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Carl Pei goes full Steve Jobs: “Learn to love the notch” (Updated)
Update 3/29/18 1:10 P.M. EST: Carl Pei’s interview with The Verge in which he explains the company’s reasoning behind including a notched display with the OnePlus 6 was well-intentioned, but it has become a PR nightmare for OnePlus. On damage control, Carl Pei deleted his Tweet promoting the interview, and now OnePlus CEO Pete Lau has posted a message to OnePlus fans on the company’s official forum.
In the post, Lau reiterates a lot of the same reasoning Pei used in The Verge interview, but gave a bit more clarity on the practicalities of choosing the right display for the phone. He explains that the OnePlus 6 needed a display that met the rigorous testing standards of the company while also being readily available for the heavy production volume the company is expecting with its next smartphone. It just so happens that the best screen that met all the requirements has a notch.
He also explains that users have made it clear that they don’t want OnePlus phones to get bigger, but do want more screen space. He says the notched display, as of now, is the only way to appease users. He then preemptively dismisses progressive designs like the Vivo Apex with its pop-up selfie camera as being too new to include on a phone like the OnePlus 6.
While the post is a far better statement on the company’s plans than The Verge interview, it still paints a clear picture: OnePlus is planning to release a phone with a feature that it knows full well its fans don’t like. That’s a bold business strategy that may not pan out well for the company.
For better or worse, we have the answer, and that answer is “yes.” This info comes straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, via an interview The Verge conducted with OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei. You can see the notch in all its glory in the image at the top of this post, provided by OnePlus itself.
In the interview, not only does Pei confirm the OnePlus 6 (which may not be its final name, as Pei didn’t agree to confirm or deny that detail) will have a notch, but he even gave the specific dimensions of the notch: 19.616 x 7.687mm. That makes it bigger than the smallest notch on the market (the Essential Phone) but smaller than the notch that put the concept on the map, the iPhone X.
Carl Pei has a message for fans: 'learn to love the notch.'
Pei insists that the notch is a requirement on the upcoming smartphone. Why? Because it’s in the users’ best interests to have it there. To bring the display-to-bezel ratio to 90 percent while still keeping the necessary sensors and hardware on the front of the device, you simply have to have a notch (except you don’t). In Pei’s own words, the notch was “a very clear decision: more real estate for the user. In conclusion, learn to love the notch.”
If there were ever a OnePlus hater who was looking for the best way to rile up the fanboys, there you go — a quote so against what the users actually want, it’s impossible not to recall the legendary arrogance of Apple founder Steve Jobs.
Maybe Pei didn’t see this poll on Android Authority in which 76 percent of respondents said they don’t want a notch on their phone. Or perhaps this similar poll on Android Police with 80 percent of respondents claiming to dislike the notch. Or this one on Droid Life, or this one on PhoneArena, this one on AndroidPIT, and on and on. No matter where you go or how you slice it, people do not want a notch. But, in true Steve Jobs fashion, Carl Pei is going to inform us of what we really want.
You don't need to look hard to find poll after poll of Android fans saying they hate the notch.
But unlike Steve Jobs, who in many cases did actually push forward with unproven ideas that turned out to be revolutionary, Pei isn’t forging new ground by putting a notch on this phone. In fact, in the interview, he very clearly states that the display design of the OnePlus 6 is merely a response to the iPhone X.
When pressed by The Verge to make a statement about whether or not OnePlus would have adopted a notch design if the iPhone X hadn’t popularized it, he says, “maybe not as fast.” He then explained, “we have access to the roadmaps of all the screen manufacturers, and when they gave us the opportunity to make cutouts at the top of the screen, it just made sense.”
Pei continues his admission that the company is simply aping Apple’s ideas when he says that the OnePlus 6 will use gesture navigation. Since the device won’t have the traditional software navigation buttons at the bottom of the screen or OnePlus signature hardware buttons, once again in an effort to maximize screen real estate, a new way to navigate the device needed to be designed.
Carl Pei makes it clear in the interview that OnePlus just wants to copy the iPhone, plain and simple.
If “gesture navigation” sounds familiar, that’s because Apple also introduced that feature with the iPhone X to accommodate the removal of the physical home button. Pei says, “We saw the implementation [of gestures] on the iPhone. Maybe it would have taken longer [to design the OnePlus gestures] if Apple hadn’t done it.”
Even where there was an opportunity to innovate, Pei didn’t bother. The one thing that the iPhone X does that no other Android phone on the market has done is eliminate the “chin” — the bottom bezel that prevents the phone from truly being “all screen.” When pressed on this design limitation, Pei basically shrugs it away.
He explains that one of the reasons the iPhone X is so expensive is because Apple’s creative solution to the chin problem adds an extra layer of expense that no other manufacturer has been able to fix, not even Samsung with the Galaxy S9. So, the OnePlus 6 will indeed keep the chin, but at least won’t be that big — the Oppo R15, which is likely to be a dead ringer for the OnePlus 6, has a very small chin.
Many people reading this probably don’t care about the notch. If it’s there, cool, if not, whatever. But the majority of Android fans who are passionate about the design decisions that go into the creation of smartphones think the notch is terrible, and you know what? The Android fans are the backbone of OnePlus’ success. If it weren’t for Android fans going nuts for the OnePlus One and helping the company gain the momentum it needed to push above the plethora of other mid-range manufacturers out there, OnePlus wouldn’t be where it is today. OnePlus is built on Android fanboys who want what they want, and refuse to settle. Remember the whole “Never Settle” motto?
The people who made OnePlus a success are the people who hate the notch. OnePlus doesn't seem to care.
But here we are, being told by the co-founder of the company that we don’t know what we want, and that we should “learn to love the notch.” OnePlus is going to have to learn to love a drop in sales, because there is at least one Android fan of yours who won’t be buying the OnePlus 6: me.