One of the key changes with the newly announced iPhone 13 lineup is staring you right in the face when you look at the display of any of the four new models — a smaller notch. The unsightly home to the Face ID tech, front-facing camera, and earpiece has finally shrunk for the first time since it was introduced.
Besides just looking better, the smaller notch offers more screen real estate for both the status bar and widescreen content that has to mold itself around the notch. (Think photos and videos.) Apple says the notch on the iPhone 13 is now 20% smaller than previous phones dating back to the iPhone X, and based on the images and renders shown off at the product launch Tuesday (Sept. 14), the change is certainly noticeable.
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Apple introduced the notch on the iPhone X, which was also the first phone with Face ID. That technology requires several sensors, and the front-facing camera needs to sit somewhere. So Apple, in its desire to create an all-screen experience, opted for a notch cutout for all the stuff it needed instead of a chunky bezel to house the camera and other sensors.
The notch was criticized immediately, and I remember finding it quite unattractive at the time. In the years since, and even after I switched to an iPhone 12 Pro as my daily driver, my opinion of the notch hasn't changed. I find it ugly, and it significantly detracts from an otherwise beautiful phone.
It seems like the iPhone 13 remains all in on Face ID, which is fine — as long as you're not wearing a mask. Apple's lack of mask-friendly authentication with the iPhone 13 is another story altogether, but you're basically out of luck unless you have an Apple Watch for the workaround introduced in iOS 14.5.
A smaller notch is a step in the right direction, especially as Apple allegedly works on under-display Face ID tech and perhaps a notch-free iPhone in the future. Considering the poor state of under-display front-facing cameras right now, I'd guess the notch is here to stay for a while. Still, I'll take what I can get and I commend the effort to shrink the notch.
To accommodate the size reduction for the iPhone 13 notch, Apple moved the earpiece above the notch and smushed the Face ID sensors closer together. A 20% reduction doesn't seem like all that much, but be ready for side-by-side (or front-to-back) comparisons between the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 to see just how things have changed.