The notch is here to stay. Google, the company behind the Android mobile operating system, is expected to embrace the notch first seen on Apple iPhone X.
Bloomberg reports that Google is working on an overhaul of its Android mobile OS in order to mimic the notch at the top of the device. The update with native support for the notch is expected to be shipped as part of the next version of Android due to launch later this year. The operating system is also said to tightly integrate Google Assistant and offer improvements in key areas such as battery life on phones and support for new device form factors including multiple screens and foldable displays.
The report notes that the key goal for Google this year is to persuade more iPhone users to switch to Android and the search giant is kicking off that goal by improving the look of the software. Android is one of the most popular mobile operating systems with over 70 percent of install base but it mainly caters to the low-end and mid-range smartphone segment while Apple rules the premium segment with its iPhone.
Google wants to bring those users to its camp since they spend more on apps and adopt other services. According to people familiar with the development, embracing the notch is being seen as a viable move to ensure iPhone users move to Android. The native support for the notch will also mean new smartphones will have a cutout at the top for the front camera and other sensors.
Google’s decision to embrace the notch can also be seen a way to ensure Android does not look ugly on devices with a notch supplied by its OEM partners. Andy Rubin’s Essential already has a phone with a notch hiding the front camera. The notch is expected to become a common affair among smartphones from brands such as Samsung, LG, Huawei and others later this year.
However, Google also has a risk of the feature leading to even more fragmentation. As evident from latest distribution numbers, Android 8.0 Oreo is running on just around 1 percent of active devices while Android Nougat recently overtook Marshmallow as the most widely used version. Google embracing the notch could lead to its OEM partners further tweaking their own software and not letting notches come to all phones.
The Apple iPhone X is a successful device as seen from the recent quarter results where Canalys estimates Apple to have sold 29 million units of the iPhone X despite supply issues. It seems Google is confident that the notch design will catch up among consumers despite some users finding it obnoxious while watching videos in landscape mode.
The next version of Android, likely to be named Android P, will also put more emphasis on Google Assistant, which has expanded from smartphones to more devices including tablets, smart speakers and Chromebooks. Bloomberg says developers will be able to integrate Assistant with their own apps when it Android P becomes available later this year.
Google is also exploring the option to integrate the search bar on the Android home screen with the Assistant. While Apple has scaled back on major improvement to its mobile operating system, Google seems to be planning a dramatic redesign including support for the notch. Google names its Android operating system after dessert and the new version is internally called as Pistachio Ice Cream. While the company will use a different name when it launches later this year, there is a possibility of the final version being called Peppermint.