There are a lot of good things to say about Google’s new Pixel 3 XL smartphone, but there’s also been a lot of blowback due to the size of the notch at the top of the phone. For those who don’t know what a notch is, it’s the top part of the display that houses the front-facing camera and other sensors. In a push to create edge-to-edge screens with minimal bezels, notches are one way of maximizing screen real estate, and it’s a method Apple has pursued with its iPhone X and XS range.
See how we feel–> https://t.co/jpyf5V2PlR
— Digital Trends (@DigitalTrends) October 10, 2018
Notches are divisive. Some believe it’s a design flaw that disrupts the user experience, while others don’t mind it or don’t care. We’re not fans, but we’ve grown accustomed to seeing them on our phones and don’t mind them much. However, the notch on the Pixel 3 XL is one of the ugliest we’ve seen to date. It cuts deep into the display, making it distracting, and there’s a lot of unused space taken up by the status bar. Thankfully, there are a few ways to get around the notch on the Pixel 3 XL, while still enjoying a fluid Android experience from Google. We’ve rounded them up.
While you might prefer the larger size of the Pixel 3 XL, if you’re not married to a big-phone experience, the Google Pixel 3 is just as good in almost every way. You get the same camera tech, same internal hardware, and same software experience. The only differences between the two are the lack of a notch on the Pixel 3, the slightly smaller screen (5.5 inches as opposed to the XL’s 6.3-inch screen), and a smaller battery (though with the smaller screen, battery life will likely end up being the same).
Sure, there are thicker bezels on the top and bottom that don’t make it look as contemporary as other phones, but this is your best bet if you hate the notch but want a phone with the Google experience. The Pixel 3 is also $100 cheaper than the Pixel 3 XL, so you’ll save some cash along the way.
Can’t do without the big screen? There is a way to hide the notch, but we don’t recommend this method. It’s built into the phone’s developer settings, but there’s a chance Google may make it an option in the standard Settings menu. Follow these instructions to hide the notch:
- Open the Settings app.
- Scroll down and tap on System.
- Tap About Phone.
- Scroll down and tap Build number seven times until you get a message saying that “you are now a developer.”
- Head back to the main Settings page and type “notch” in the search bar. Tap on the result called Display cutout. (Or go to Settings > System > Developer options > and scroll down until you see Display cutout.)
- Select Hide.
For people who prefer a more traditional smartphone look, we’ve added an option to hide the display cutout (the notch).
— Made by Google (@madebygoogle) October 9, 2018
Your Pixel 3 XL should now feature a black bar at the top, hiding the notch and replacing it with what looks like a somewhat large bezel. The big disadvantage here is that you lose more display real estate, since the status bar has moved lower. However, it does a convincing job of making it look like the phone has no notch.
Nacho Notch, a third-party app on the Google Play Store, was specifically built to make notches a little more bearable for those who can’t stand them. It hides the notch, but it also makes sure the display real estate around the notch doesn’t go to waste. Unlike the built-in Android method, Nacho Notch leaves the status bar on the sides of the notch. That means your notification icons and system tray information stay around the notch at the top, but you still get black bars that mask the look. It’s an elegant solution.
Nacho Notch allows you to quickly toggle the feature on and off because it’s a quick settings tile in the notification drawer. You can even set the app to round the corners on the display, making it look a lot more natural on a device like the Google Pixel 3 XL. There is one downside here — the feature doesn’t work on the lock screen, so you won’t be able to hide the notch there.
Nacho Notch is a free app available in the Google Play Store.
If you were impressed by the features Google showed off, but don’t necessarily feel like dropping $900 to buy the latest flagship phone, then perhaps it’s worth going for a Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL instead. The phones are still up on the Google Store with some small discounts, or you may be able to purchase them from other retailers for even lower prices. The Pixel 2 is set to get many of the stand-out features announced alongside the Pixel 3, such as “Call Screening,” which uses Google Assistant to verify calls from numbers you don’t know; Google Duplex, which will let you make restaurant reservations with Google Assistant; and Night Sight, which uses artificial intelligence to dramatically improve low-light photos.
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