Legend has it that NASA scientists sunk a million dollars and several years into developing a pen that could write in space. Meanwhile, in Soviet Russia, the cosmonauts came up with a genius solution that could write even more effectively in zero gravity and cost next to nothing compared to the American space pen.
The solution was the humble and ubiquitous pencil. While this urban legend is largely borne out of exaggerations and half-truths, something quite similar and equally ridiculous happened right under our noses in the consumer technology space.
Deliver us from Unsightly Notches
We refer, of course, to the unsightly display notch. It is among the singular most terrible things to have come out of 2017. Like a virulent disease, the incessant plague of notched displays has spread over to nearly every single flagship smartphone since then. Worse yet, it’s even infected mid-range phones now, so there really is no escaping this notched menace. While this might seem like a hyperbole, there are plenty of genuine reasons that justify the public outrage against the “feature” forced onto unwitting smartphone users.
Like the space pen, the display notch is an exercise in wasteful over-engineering that not only makes smartphones look downright ugly, but the gaping void in the display also disrupts usability. God forbid if you have OCD, its inherent lack of symmetry will drive you nuts. But is giving up the fast and intuitive fingerprint sensor, and driving up the already high cost of premium smartphones with face-recognition systems as a convoluted stand in for the omitted fingerprint sensor, really a smart way to push the limits of screen-to-body ratios?
Vivo NEX: The True Bezel-less Smartphone
The answer to that (rhetorical, we must add) question is a resounding no. Interestingly, the smartest solution to this peculiar engineering problem has come from where the tech community least expected. The solution to your display notch woes is the Vivo NEX. The talented engineers at Vivo channelled their inner Russian cosmonauts and came up with an elegant and futuristic solution to achieving the maximum screen-to-body ratio without succumbing to the all-too-familiar eyesore (and, let’s not forget, a major engineering cop out) that we all know as the display notch.
Does that sound like witchcraft?
We won’t blame you if you think that is the case, but, prima facie, the Vivo NEX looks like it has neither a front camera nor the usual array of sensors that you usually find at the top edge of any smartphone. Switch on the front camera and a bespoke (and very reliable, we must add) servo motor assembly works in the background to make the camera unit emerge from the top edge of the phone like an intercontinental ballistic missile shooting out of a missile silo, but only faster and more majestic. Either that, or perhaps the NEX is just happy to see you.
It might take a few moments to soak in the shock and awe of that spectacle; but take a few to compose yourself and exit the camera app nevertheless. And just like that, the pop-up camera assembly slinks down like a submarine diving into the depths, only more noiselessly. No unsightly buttons or any user intervention required. Everything happens automatically and intuitively. This is a ‘smart’ phone after all.
Thinking Out of the Box
Oh no, your boss is calling and you’re not really sure how you’re going to hear him without an earpiece, which could be a blessing in disguise, but you put the NEX to your ear anyway and viola – it’s like he’s right there yelling at you. Again, this might seem like witchcraft, but the beautiful notch-less display itself is the earpiece. All of it. Vivo’s engineers, which we already know are the masters of lateral thinking, have somehow managed to turn the display into a speaker.
Why cut a notch in the display for the speaker when the display itself can be turned into a speaker? That’s genius. The other essential sensor arrays have been moved to the top edge of the NEX, and that’s basically how you achieve an almost 100 percent screen-to-body ratio.
But wait, aren’t we forgetting something? Where’s the fingerprint sensor?
The good people at Vivo do not conflate adding features with removing essentials from smartphones. The NEX indeed has a fingerprint sensor, but not where you expect it. A rear mounted fingerprint sensor is yet another example of engineering cop outs, and Vivo doesn’t roll that way. Once again, the secret lies in the display. The in-display fingerprint sensor is a secret in itself, especially in the way it lies invisibly dormant until you put your finger on the display. That’s when the brilliant OLED panel shines brightly to light up your finger from below and unlock the phone in the blink of an eye.
A Smartphone Designed Around the User
This might sound like a huge spectacle – make no mistake, it indeed is just that – but with the NEX, Vivo has built a smartphone around humans. The NEX is unique in how it hasn’t been designed to require the user to conform around it, like all other smartphones out there. Great examples of technology simply work without the user even noticing what goes on in the background, much less manoeuvre and contort around awkwardly placed fingerprint sensors or contend with unsightly display notches.
The Vivo NEX is a shining example of the same intuitive design philosophy that does away with ugly notches and other anti-features to deliver a seamless and intuitive smartphone design enabled by its commitment to research and development. The NEX, quite simply, is the smartphone from the future that you can buy today, and it’s poised to make the competition obsolete.
If you’re intrigued and wish to know more about this smartphone from the future, keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment where we delve into the performance and other features of the NEX.