Now that 2018 is nearing an end, and we aren't expecting new groundbreaking phones to be announced in the next two weeks or so, it's time to recap what their makers achieved in the quest for the Holy "all-screen" Grail of design.
Last year went under the auspices of the Notch Almighty, but in 2018 phone makers strayed far away from the beaten path leaving us with real handsets you can touch and buy that are indeed "all-screen" at the front.
Since the Galaxy S9
managed to crack the 80% screen-to-body ratio barrier way upwards without resorting to a notch, we've had phones that are going even further, adding second screens or sliding designs in the process, and wanted to ask you to vote for your favorite 2018 "all-screen" handset. Take your pick in the poll below, and sound off in the comments.
Selfie in the hole, or Samsung Galaxy A8s
Samsung introduced the Infinity-O display as a twinkle in its designer team's eyes not long ago, but, lo and behold, we present you the Galaxy A8s
. While inconspicuously named, this is the first handset announced with a front camera pierced directly into the display, the so-called Hole-in-Active-Area technology.
Some call it waterdrop, Huawei chimes in with a "dewdrop" moniker, and some like it hot. We kid, but the so-called "waterdrop" notch that only encompasses a small selfie camera is very close to what Sharp and the Essential Phone introduced
last year, just with a bit wider bezel protrusion in the base.
Still, it is veritable new design when it comes to the notch shape and that is why it's included in the list. With it, the Mate 20
, for instance, manages to hit a record 87.98% screen-to-by ratio without resorting to extra sliding or popping mechanism.
Moreover, the waterdrop design is less of an eyesore than the wide notches that house all the usual top bezel paraphernalia and is now greatly popularized by the OnePlus 6T
Starting with the concept Vivo NEX
we previewed way back at the MWC expo in the spring and continuing with the crazy motorized Oppo Find X
half-slider, the two conjoined twins of a phone brand push the front camera paraphernalia up only when needed without sliding the whole screen part down.
Return of the Mack - sliders
Oppo started it with the Find X
somewhat, while Honor with its Magic 2
, as well as Xiaomi with the Mi Mix 3
, took it to the extreme. The good ol' sliding design, that is. It hits a very high screen-to-body ratio by separating the screen part from all the other paraphernalia that usually goes into the top bezel.
As you can see demonstrated here, the screen half slides back and forth with a satisfying click to reveal what will likely be 3D-sensing front camera kit for Face ID-style unlocking when you need it, but when it is shut, the phone is indeed "all-screen" at the front.
The slider approaches, however, while seemingly the Holy Grail of bezel-trimming, come with their own set of issues. For starters, whether motorized or manual, it is one more mechanism that might be prone to breaking at some point. Even if it is made sturdy enough to withstand two or three years of constant usage, finding a case for such phones is a bit of a challenge that could entail some protection compromises.
There have been plenty of "all-screen" phone solutions in the past year or so - notches, sliders, pop-up cameras, and even holes in the display itself aren't now out of the question. All of these are done in the neverending quest to shove the inevitable front camera setup somewhere in order to trim the bezel it used to occupy. None of these design options is as crazy as circumventing the need for a front camera altogether by providing a second display on the back.
Enter Nubia, an offshoot brand of ZTE. It has been having some pretty wild ideas about the future of the cell phone form factor. At the MWC expo, we previewed the Nubia Alpha, a handset that wraps around your wrist, but it's a concept that went from the design gurus to the production stage that caught our attention recently, the X
At the front, the Nubia X looks like your regular giant 2018 phone with a 6.3" LCD panel (not a notch in sight, though), but you might get startled to turn it over and find a smaller, 5.1" OLED panel on the back. With it, you can snap selfies with the higher quality rear camera which has allowed Nubia to skip the front unit and achieve an incredibly thin top bezel.