Google sets out rules for future ‘notch’ smartphone designs

Image credit: Apple

Google has introduced a set of new rules and guidelines for Android smartphones manufacturers and developers on how to handle the growing trend towards cutout 'notches' in the design of the latest handsets.

A growing number of phones include this feature, which is a result of a desire to reduce the size of the bezels around the edge of phones and create fully edge-to-edge displays with larger aspect ratios. However, manufacturers still need to find room on their devices for front-facing cameras and sensors, so the result has been a notch or cutout that intrudes from the top of the screen into the display.

The iPhone X was one of the first major devices to include this design, but it has since been widely copied. According to Google, there are 16 Android devices from 11 manufacturers that currently have one, but many more are expected to be released in the coming months, including Google's own Pixel 3.

It's a feature that has provoked a mixed reaction from some users, so while Google's upcoming Android P will include official support for notches, the tech giant has clarified a new set of rules surrounding them.

Firstly, Google has set a cap on how many cutouts future devices running Android will be allowed to have. While so far, no phone has offered more than a single notch at the top, this could change in the coming years, so Google has moved to pre-empt this by restricting phones to a maximum of two notches – no more than one on each short side, and no notches allowed at all on the longer sides.

Manufacturers must also ensure that they extend the status bar to at least match the height of any notch when the handset is held in portrait mode. When used in full screen or landscape orientation, any notches must be letterboxed. Both of these rules should ensure any cutouts do not obscure any app content.