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Why Does Apple’s New MacBook Pro Have a Notch on the Display?

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With several new products announced at the Apple event on October 18, one controversial design choice rose to the top of social media chatter: the notch. MacBook Pro 14- and 16-inch models will feature extended displays, but you can’t have a bigger screen without making a few sacrifices. Let’s discuss why Apple chose the notch route on its new MacBook Pro range and explain why the decision isn’t so bad.

Face ID Is Likely Coming to Mac

Face ID is Apple’s facial recognition technology used in its iPhone and iPad Pro products. With a compatible model, you can use this useful tool to unlock your device and authorize purchases, payments, and other actions. The technology boasts safety, security, and privacy, and has quickly become a staple of modern iOS devices. But Mac users continue to miss out, since Face ID is even absent from the iMac.

For Face ID to work, your Mac will require a TrueDepth camera, and Apple has thus far neglected to include this technology in recent Mac releases. However, several signs suggest that Face ID for Mac is on the way.

Macbook showing notch in menu bar.
Image Credit: Apple/YouTube

Firstly, code discovered by 9to5Mac in an early iteration of Big Sur references certain functions and keywords related to facial recognition. This suggests that Apple has long been preparing to include the technology in its Mac products.

Next, we have the recent reveal of the new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro models, notches included. Apple wouldn’t design a notch so wide if it didn’t have something to hide—like a TrueDepth camera for instance. While the new models don’t have Face ID technology, the additional camera space afforded at the top of the screen means Apple can add the appropriate hardware when ready. At which point, we’ll all have grown accustomed to the big black tab invading our displays.

Apple knows that incremental changes keep the masses content, and the wide notches on the new MacBook Pro models foreshadow what’s to come: Face ID and a TrueDepth camera.

MacBook Pro 14- and 16-Inch Models Have More Screen Space

Technically, Apple hasn’t included a notch, it has simply reduced the bezel sizes on its new MacBook Pro models, and you now only lose a skinny 3.5mm at the edges of your display. Therefore, we can view the notch as an innocent by-product of Apple’s attempt to provide more screen real estate.

The new 14-inch MacBook Pro boasts a 14.2-inch display and the 16-inch model offers 16.2. As you can see, you don’t lose anything to Apple’s notch, but you do gain a notable portion of extra screen space. That’s a win for many of us.

In practice, your top menu bar wraps around the notch, and only the most cluttered menus would run the risk of bumping up against the blank black space. For most of us, the notch will be an unobtrusive landmark on spacious terrain.

Macbook showing notch hidden in full screen app.
Image Credit: Apple/YouTube

However, when running apps in full screen mode, you do lose the benefits of a bigger display. Apple’s marketing material indicates that the extended portion of the screen blacks out to prevent the notch intruding upon your work, which means those of us who do run full screen applications lose some of the benefits of the redesign. But for general macOS usage, many will welcome the extra space.

MacBook Pro hiding the notch with dark mode.
Image Credit: Apple/YouTube

For those who cannot bear to gaze upon the nasty notch, Apple suggests using Dark Mode to conceal what some may view as a disfigurement. It’s a cheeky proposition by the company, but one worthy of consideration.

Apple Doesn’t Do Things Without Good Reason

Apple doesn’t make arbitrary design choices, and the notch exists for a reason. Even if the purpose were to stir up chatter on social media, the company would have succeeded. However, the new MacBook Pro display notch is more than a talking point and topic of debate.

The new design indicates that Face ID is likely on the way, and Apple is laying the groundwork to introduce the feature to its Mac range. On top of that, the extra screen space afforded by the redesign will benefit many of us. Apple engineers its products with intent, and its controversial notch does have a place and a purpose.

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