Apple’s manager for the Mac product line explains in an interview why the recent MacBook Pro refresh has reused the iPhone’s infamous notch in the display.
- Apple says a notch on its redesigned MacBook Pro serves a purpose
- The notch, Apple explains, moves the macOS menu bar out of the way
- As such, the notch creates more room for user content
Why does the MacBook Pro have a notch?
To discuss not only the notch but also Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max chips powering the latest MacBook Pro, the Same Brain podcast sat down with Mac product manager Shruti Haldea. Responding to questions concerning the notch, a cutout at the top center of the display, she explained why the notch doesn’t actually decrease the usable display area.
What we’ve done is we have actually made the display taller. After increasing the screen size to 16.2 inches from 16, the active area on the diagonal for the section below the notch is still 16 inches. We just grew the display up from there and put the menu bar up there. We just kind of moved it up and out of the way.
So by moving the macOS menu bar out of the way and slightly enlarging the display to accommodate the height of the notch, the redesigned 16-inch MacBook Pro still provides a 16:10 canvas. Read: How to manage external display settings on macOS
macOS compatibility mode for notched apps
One of the last-minute rumors ahead of the new MacBook Pros suggested that the refreshed notebooks would incorporate a notch. Remarkably, what sounded like a very unlikely rumor has proved true. Fans in general were taken aback by the inclusion of the notch, which cuts visibly into the desktop at the top.
macOS Monterey minimizes the effect by adding a horizontal black bar to the top of the screen in fullscreen mode which merges with the notch for a more seamless appearance.
From Apple’s updated Human Interface Guidelines documentation:
On Macs that include a camera housing in the screen bezel, the system provides a compatibility mode to prevent apps from unintentionally putting content in the region the housing occupies. When this mode is active, the system changes the active area of the display to avoid the camera housing. The new active area ensures your app’s contents are always visible and not obscured by the camera housing.
The mouse pointer travels behind the notch and Apple provides developer tools allowing programmers to make use of the space on either side of the notch for app content.
The notch is coming to other Mac systems
The notch houses ambient light sensors along with the front camera, but there are no TrueDepth components within it for the Face ID components like with iPhones. So why does the notch exist on these refreshed notebooks in the first place? Well for starters, without a notch some screen borders would be thicker than the others.
Some folks believe the notch is a precursor to the first Mac notebook with Face ID. And one leaker is adamant that the notch will be a design feature of the next MacBook Air.