I've been coming to the Mobile World Congress for almost a decade, and I've never seen the iPhone copied as brazenly and cynically as I saw it during this year's show. The MWC 2018 will go down in history as the launch pad for a large number of notched copies of the iPhone X, each of them more hasty and careless than the next.
No effort is being made to emulate the complex Face ID system that resides within the Apple level; Companies like Noa and Ulefone are in such a hurry to have their iPhone on the market that they have not even customized their software to account for the new form of the screen. More than one of these MWC notched headphones had the clock occluded by the curved corner of the screen.
Ulefone T2 ProPhoto by Sam Byford / The Verge
Asus is one of the largest consumer electronics companies in the world, and yet its imitation notch is probably the most irritating of them all. The Zenfone 5 looks and feels like a promising phone, with speakers, the latest Sony image sensor with pixels larger than the average, and a price somewhere south of $ 499. I should be celebrating it right now, but instead, I'm walking away with disgust while Asus leans on his copy by calling Apple a "Fruit Company" repeatedly. If you are going to copy the iPhone, at least have the decency to avoid making fun of it.
It would be to say that it is obvious to say that this trend is not good. I am absolutely convinced that everyone, including Apple, copied or borrowed ideas from everyone else in the mobile industry. This is a great way to see the technical improvements disseminated throughout the market. But the problem with these screens with notches on Android phones is that they are purely cosmetic. The Apple notch on top of the iPhone X allows the company to have a screen almost borderless anywhere else, in addition to accommodating the handset and TrueDepth camera for Face ID. Asus et al have a considerable "chin" on the bottom of their phones, so the cutouts at the top are evidently motivated by the desire to look, they do not work, they look like an iPhone X.
A part of me sympathizes with manufacturers like Asus who are desperately looking for a distinctive feature. I also saw the Zenfone 5 Lite in MWC, which had a simpler design with symmetrical bevels, although still small, but felt anonymous in comparison. If I challenge you to describe what Zenfone 4 or Zenfone 6 looked like, you would have problems, but we all know that Zenfone 5 is a blatant iPhone X clone. That degree of notoriety and attention is worth something to the smaller contenders in the smart phone market like Asus, Ulefone, Doogee and Noa.
But what is LG's excuse? Or Huawei?
LG G7 NeoPhoto: Ynet
I have verified for myself that the previous leak of the LG G7, which is shown behind closed doors at MWC 2018, is legitimate. This is LG's next flagship device, which is likely to become official in June. During the last years, LG made a great effort to launch its flagship phone along with Samsung's big launch in the MWC, but this year LG will arrive with three months of delay. Could it be because LG had to fight to redesign his phone in order to look more like the iPhone X? LG would say no, but I encourage you to look at the G7 image and decide for yourself.
Huawei P20 Photo: Evan Blass
Also later than usual is the main release of Huawei, with the P20 calendar for a debut at the end of March. Like the Asus Zenfone 5, the P20 seems to be copying the iPhone X in the front and back. In the back, Huawei places its cameras in the same place and orientation as in the iPhone, and in the front it has a small notch in the upper part allied to a rather substantial bevel in the lower part. I think we can give Huawei credit for having a different type of notch.
As every phone manufacturer pursues a minimalist design philosophy, a problem arises about how to add charm, humanity and character to devices that are essentially becoming a big screen. Apple took the risky step of introducing its distinctive notch, and the positive response from the owners of the iPhone X along with the industry's reaction at the MWC this week have justified that choice. Others will use the skirts of the iPhone X, absorb part of the halo effect by marking their own screens, but that fashion will not last. People will quickly learn that all the notches are not equal and that this time next year we will probably see another disfigurement of Android devices as the last experiment.
Asus Zenfone 5Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge
By 2018, however, we are trapped with a deluge of hurried notch designs. Even the OnePlus 6 seems to be joining the trend, which would not be surprising given how similar OnePlus 5 was to the iPhone 7. It's already a radical design decision at the limit to have a phone without notches, which is what Samsung, HMD Global (under the Nokia brand), and Sony did it. They remained faithful to the designs they had been developing for months and years, while others rushed to launch something for the MWC, such as Asus, whose flagship, Zenfone 5Z, will not leave until June, or they delayed everything to be able to Frankenstein the iPhone X swatch on his latest hardware.
Short-term thinking is taking most Android phone manufacturers the wrong way. IPhone plagiarism may awaken a bit of exaggeration and notoriety for a while, but leaves these companies vulnerable to Apple's whims, and never allows them to build their own language and independent design philosophy. It makes Android look like a sea of iPhone imitations instead of a viable, equivalent alternative (many would say superior). Samsung jumped out of this car a few years ago, and a design pedigree is now profitably built that is now unmistakably its own. Is not it time for LG, Huawei, Asus and all other Android phone manufacturers to do the same?