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A hot potato: While we’re still waiting for the new MacBook Pros with the M1 Pro and M1 Max SoCs to arrive, what Apple showed off at its Unleashed even made the laptops look very compelling. There was, however, one element that hasn’t received as much love from the public: the iPhone-style notch built into the machines. Apple, of course, has defended the design decision, noting that it’s actually pretty “smart.”
The notch has undoubtedly proved to be the most contentious part of the new MacBook Pros. As noted by David Pogue, it houses the new 1080p webcam along with the TrueTone sensor that ensures colors are consistent in all lighting conditions, a light sensor that adjusts the brightness and keyboard illumination, and the “camera on” LED.
But the inclusion of a notch hasn’t been welcomed by many consumers. Defending the design decision was Shruti Haldea, Apple’s Pro Mac Product Line Manager, who was discussing the new laptops on the Same Brain podcast (around 10:20 in the video below).
Speaking about the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which can cost over $6,000, Haldea said it still retains a 16-inch diagonal screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio (in full-screen mode) even with the notch. This is because Apple has grown the display and moved the menu bar up into where the notch sits, which is a “really smart way to give you more space for your content.”
Haldea also notes that when users go into full-screen mode, black bars appear at the side of the notch that make it almost invisible. And Apple is expecting some OS features, including dark mode, will make it less prominent. The company has also been emphasizing how the new design shaves 60% of the thickness of the bezels.
All this is unlikely to appease the notch’s detractors, though. While the cutout does have some useful functionality, it feels like adding the distinctive notch in the MacBook Pros was as much about Apple brand recognition as anything else. And calling it a “smart” move brings to mind the company’s infamous claim that removing the 3.5mm headphone jack from iPhones took “courage.”
Apple received plenty of flak for doing away with the headphone port, and few people were fans of the iPhone X’s notch—though the Essential Phone PH-1 was the first handset with such a feature. Yet most phone companies followed suit in both cases, dropping the 3.5mm port and adding their versions of notches to handsets. Could screen cutouts become a common sight on future laptops? Don’t rule it out.