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Let’s talk about OnePlus and iPhone X clones

Published Mar 30th, 2018 11:17AM EDT

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Out of all the companies making iPhone X clones this year, OnePlus and LG are the only ones interested in talking about the notch before their new handsets actually launch. OnePlus is trying to spin its decision to copy the latest iPhone well before the handset is even unveiled, and LG is testing the waters, trying to see what Android users think about the notch before its upcoming iPhone copycat is released.

OnePlus first talked to the press earlier this week, admitting that it probably wouldn’t have done a notch design if Apple hadn’t done it first, while simultaneously saying that’s really the only way to go, so deal with it. After Carl Pei spoke to The Verge, Pete Lau took to OnePlus’ forums to further explain the notch, in a post called Let’s talk about screens.

In the lengthy post, Lau explains the rationale behind OnePlus adopting the notch design, making it sound like it was the only option going forward. Obviously, Apple, the iPhone, and other Android powered iPhone clones aren’t mentioned at all, making it all sound like OnePlus’s next phone design would have been notchy regardless of the competition’s design decisions.

Lau’s post went viral on the forums. At the time of this writing, it got more than 710 replies and more than 68,000 views. Not everyone is happy.

Here are Lau’s remarks, followed by my responses:

Even among tech communities, the OnePlus Community is a little different. Through your tech-savviness and passion you hold us accountable for our decisions. In doing so, your help has been instrumental to our success. By now, most of you are aware that our next device will feature a cut-out near the top of the display, popularly known as a “notch”. A fiery debate has sparked online, so we wanted to give you guys some insight into our rationale behind this product decision.

But would you have done it if it wasn’t for Apple’s iPhone X?

One of our biggest challenges as a smartphone manufacturer is to make the most out of every square inch of your device. A well-known principle in tech is that individual components become smaller with each passing year. Our role as a smartphone manufacturer is to maximize the use of the space we free up. Since our components no longer require the entire width of a top bezel, we focused our efforts on maximizing the amount of screen real estate. It’s easy to get caught up in a debate on aesthetics, but to us this decision was simply about pursuing optimal phone design. Being able to offer more screen without compromising on size or performance is a great benefit. That said, we wanted to offer the biggest display possible without compromising on hardware, which is why we opted for the notch design.

But would you have done it if it wasn’t for Apple’s iPhone X?

A central placement is optimal for our front-facing camera for several reasons. Moving the module elsewhere would also affect the angle of the camera, making it harder to orient the camera and take photos quickly. Such a move would also compromise the speed and reliability of our industry-leading Face Unlock feature. We also considered using a smaller module, but decided not to as this would have lowered the quality of your photos. Other speculative technologies, such as a mechanical ‘pop-out’ camera, are currently in their infancy. While interesting, the technology is not at a stage where it can deliver on durability, speed and performance.

But would you have done it if it wasn’t for Apple’s iPhone X?

To offer our users the best possible viewing experience, we work with world-leading screen manufacturers. We prioritize three key considerations when implementing a new display. First, we look to maximize the viewable area. Through the notch, we can free up a considerable amount of space near the top of the display, absorbing the notification and status icons. At 19.616mm by 7.687mm, the notch occupies a minimal amount of space in the top-center part of the display. Our research has shown that the space occupied by the notch typically goes unused in standard use. The notch makes optimal use of the vacated space. You gain more viewable space, without losing anything.

But would you have done it if it wasn’t for Apple’s iPhone X?

Our second priority is display performance. Whether you’re looking at brightness level, chromatic accuracy, or color range, there are a lot of factors that determine whether a display is comfortable to look at. Our displays have to match a wide range of requirements, before we consider them ready for market. We ultimately selected a display that matched all of our criteria. It was also optimized for a notch-based design, which we considered an additional benefit. The result is a screen with a larger viewable area and superior performance.

But would you have done it if it wasn’t for Apple’s iPhone X?

Finally, as our devices gain in worldwide popularity, we need to scale up production accordingly. That means using a display that is readily procurable is the only way we can keep up with global demand. This translates to fewer delays, faster shipping, and the ability to service more people. Our mission is to share the best technology with the world. We dedicated ourselves to implementing a display that is both scalable, while delivering a viewing experience that matches our quality standards. To grow into a sustainable business, we have to deliver a high quality experience on every level. In order to do so, we will continue to make use of any opportunity to improve the accessibility of our devices around the world.

But would you have done it if it wasn’t for Apple’s iPhone X?

We believe in offering our community the best possible smartphone experience. By listening to your opinions and feedback, we aim to design smartphones that meet your needs and standards. While many of you have asked us not to increase the physical size of our phones, others requested larger and more immersive displays. The notch helps us accomplish both requests. No two people have the same opinion on smartphone aesthetics. Our focus was to deliver the biggest and best screen we’ve ever had, without compromising on the tech you love. When all is said and done, that’s what matters most.

But would you have done it if it wasn’t for Apple’s iPhone X?

Like it or not, the OnePlus notch is coming, and that’s absolutely fine. But pretending that you’re not copying the iPhone when you clearly are is not fine. The entire PR campaign is a bad idea, too. Just do what others have done, launch your phone, and let the chips fall where they may. People will notice that the emperor has no clothes.

I absolutely hated Asus’s attack on the notch at MWC, but I’m starting to like it better than OnePlus’s notchy explanations. At least they can’t call the thing OnePlus X since that name was already used… or can they?

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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