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What is the new waterdrop notch design?



6 minute read

The ‘notch’ is 2018’s most trending smartphone feature, but it’s something that’s mostly got customers scratching their heads. It seems everywhere you go, everybody you talk to, the notch is nothing more than a statement that shows brand arrogance. Or is it?

Apparently people like it, and that means the Notch is here to stay.

According to Marcel Campos, Asus head of global marketing operations, manufacturers have to follow the trends.

Marcel mentioned that some people will say it’s copying Apple, but we cannot get away from what users want. Those last few words are especially striking. Regardless of whether you like the notch or not, the general consensus is that it is the future. Thankfully, the future of the notch may not be what it looks like today. A new wave of smartphones are introducing what’s being dubbed as the waterdrop notch - it’s small and from a design standpoint actually makes sense.

What Is The Waterdrop Notch?

iPhone XS Notch

The waterdrop notch is a new notch design that has a far smaller footprint than what we see on the iPhone XS. As you can see from the image above, the iPhone XS notch takes up a considerably large space on the device. Next, we have the new waterdrop notch, as seen on the OnePlus 6T.

OnePlus 6T waterdrop Notch

The differences are as clear as day. On one hand, we have this unwieldy space cutting into the device and removing potential screen real estate. On the other hand, with the new waterdrop notch on the OnePlus 6T, this is a different story. The space that is taken away from the display is minimal. I’m hoping that more smartphone manufacturers will design displays with the waterdrop notch style in the future. For now though, despite it being an option for manufacturers, not all brands are opting to use it. To explain this, we need to look at why the notch is there in the first place.

Why Do Most New Smartphones Have Notches?

Google Pixel 3 Notch

Like most questionable new smartphone trends, it all starts with Apple. For years, Android manufacturers were fighting to reduce their smartphone bezel size. In 2017, it reached a peak when Apple dropped the iPhone X. It was Apple’s biggest iPhone design change in history and it made ripples in the smartphone industry that we’re still feeling the effect of today.

Countless media outlets dubbed it the ‘bezel wars’, pitting devices like the Pixel 2, Galaxy S8, and iPhone X against each other.

Whilst manufacturers like Samsung and Xiaomi were opting to squeeze as much horizontal display space into their smartphones as possible, Apple took a bold move and expanded into brave new space - vertical display real estate. Apple’s iPhone X design choices are clearer when understanding this. If you take this side by side comparison of the iPhone X and iPhone 8 Plus, you can see how much more screen real estate is added. Apple cut out the home button completely, which made the biggest change. But the addition of the Notch is an important point of discussion, too.

Whilst it feels like the Notch is ‘cutting’ into precious screen real estate, it’s actually the other way round. The display has been extended past the point of the old iPhone bezel and it wraps around the important front facing sensors, speaker grill, and camera lens.

Right now, we just don’t have the technology to place the screen over these. This explains the whole design ethos of the notch. It feels outlandish because it’s not something we’re used to seeing on displays, but it actually works. Apple used this additional space for the notification bar.

What many people don’t know is that the iPhone X wasn’t the first smartphone to introduce this feature. When you see the original ‘first notch smartphone’, and arguably what Apple based their ideas on, you’ll immediately see why Apple’s approach still feels like the wrong approach.

The first smartphone with a notch to make it to the market was the Essential Phone 1. As shown below, this device features the waterdrop notch design.

Essential Phone Notch

In my opinion, this design style is immediately far better than the new iPhone XS range. The reason for it is simple. The additional display space at the top of the screen doesn’t cut into the notification bar whatsoever, which creates more room for spying on your new notifications. It also removes that cramped, claustrophobic feeling that comes with owning something that holds the iPhone notch style.

So, with all this in mind, what new smartphones actually support the waterdrop notch design? Let’s take a look.

Which Smartphones Have The Waterdrop Notch?

Up next I’ve included four splendid examples of the waterdrop notch in action. All four of these smartphones are far cheaper than the iPhone XS and, in my opinion, far more aesthetically pleasing.

1 - Huawei Mate 20

Huawei Mate 20 Leak

Huawei made it clear with their P20 lineup that they aren’t messing around when it comes to adding the notch. That particular phone lineup saw a notch that contained only a small cutout for the necessary sensors.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

Or, maybe they are messing around. Early renders of the Huawei Mate 20 showcase the waterdrop notch design, but then the Huawei Mate 20 Pro has one of the largest notches we’ve seen. And, er, three back cameras.

2 - Oppo F9

Oppo F9 Notch

Okay, Huawei isn’t exactly a frontrunner for the smallest notch of the year award, but Oppo might just be. Their newly released Oppo F9 has what I believe to be one of the most beautiful display designs in a smartphone yet. Pictured above, the Oppo F9 has a true waterdrop style notch and incredibly thin bezels all of the way around the device.

3 - Vivo X23

Vivo X23

Vivo is another brand owned by the same company responsible for the Oppo brand, so it should come as no surprise that the new Vivo X23 has a similar design. Once again, the small bezels and waterdrop notch are strong talking points for the Vivo X23.

4 - OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6T leaked image

The upcoming OnePlus 6T is another great example of how to do notches the right way. The overall display footprint is slightly different to the Vivo X23 and Oppo F9, but similarities are certainly clear. For most of us in the UK and other western countries, this will be our easiest chance to get our hands on a new waterdrop notch style smartphone this year.


This brings us to the end of our discussion on notches. It’s interesting to think that such discussion has been brought to light over what’s essentially a very small design choice. Despite this, the notch has brought contention to smartphone communities across the globe. Seeing as you’re reading this, chances are you have a decent opinion on the topic, too.

So what are your thoughts on the notch? Do you like the style seen in the Apple iPhone XS and XS Max, or do you prefer the waterdrop notch style? Or, are you happier to stick to what you know with a device like the Samsung Galaxy S9?

Written by zerodudex333

Ollie is a big mobile/tech fan. Follow his Twitter and his Instagram travel account