iPhone 14 and Apple’s clever way of modernizing it, while keeping it recognizable in a crowd of slab phones

Apple’s “Far out” September event is just a few days away now, where the Cupertino giant is going to unveil the new iPhone 14 series, along with new Apple Watches, and maybe even an iPad or two. Surprises such as a “one more thing” are possible, we’ll see!

Notably, when it comes to the iPhone 14 series, there will be no more iPhone mini, but a new iPhone 14 Max (or iPhone 14 Plus, we’re yet to know for sure) will fill its slot.

But we’re here to talk specifically about design and brand recognizability – something Apple’s just so good at, yet that fact seems to be quite unappreciated or fully unnoticed by most.

What’s Apple doing with the design of the new iPhone 14 models? Well, 2022 is finally the year where we’ll see the notch begin to go away. According to reliable leakers, the Pro models – iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max – will no longer have it.

Instead, an exclamation mark-shaped cutout will be there, holding the Face ID sensors and selfie camera that were previously inside said notch. (Or a vertical pill-shaped cutout, according to some newer rumors – we’ll see which one it is next week.)

The non-Pro iPhone 14 – the base iPhone 14 and the new, still-just-rumored iPhone 14 Max – will keep the notch, though, likely so they can remain differentiable from the more expensive Pro models.

Now, those cutouts are a good step forwards, right? We’ll be getting more screen real estate.

But why did Apple keep the notch for so long, and why is it still going to keep it in 2022? There’s actually a good reason for this, and it’s not necessarily because the trillion-dollar company can’t make something “better.”

At first, the notch was just necessary, but it became a signature iPhone design element

Indeed, back in the iPhone X days (2017), when Apple first introduced a notch on its flagship smartphones, as opposed to the top and bottom bezels we had prior, it was a necessity.

Unlike Android phone manufacturers, Apple had decided to offer face unlock authentication, which is pretty sophisticated tech.

You may have seen Android phones offer “similar” face-unlocking, but that one relies on just the one selfie camera – is potentially easy to trick, giving intruders access to your phone, and does not work in the dark, as the camera won’t see your face. It’s just matching what the selfie camera sees with a photo of your face dead-on, in certain lighting conditions.

However, Apple’s Face ID facial recognition system actually generates a 3D facial map of your mug, it senses depth using infrared, and with that in mind, it works in low-light too (or no light at all). It’s considered pretty secure, and there’s no proof that anyone’s ever hacked it yet.

Well, maybe if you’re dealing with sophisticated baddies who can recreate a realistic face mask of your face, they could potentially get into your phone, but then again, on that level any authentication can be broken into.

In any case, Apple’s Face ID doesn’t just rely on one, normal selfie camera, but also two additional sensors. In the current iPhone 13 generation, the notch is holding a TrueDepth camera, an IR projector and the selfie camera.

That was the initial reason why the notch made perfect sense, and why it was the shape that it was, and still is, actually.

However, Apple has surely had the capability to turn to cutouts for a while now, so why is it moving to that over a notch just now in 2022? Well, frankly, over the last five years the notch became a very recognizable iPhone design element, so it was probably hard to let go of.

While other phones largely switched from bezels, to teardrop notches and, now most commonly – round holepunch cameras, Apple likely decided to stick with a horizontal notch to let its phones stand out in a crowd.

Everyone knows the phone with the notch is an iPhone. It’s hard to let go of such a design element that not many other phones have (as they commonly only need one selfie camera).

I’d wager that gave Apple the incentive to not rush onto something newer and different. Brand recognition is very important, and as we all know – Apple is very good at that stuff.

But after five years, things are starting to stagnate, so the time seems to have come for Apple to do something about that notch, at least for its more expensive iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max. How can Apple actually upgrade the notch, without losing on the iPhone’s recognizable design?

The new cutouts are just the right upgrade over the notch – new, but remaining distinctly Apple

Apple could’ve gone back to a Touch ID fingerprint sensor, be it a standard one or an in-display one, but it’s sticking with Face ID, and Face ID actually helps with brand recognition, by giving Apple engineers design challenges that lead to a recognizable design element.

So even now that the notch is reportedly getting upgraded, what it’s getting upgraded to will still be one-of-a-kind, and can still become a recognizable iPhone thing. And will still likely remain on iPhones for years to come, the more people start associating it with Apple phones. Again, what we’re talking about is the exclamation mark-shaped cutout.

You’ll know who has the more expensive iPhone 14 models and who has the base ones, so people will subconsciously want the former

Again, Apple is reportedly sneaky and clever about this new cutout design element, only bringing it to the iPhone 14 models that carry the Pro name.

It’s going to be the “cool new” design element that might soon become associated with iPhones as much as the notch is, yet it’s only reserved for the more expensive ones. This, in turn, will encourage all the cool kids to want to pay extra for the iPhone 14 Pro models, just to be all in on the cutting new Apple design trend. That’s some 4D chess right there…

Of course, Apple’s not doing design trickery to get you to buy the more expensive product for the first time. There’s a reason the budget iPad still has a grossly outdated design, even though it’s a beast of a tablet on the inside – so you’d be inclined to at least buy the more expensive iPad Air, or better yet – the iPad Pro. You don’t want people making fun of your old-looking tablet, right? No matter how powerful it is – it looks outdated.

Same goes for the iPhone SE models, which recycle older iPhone bodies to not only keep things cheap, so the phone itself can be affordable, but yeah – so it’s notably different (and visually inferior) from the newer flagship iPhones.

Avoiding making the iPhone looks like any other slab phone matters a lot

Every other phone has a single holepunch selfie camera, or if it’s a budget one – a teardrop, so Apple can’t do that. As we covered, Apple is very clever about making upgrades, yet remaining different from the crowd. It’s very important for a good brand strategy to keep its smartphones recognizable, and so it will. Even now in 2022, when some of those will finally drop the notch for something else.

We can’t hate on Apple for that, in fact, I personally love its efforts to try to remain different, even if that subjectively makes its products seem a bit outdated to some. Because yes, flagship Android phone users likely prefer just a small selfie camera cutout, or maybe even an invisible camera, even if it’s not as good in terms of photo quality. And they’re used to fingerprint sensors – nowadays often built under the display too.

But Apple is sticking with Face ID, because secure face unlock is its thing, and its thing only. And it’s sticking with notches and now uniquely-shaped cutouts, because that too is, and will become, a recognizable iPhone element.

Do you agree that Apple’s clever about this, or do you think it should just move on to something else already?

Notches are old, and cutouts aren’t exactly new display technology either – do you think Apple should just move on to something else already and stop worrying about brand identity?

Or do you respect the fact that it’s trying to stand out as much as it can, even if some tech enthusiasts don’t agree with what this entails?

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