Chinese phone brands have spent all of 2018 thinking of ways to avoid using the notch. We’ve seen ideas that borrow from the past, such as a sliding form factor, to radical futuristic ones like having a second screen on the back or a motorized pop-up module. But the trend in 2019 to avoid the notch will likely be the “hole-punch” design —essentially a small circular cutout that’s been drilled into the display to accommodate a selfie camera module.
We know it’s going to be the big Android trend because both Samsung and Huawei — the two largest phone brands in the world by sales figures — have committed to the technology. Just launched today in China is the Honor View 20, which in addition to the new hole-punch design has a whopping 48-megapixel camera (also a first in the smartphone industry).
I got my hands on the device ahead of the launch and the first thing that grabbed my attention was not the hole in the corner of the screen but the patterned glass back, which reflects a V pattern when light hits it in certain angles. Honor’s parent company, Huawei, popularized the gradient glass backs that shifts colors depending on the light last year, and it’s good to see Honor has taken that tech further.
I really like the Honor View 20’s glass back design with the V pattern.BEN SIN
But back to that screen. The View 20’s 6.4-inch LCD panel spans almost edge-to-edge, and save for the hole in the corner, is uninterrupted. Honestly, I don’t mind the notch all that much, but any progress forward towards a true all-screen phone is welcomed. Honor says its hole, at 4.5mm in diameter, is “a smaller hole” than Samsung’s recently launched A8S, which supposedly has a 6.7mm hole (I haven’t seen that phone up close yet, so I can’t personally confirm).
Don’t Be Paralyzed By The Speed Of Change
Some may think the hole-punch design is an easy process that simply required a drill. Quite the contrary. Honor says the process of drilling a hole into the display panel took a great deal of trial and error and manufacturing prowess, and is a far more time-consuming process than, say, using a notch cut-out design.
The reason for that is because engineers could not simply drill all the way through the display panel — doing so would result in light leakage and a high possibility of shattering at slight impact. Instead, Honor’s technology penetrates only the top two of up to 18-layers in the smartphone’s display panel. According to Honor engineers, the View 20’s hole-punch only drilled through the light guide plate and TFT Array — just enough to accommodate the 25-megapixel selfie camera — leaving the actual glass and all the other remaining layers (polarizer, filter, etc.) unbroken.
The display panel that has a hole drilled in the upper left corner.HONOR
The front-facing 25-megapixel camera fits into a 4.5mm hole.BEN SIN
As for the position of the hole, an Honor spokesperson said the company chose to place the circular cut-out in the upper left corner instead of upper right or middle because it doesn’t get in the way as much. He said that on Android phones, the battery icon and time is located on the upper right corner, which are more important information than the notification icons that go on the upper left. I disagree personally — I care about my notifications on the upper left corner more than the battery percentage icon on the right — but Honor says it came to that conclusion from conducting research and surveys with consumers.
The Honor View 20.BEN SIN
The various glass plates Honor has designed for its phone.HONOR
Around the back is a double-camera system, led by the aforementioned 48-megapixel, Sony IMX586 CMOS lens. Much like the Huawei P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro, the extra-high pixel count is mostly used for pixel binning — a technique that combines four pixels into one to gather more light information), so for the most part, the 48-megapixel lens will be used to capture 12-megapixel equivalent shots. Honor says the pixel-binning tech essentially produces images with a micro-pixel size of 1.6um.
The second camera is also unique, in that it is not the traditional telephoto or monochrome lens found on most phones. Instead, it’s a TOF (time of flight) camera that is basically a 3D scanner. We’ve seen Oppo and Vivo use TOF tech already, but Honor promises its version will be capable of doing more.
Unfortunately, I can’t vouch for any of Honor’s claims about the View 20’s cameras because my time with the phone was limited, in a heavily controlled setting that wasn’t ideal to conduct any tests. So although I was able to snap photos with the phone, I couldn’t share the photos, nor did the space offer much for me to shoot.
Honor did provide a photo sample, which it says was taken by the View 20, but as is the case with far too many sample photos shown off by marketing teams from across the industry, it may have also been edited in post production.
A sample image, supposedly captured by the Honor View 20.HONOR
We do know that Huawei’s camera technology is strong, however, and despite Honor’s valiant attempts to get media to pretend like they’re a separate entity, everybody knows Honor is part of Huawei, and thus gets the same strong image processing prowess, too. I think the View 20’s camera should impress. As for everything else about the phone, the hole-in-corner does offer a more immersive screen, while the View 20’s 4,000 mAh battery and Kirin 980 chipset will easily make it a battery beast, and one of the more powerhouse phones out there.
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