As Android wants to get rid of hole-punch cameras, Apple doubles down with Dynamic Island

 Will manufacturers of Android phones feel the urge to copy ?

It’s frequently remarked that when Apple takes a certain action, entire sectors follow suit. It is a painfully true axiom the majority of the time. Although the corporation doesn’t dominate the global smartphone industry, it is dominant in the premium segment and frequently sets trends. The iPhone’s headphone jack died first, and then the wall charger vanished from the package. Both of those actions gradually entered the Android ecosystem. The iPhone 14 Pro was taken this year by Apple’s team of engineers and designers, who removed the notch and added a camera and equipment cut-out called the Dynamic Island with some special capabilities.

The Android ecosystem has been experimenting with selfie cameras that are “punched” into displays for years, but it hasn’t really made any effort to transform the technology from a hindrance to an usable interface. Will Apple make it? More significantly, will makers of Android-based hardware do the same?

The evolution of display cutouts on Android

The old phones with their large bezels, 16:9 WVGA displays, and physical navigation keys have long since been replaced. However, their development wasn’t as simple as Apple’s iPhone lineup. Instead, it moved more slowly, and Samsung had a significant influence on how things developed.

With the release of the iPhone X in 2017, iPhones instantly transitioned from having large bezels and a Touch ID bottom key to their current form, more or less. It was introduced in 2007 to commemorate the debut of the original iPhone and marked a significant change in how iPhones will look for virtually all subsequent iterations up until the present. The complicated Face ID face unlock technology was designed with a full-screen, bezel-less layout with a notch housing the front camera and other sensors.

Bezel-less displays on Android phones were introduced with the Xiaomi Mi Mix in 2016, but they didn’t really take off until the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6 were introduced in 2017. While the latter had an 18:9 flat screen and the former an 18.5:9 curved display, they both had slimmer bezels than any Android phones up to that point. In the years to come, the screen-to-surface ratio gained popularity, with some prize projects requiring a minimum screen-to-surface ratio of 90%.

After the launch of the iPhone X in 2018, Chinese businesses like Xiaomi and OnePlus first introduced notches to Android. Examples include the Pocophone F1, Xiaomi Mi 8, and the OnePlus 6, however they didn’t remain this way for very long. Initially, they were wide like the iPhone’s notch. Only after engineers discovered how many sensors were required for Apple’s Face ID technology did they grasp why the iPhone’s notch was so large. Face unlocking simply didn’t take off on Android for whatever reason, so everyone stuck with fingerprint scanners.

Android quickly outgrew that design as a result. First, there was the “teardrop notch,” which took up very little screen real estate and left space for the front-facing camera. Some companies created ingenious pop-up cameras like those found on the OnePlus 7 Pro in an effort to totally do away with display cuts. The first handset with a circular “hole punch” in the display for the camera was released by Huawei in late 2018. Samsung put all of its effort into “punching” its Galaxy S10 series devices, and the idea has stuck around since spreading to various Android manufacturers. The top smartphones in 2022 have hole-punch cameras.

It’s not a hole, it’s an island

With the release of the iPhone 14 Pro and 14 Pro Max, Apple eventually abandoned notches and adopted a hole punch design, imitating Android. The fact is, Apple’s UX implementation is more thorough.

The business is still committed to Face ID and its variety of sensors, so an iPhone simply cannot use a straightforward circle hole punch. As a result, designers went wide, creating pills, as many of us have been saying. The Samsung Galaxy S10+ and S10 5G also adopted the pill design, however they were placed in the display’s upper-right corner. The pill is the star of the show with the iPhone 14 Pro devices. There is no way to escape seeing it or the wasteful use of display space it necessitates.

Apple, though, is adept at giving these items a distinctive twist. Boxy shapes burst out of the pill to generate toast alerts when you accept calls or attach your headphones, and the company has hastily fashioned a new interface paradigm around the cutout, dubbed the experience its “Dynamic Island.” While you’re talking on the phone or listening to music, it can also widen to offer heads-up contextual prompts. It’s a clever approach to cover up and possibly even use a piece of fixed hardware. These Dynamic Island animations can be triggered by a variety of system programs, and it’s very possible that your favorite third-party apps will use the Apple-provided APIs to create them as well.

Since the release of the iPhone X, the Dynamic Island represents the design language’s most significant shift. The non-Pro iPhone 14 and 14 Plus still retain the usual notch, thus it is currently only accessible on the iPhone 14 Pro. However, it is expected to arrive on the less expensive iPhones sooner rather than later.

Will Android get something like it ?

It’s probable that certain Android phones in 2023 will include a Dynamic Island-type feature, although we anticipate those devices to initially be produced by companies like Honor, Oppo, Vivo, and/or Xiaomi. We wouldn’t be surprised if Dynamic Island became popular because Chinese companies have long felt the need to include hip features and design cues from the iPhone.

We have a little less faith that Android users will increasingly favor Dynamic Island UI. We’re not sure if Android makers are prepared to resume stacking front-facing sensors for facial recognition or other uses in order to justifiably milk that pill space. In fact, many R&D departments would view it as a design regression, one that already poses issues. Since many Dynamic Island actions need you to tap on the cutout, your camera will almost always be smeared.

So where are the funds for research and development going? For some wishful thinkers, port-less phones have been a pipe dream. But in all actuality, the emphasis has been on doing away with the necessity for a hole. Many devices, including the Galaxy Z Fold 4, now come with under-display cameras as standard equipment. The key trade-offs this selfie camera system design presents are obvious challenges: the more pixels (LEDs) covering the camera, the harder it will be to capture a quality picture; the less pixels, the more noticeable that circular patch on the display will be. However, there should be sufficient industrial will to address the issues with UDCs. Heck, Apple may even take steps in that direction in the future.

The way that Android’s toast notifications are now shown is more than sufficient. A smaller toast design has been introduced by some OEMs, including Asus and Samsung, and guess what? It also resembles a pill. Therefore, what we might end up seeing are advancements in permanent, aesthetically pleasing contextual interfaces for music or calls. They might not even center on the cutout from the display. If this is the case, it is likely that an OEM will have to propose a change to the Android Open Source Project that will need to be formalized and that Google won’t be the first to do so. In other words, it’s unlikely to happen and, even if it does, it will take a long time. Recall that Android 13 has just recently begun to reach non-Pixel smartphones, and it will be a while before the version is used by a majority of active devices. This is due to Android’s distribution methodology, which creates an endless state.

All in all, despite how strong and widespread Apple’s design influence is, you might want to seek elsewhere if you’re looking for a Dynamic Islands example.

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