So this trend started with Android phones making their screens go all the way to the edge (I think Samsung did it first? Don’t remember), but to avoid their corners being palm jabbingly sharp, they made the corners of the screen rounded with the shape of the phone itself. This only got more popular when Apple also started doing it with their iPhone X, and nowadays almost every Android phone, even mid-range ones, have rounded screens (even if they still have bezels, it’s literally become a stylistic trend).

With phones, this wasn’t a huge issue since each of them ran custom operating systems anyway and knew how to render the UI around the curve so nothing gets cut off. But, we’re now starting to see laptops and tablets doing this too. The iPad did it first, but Apple obviously controls the software too so there was no conflict. But the JingPad is also projected to have a rounded screen and works with its own custom desktop environment on Linux, and with the new MacBook Pro also having a rounded screen, it’s only a matter of time before many Windows laptops start doing the same.

And don’t get me started on the camera notch that the new MacBook Pro has. That’s going to be even more annoying to deal with especially when every laptop company starts designing their own put-the-camera-in-the-screen-space system.

So what does this mean for running Linux on those devices? As far as I know, all of the major desktop environments have no real support for or even ways of detecting a rounded, notched, or otherwise irregular screen, and will place important UI elements like the app menu and status bar right up against the corners where they will be cut off. I also doubt there is a standard API for detecting what shape the usable screen is, and the worst case scenario is that every rounded screen laptop or tablet will have its own custom version of the proprietary OS that comes with itm with the screen geometry hard coded in, or the information will be on proprietary drivers that only support the native OS (for example Windows), and this could potentially be a major road bump in the notion that you can use any regular x86 Linux ISO on pretty much any laptop and it will mostly just work? Will we potentially need to figure out the screen geometry for every laptop model and manually configure it into the Linux installations? Since every laptop and tablet will have a different degree of screen corner roundness and might not have parts of perfect circles as the rounding but instead a more irregular curve, and the camera cutouts will be even worse. The average user likely does not know how to do an integral over the screen so it can be expressed mathematically.

Also, what about CLI-only mode? How will that work with rounded screens? Are we going to have to letterbox the terminal window so none of the text is cut off? In that case, will we need to start including basic graphics drivers even in CLI mode?

  • Jonah
    43 years ago

    Based on something Linus (Sebastian) said during a LTT video about a surface laptop with rounded corners, Windows doesn’t recognize the corners as rounded either. It just draws to the screen as if the corners are there and hopes that it works. You can even move the mouse off the screen by moving it past the edge in the corner.

  • Ravn
    33 years ago

    Maybe this is also an opportunity for DEs to rethink the rectangular UX? Would be cool to have a Unity8-like sidebar that will fit along any edge, irregular or straight alike. Also radial menus, we’re overdue for some native desktop radial menus!