The unfolding of the birth of Notch and Dynamic Island

Apple, like many other companies, makes major changes to its smartphone lineup every few years. Thus, users occasionally benefit from a major hardware revision, followed by incremental changes and changes in subsequent releases. It’s the technology life cycle with Apple. You can’t expect the Cupertino company – despite its rather limitless resources – to release a redesigned iPhone every year. Not only would this miss out on successful ideas, but it would also negatively impact customers. Humans tend to be drawn to things that are familiar to them. We build muscle memory and slowly adapt to the ever-changing factors around us. If you completely destroy someone’s usual environment, they will simply feel lost and have a harder time coping. And for that reason, the iPhone has kept its generic design – for the most part – since its launch 15 years ago. However, the top bezel changed shape seven times. It is the evolution of the Apple notch – iPhone 1 to iPhone 14 Pro Max.

Man holding iPhone 13 Mini and iPhone SE 2022 in one hand.

The iPhone, pre-notch (10 years BN)

As I mentioned, the iPhone looks almost the same since its initial release. Yes, the original iPhone and the iPhone 14 Pro are nothing alike. However, they share the same overall concept. To visualize what I am trying to convey, look at the history of Samsung smartphones. At one point they had physical navigation buttons, then they ditched them. Some models have textured backs, while others opt for glass. Meanwhile, the camera systems have moved all around the back side.

In Apple’s case, the iPhone still has the same layout. Apart from the physical/digital home button switch and port changes, the elements have retained their positions. So if you line up each iPhone model, you will see the gradual evolution and slight changes in all the other generational versions. These are not random ins and outs. Instead, it’s a smooth flow that reflects gradual maturity and growth. It’s literally like watching a human grow.

Phase 1: 2G, 3G, 3GS

Before the notch was introduced, the original iPhone (AKA iPhone 1 Where iPhone 2G) had a thick upper display bezel. It housed the earpiece and lacked a front-facing (user-side) camera. Apple kept the same design on the following models, the iPhones 3G and 3GS. All three models lacked a FaceTime front camera and had a centered earpiece. The bottom bezel was a similar size and housed the Home button – which lacked Touch ID at the time. Good old days. The execution looked clean, especially considering how revolutionized the product was, especially at the time.

Phase 2: 4, 4S

iphone 4

With the iPhone 4, Apple introduced the FaceTime front camera. Obviously this is not a TrueDepth system. Although, at the time, it blew people away. As you may already know, nothing in life is free. This welcome addition came at a cost – the size of the bezel. The iPhones 4 and 4S have slightly thicker top bezels compared to their predecessors. The original models didn’t have a front-facing camera, so it was relatively easy for Apple to keep the size under control. However, spoiler alert – this phase is where the iPhone’s bezel has reached its thickest form. The days that followed brought only slimmer builds and sunshine.

Stage 3: 5, 5S, SE

iPhone 5

With the release of the iPhone 5, Apple moved the FaceTime front camera. On iPhone 4 models, it was just to the left of the earpiece. The iPhone 5 moved it up. The camera was therefore centered just above the earpiece. This restored absolute symmetry as far as the front side is concerned. The iPhone 5/5S, for many users, remains the epitome of smartphone design – to this day. It sure had big bezels, but they’re not as chunky as the iPhone 4’s.

Stage 4: 6, 6S, 7, 8, SE 2, SE 3

Iphone 6

This is the last phase of the iPhone bezel before hitting notch times. The iPhone 6 almost objectively brought the biggest design changes since the iPhone’s initial launch. It came with a much taller build and slimmed down bezels. The iPhone 6 began to shape the format of what would become the modern smartphone layout. The cell phone was beginning to mature and the waters were calming down. The acceptable bezel remained the norm through subsequent iPhone generations – 6S, 7, and 8. In 2017, along with the iPhone 8, however, Apple released a One more thing. This marked day zero AN (After Notch).

iPhone Introduces Notch — Rejoice!

With Apple removing the physical home button, it needed to retain some symmetry on the front. However, he also didn’t know what to do with the FaceTime earpiece and front camera. He also wanted the FaceTime camera to be more than just a FaceTime camera. A TrueDepth system requires more space because it contains a dot projector and other sensors to map your face. So – drum roll, please – Apple introduced the notch. It takes up less display space compared to the classic thick top frame. However, it’s still a distraction and not as clean as an all-screen runtime, many of which had started to become popular in the Android camp.

Stage 1: X, XS, XS Max, XR, Series 11, Series 12

iPhone X

Shortly after the debut of the iPhone X, Apple’s notch became a universal meme. We’ve probably all seen Samsung’s little ads making fun of it. However, I have actively used Phase 4 Pre-Notch and Phase 1 Notch iPhones. I can safely say that the notch on the iPhone is far less obtrusive than the thick, even top bezels. It’s so thin, vertically speaking, you barely notice it’s there – coughGoogle Pixel 3, cough. It served as the perfect remedy for the thickness of the top bezel at the time. Suddenly, Apple adopted it on models in the years that followed.

Phase 2: Series 13, 14, 14 Plus

iPhone 13 Pro iOS 16 Lock Screen

With the introduction of the iPhone 13 line, Apple did… NOT remove the notch. Instead, he shrunk it slightly. Innovation! Although, really, apart from the few millimeters of extra screen real estate, this change didn’t add anything. As in, the status bar still contains the same number of icons, and the minor change is pretty much unnecessary. Although it does make the cutout slightly less distracting, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The iPhone, Post-Notch (5 years AN)

Stage 1: 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max


With this seventh (global) phase, we say goodbye to the iPhone. During his Far event, Apple launched the iPhone 14 series. Regular models, as highlighted in the previous section, received the Phase 2 Notch treatment. Meanwhile, the Pro and Pro Max variants introduce the Dynamic Island. Dynamic Island is not a simple software/hardware integration, it is a state of mind. This floating bubble of smooth transitions/animations is shaping the future as we speak. Android modders are already trying to replicate its behavior on different devices, and we can bet that Android OEMs will also come with their own versions. We’re expecting the entire iPhone 15 lineup to include the Dynamic Island – as Apple is completely ridding the most premium iPhones of the notch. The Ugly Tech Duckling could, however, make an appearance on the upcoming iPhone XR-inspired iPhone SE 4.

The Dynamic Island featuring music

Now that this noticeable display overhaul has seen the light of day, we don’t expect the Cupertino company to retire it anytime soon. It’s a safe bet that the next iteration of the bezel/notch/Dynamic Island won’t surface for the next two years (at least). So go ahead and buy an iPhone 14 Pro because it’s the evolutionary upgrade you get once every several years. Don’t forget to grab a case for this as well – because you wouldn’t want a tornado to shake your precious little island.

    Apple iPhone 14

    The iPhone 14 retains most of the specs of its predecessor. It is powered by A15 and runs on iOS 16.

    Apple iPhone 14 Pro

    The iPhone 14 Pro replaces the notch with Dynamic Island and supports the Always-On Display function.

What do you think of the dynamic island when you compare it to the previous iPhone notch? Let us know in the comments section below.

About Franklin Cheatham

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