Ever since Apple unveiled the iPhone X in September 2017, the notch has become an issue on smartphones. You can buy handsets with small notches, big notches, and no notch at all (even with a pop-up camera sometimes) – and now we have the Sharp Aquos R2 Compact, with two notches.
One smaller notch sits at the top, to house the forward-facing camera, and one larger one sits at the bottom, for the fingerprint sensor and home button – that leaves more usable screen space at the top and bottom, either side of the notches.
Apart from that rather innovative design choice, this is a reasonably impressive Android device. It boasts a 5.2-inch, 2,280 x 1,080 LCD display (485 ppi), has a Snapdragon 845 processor, and comes with 4 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal storage (which you can expand via a memory card). There's a single-lens 22.6 MP rear-facing camera.
The phone also has Android 9 Pie on board, which introduced official support for notched display designs in Android. The bad news? This is likely to only be available in Japan when it goes on sale at the start of next year for an as-yet-unspecified price.
Whether or not other phone makers will follow Sharp's lead with two display notches remains to be seen.
Notches became a necessity as Apple and then its competitors declared war on the bezels around the side of a phone's front display – as these bezels began to shrink, there was no room for a front-facing camera or a home button (which on a lot of handsets also doubles as a fingerprint reader).
Apple solved the problem by adding a notch for a camera and getting rid of the home button altogether – the home button actions have been replaced by gestures in iOS, and Face ID has replaced Touch ID (most recently on the new iPad Pros).
Over on the Android side of the fence, most manufacturers moved the fingerprint sensor around the back, while keeping a notch for the front-facing camera system. As the year has drawn to a close, and the necessary technology has become fast and reliable enough, phones like the OnePlus 6T and Huawei Mate 20 Pro have arrived with fingerprint sensors embedded under the front display.
If phone makers are able to pull off the same trick with front-facing cameras, the notch could disappear as quickly as it arrived, though they're likely to stick around for a couple of years yet.
At its developer conference last week, Samsung unveiled several notch blueprints that might be applied to future phones, including an "Infinity O" design that looks like a punch hole near the top of the screen – a circular notch surrounded by display pixels. Samsung has so far avoided putting notches on its phone, but this "punch hole" notch might be something we see on the Galaxy S10.
As the technology develops, it'll be interesting to see where the notch goes next – but Sharp gets the kudos for putting together the first two-notch design. Considering Google has banned more than two display cutouts on Android devices, this might be as many notches as we ever get.
You can check out a promotional concept video for the Aquos R2 Compact below.
Product page: Sharp Aquos R2 Compact
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