It seems everyone really, really wants to believe the Pixel 3 will have a notch — so much so that they’re digging away at every single screenshot or developer option in Google’s recently-released Android P beta for clues that, I’m sorry to say, aren’t there.
The latest is this set of images from Android Police, which correctly recognizes that Android P’s default behavior is to show a maximum of only four notifications in the status bar at any given time. This is noteworthy and well worth pointing out; after all, Google has significantly overhauled the Android status bar for the first time in the platform’s history by shifting the clock over to the left corner.
Ostensibly, the clock’s new position was decided as a way to balance things out visually for devices that have notches. But even if your device doesn’t have a notch, it appears this will be the precedent going forward.
Or will it? Because shortly after Android Police published its discovery, we inevitably wound up in Speculationville by way of BGR and Forbes. Those sites have gone so far as to call this beta design an accidental confirmation of Google’s notch ambitions.
The reasoning is that because the icons stop short of the middle of the screen, and no device with a notch has one that is quite the same size and shape as the empty space at the top of these pictures, what we’re actually seeing is a dead giveaway to a controversial Pixel 3.
To be fair, it’s not a bad guess as to why Google has imposed a limit on the number of icons that appear in the status bar. But it wrongly assumes that it’s the only reason why Google would make such a change.
If Google has reorganized things in the interest of balance, perhaps this is merely another way of avoiding visual clutter by not allowing the number of icons on either side cross the midpoint of the display. Any Android user who has ever let their notifications pile up over the course of a day knows how awkward and disorienting it looks to see 10 or so alerts elbowing for your attention all at once. The clock’s new position would definitely increase the chance of that happening, so the motive is clear.
Plus, we’ve been here before. After the very first Android P release back in March allowed developers to simulate a notch on any device running the software, many leapt to the conclusion that that too was a surefire hint toward a notched Pixel 3. But it’s Google’s job to ensure Android runs properly not only on its own devices, but thousands of third-party handsets. Compatibility is the backbone of Android, and the notch has become so ubiquitous that the company must guarantee that its platform is prepared for the growing number of products that employ the design.
Could the Pixel 3 have a notch? Absolutely. At the end of his story, Forbes’ Gordon Kelly writes he “was told to watch for the notifications restrictions ahead of the Android P betas by a supply chain source.”
That sounds like a much bigger and more relevant clue than the placement of the notification icons, which could just as easily have been made to establish consistency among thousands of devices. Any assumptions about the Pixel 3 gleaned from the AOSP version of Android P is at best wishful thinking, so take these rumors with a healthy dose of skepticism until we actually begin seeing some physical leaks and renders.