as well as one of Inc. Magazine's top-30 Internet of Things experts.

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