Bezel-less is not a thing, and here's why it shouldn't be

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

Bezels appear to be the bane of all current-gen smartphone users. So much so that when the Xiaomi Mi MIX came out with its pretty high screen-to-body ratio, everyone turned their heads towards China. The phone is not available in the US, nor will it be at any point in the foreseeable future, but man did we all want it.

It looked magnificent with its near lack of bezels, and a screen covering 91.3% of its front. At the end of the day, the number I just quoted turned out to be a little different in reality, but that hardly mattered. Xiaomi had made a statement – bezels are done with. Just like with any revolution in history, it wasn't the reality of the situation that was important, but the idea that drove people to the pitchforks and torches.

Naturally, Xiaomi isn't the only manufacturer that strives towards having no bezels. Samsung, LG, and allegedly Apple are also doing their best to achieve this goal, among others. Terms like “bezel-less”, “edge-to-edge display”, and “fullscreen design” pop up left, right, and center. But do they actually mean what they imply? Could a phone truly lack bezels, and more importantly – should it?

They all have bezels


Currently, there isn't a single smartphone in the public space that lacks bezels on any of its four sizes. The technology hasn't reached the point at which reasonably priced consumer electronics can have absolutely no frame around their displays just yet.

Just because a phone has very thin bezels doesn't mean that it has none at all. If you have a tiny pin-sized hole in your shoe, your feet will still get just as wet in the rain, as if you had a long cut on your sole. Then, why do we apply double standards to our phones?



Admittedly, the Samsung Galaxy S8+, while having bezels on all sides, is the closest we currently have to an edge-to-edge display phone, at least on its left and right. However, the idea here is not to bash smartphones or manufacturers. So, let's move on to the other aspect of the piece.

We need the bezels, and more of them


I know, that's a bold statement to make, but look at your phone for a second, will you? What do you see on the front of it? Best case scenario, there will be a selfie camera, a speaker, and a home button. Now, where will all those fit if we had no bezels?

The home button has long been rumored to soon make an appearance under the display, complete with a fingerprint scanner and everything, and we're okay with that. But what about selfie cameras, stereo speakers, iris scanners, proximity sensors, ambient light sensors, and notification LEDs?

All of these things require bezels to be useful. Otherwise, they will have to be either under or cut into the display, and this will neither look nor work well. Imagine watching a YouTube video with two black stripes near the left and right edges of the content. This is where your stereo speakers will be.



I'm sorry to inform you that it has already started, too. When Essential unveiled its first phone, brainchild of the father of Android Andy Rubin, there was a fierce debate in the PhoneArena office on how to call this new cutout display. A few names were thrown around, such as “droplet”, “crease”, and “horseshoe” (my personal favorite remains the “bus-ticket design”), but whatever we all called it, we managed to agree on something – that camera did not belong that deep down into the screen.

The Essential has yet to launch, but Rubin confirmed that video content will not stretch to under the camera. This means that even though the display is designed to be as close to bezel-less as possible, fullscreen content will still have a black stripe on one side, which might house some notification icons at best.

The strive to be “edge-to-edge” has lead several manufacturers down a very slippery slope already, Essential included. After the LG G6 and Galaxy S8, Rubin also decided to incorporate a weird aspect ratio, just to squeeze that extra bit of screen in, but while the first two made some sense, Essential comes with a 19:10 aspect ratio. What are we supposed to watch on that?



Of course, there are other arguments as to why we need bezels, but we have covered them numerous times before, so I will only skim over them this time. First, bezels protect the screen. Just look at what happens to the notoriously “bezel-less” Mi MIX when it was dropped. I am willing to bet a one-month salary that the Xperia XZ Premium will survive the very same accident with just a minor cosmetic bruise.

And there is the matter of holding the phone. Our hands need to wrap around it, or else it will end up flying to the ground every time you use it. But if they do wrap around the edges, they will make contact with the edge-to-edge touchscreen. Guess this will make butt-dials a thing of the past, and introduce palm-dials instead.

Conclusion


Don't get me wrong, it's not like I don't think the LG G6 or Samsung Galaxy S8 are solid phones. I actually like the G6 a lot. However, I do believe that this is where it should end.

We've gone far enough in our desire for an all-screen smartphone. Let's stop while we can still use our phones, or better yet – let's take a tiny step back. Otherwise, we'll end up with fragile glass tiles, with questionable aspect ratios, that we can neither hold, nor use for fullscreen apps.

FEATURED VIDEO

104 Comments

1. ibend

Posts: 6747; Member since: Sep 30, 2014

not sure if the writer being silly or salty

2. Clars123

Posts: 1078; Member since: Mar 16, 2015

only one way to find out. Wait to see if the new iPhone comes with the alleged cutout at the top of the screen

16. jove39

Posts: 2146; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Salty for sure.

4. IT-Engineer

Posts: 543; Member since: Feb 26, 2015

It's Damian M, what did you expect? Anyways, if apple does it with the iphone 8 or 9, you will read how happy and proud of apple he is. #Sheeple

8. Cat97

Posts: 1892; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

He's beeing silly. He doesn't realize the distinction between "bezels because we need them" and "bezels because we are forced by the technology to have them". Bezel-less is always better, and very small bezels can be good as long as they are there with a purpose, and not because of laziness and cost reasons. And why put Apple in the same boat with LG and Samsung ? They are at opposite ends of the spectrum. If you look at their current offerings on the market, rumors aside, Apple phones have some the biggest bezels in the industry, except maybe Google Pixel phones which have even more hilarious bezels.

38. nctx77

Posts: 2540; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

That's because your comparing a 2016 phone to a 2017 phone. Sure that's what's currently on the market, but we are a few months from their 2017 offering. To continue to act like the iPhone 8(edition) isn't real is foolish!!

46. omnitech

Posts: 1131; Member since: Sep 28, 2016

It's not. Watch. You will see in September, lol

12. Guaire

Posts: 886; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

He is suffering from lack of information and bigotry. I'm afraid so many people will believe this nonsense article.

55. Feanor

Posts: 1365; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

I think the 'comments' section is populated by 15 year old kids. The article is right. Take the S8 as an example: 1) the screen is 5.8" but it shows content of a 5.3" screen because of the same width with a 5.3" screen. Pictures, text, videos, everything is limited to what a 5.3" 16:9 screen would display. 2) when you watch videos and 16:9 pictures, you get black bars. Same as if you had real bezels. 3) bezels are really useful to hold your phone in landscape mode to thumb type, or in order to reach the lowest parts of the screen in portrait mode without risking dropping the phone. 4) the S8 shows the same size of content with a 5.3" phone but the notification bar is as hard to reach as on a 6" phone. 5) as the article states, bezels protect screens from shattering. Now someone find me 5 serious reasons why the S8 lack of bezels is of any use.

59. juandante

Posts: 679; Member since: Apr 23, 2013

Because it gives the consumer CHOICES. Because it moves the technology FORWARD. Because by all means this hand holding edges is a weak argument, there is SOFTWARE TO PREVENT ACCIDENTAL PRESS. Because we now have phones with BETTER DESIGN. On OLED screens and good LCD screens WE DON'T CARE ABOUT VIDEOS because there will be invisible black bars, so nothing different form ugly bezels phones, except that we can choose or not to activate them. The only part where bezels are efficient is for the screen protection. But is it necessary when the phone is made of titanium? Stupid article and your comment is as well stupid.

63. Feanor

Posts: 1365; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

You call it CHOICE , I call it marketing trick. You call the technology FORWARD thinking, I call a technology which hasn't found its use and, on the contrary, makes the design less ergonomic a MARKETING TRICK. You call the bezeless body BETTER design, I call bezeless body irrelevant to good design. There's so much more to good design, ergonomics, materials, colours, play between different surface treatments. You also failed to contest the objective truth, that the S8 fits in the end of the day the content of a 5.3" phone into a 5.3" body with the additional screen height just hampering ergonomics. It's just the objective reality, face it.

74. JC557

Posts: 1919; Member since: Dec 07, 2011

It is kind of ironic that people buy super slim phones with nearly bezeless screens only to case them up adding bulk.

66. Guaire

Posts: 886; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

Article is full of ****. 1, 2) True, but irrelevant with minimal bezel designs. It's the results of new aspect ratios. 3, 4) Not a concern for everyone. Most people have two hands. 5) Utter BS. When you drop it, layer of glass shatters, not the screen. Front glass of iPhones for example are edge to edge literally and it shatters not the display unit. Especially flexible OLEDs CAN'T shatter even if it's literally edge to edge since organic LEDs are printed on a layer of plastic. Frame of the Mi Mix is made of f****** ceramic and it has an LCD unit which has a glass layer inside. A plastic OLED framed with either plastic or metal would produce a different result. Front glass probably would shatter but as I said before, glass is edge to edge anyway. The S8 has plenty of bezels but less than most. Whole point of reduced bezels is squeezing more screen into a smartphone. Today smartphones are mobile computers. Mobile phone feature is just a small part of them. They are most popular web browsers, most popular cameras, they are media consumption devices, they are ebook readers etc. Bigger screen is useful. Less bezels means more screen. That's simple.

70. Feanor

Posts: 1365; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

Dream on... Less bezels on an S8 means same content size as on a 5.3" phone plus notification bar out if reach. A useful bezeless phone would be one which would retain the 16:9 ratio, but there is a reason why Samsung and LG didn't do it; it's because bezeless phones with the classic 16:9 ratio look short and fat (like the Mi Mix and the old Xperia ZL) and Samsung and LG were too scared to alienate people with fat proportions. So in the end they just replaced the usual bezel space with added screen resulting into a pure marketing trick, because the unchanged width pretty much defines content size. And it's not just pictures and video. Websites too are displayed roughly as big as on an S7 with a 5.1" screen.

72. Guaire

Posts: 886; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

Are you high? It's completely irrelevant with bezelless design. I have criticized new ASPECT RATIO too, maybe even before you.

81. R0bert

Posts: 9; Member since: May 31, 2017

2:1 aspect ratio is not a gimmick, it is a format known as Univisium and there is plenty of content being produced that you will see as time moves on. 16:9 aspect screens where a compromise beween movie 2.35:1 aspect and TV's 4:3. Now that 4:3 content is no longer produced, Univisium is a better compromise between movies and current television formats.

87. TheOracle1

Posts: 2259; Member since: May 04, 2015

"it's because bezeless phones with the classic 16:9 ratio look short and fat (like the Mi Mix and the old Xperia ZL) and Samsung and LG were too scared to alienate people with fat proportions." The Mi Mix is only 4mm wider than the iPhone 7 Plus and only 0.06mm taller. That's by no means short and fat.

71. Guaire

Posts: 886; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

I forgot to say few things. Despite author's claim today technology reached to the level to making all around virtually bezelless phones within reasonable budgets. Lack of them is not related to the insane costs or lack of technologies. Someone will dare to do that soon. Lets look at that image supposedly debunks edge to edge design. 2 cutouts for speakers, another 2 for proximity sensor and LED notification light. Today overwhelming majority of smartphones doesn't have front facing stereo speakers. Sharp Aquos Crystal and later Xiaomi Mi Mix get rid of earpiece and proximity sensor too. If you have an OLED screen you don't need a dedicated LED notification light. And you can't get rid of front camera too with a flip camera design like Huawei Honor 7i. Problem solved. It's no magic.

96. Skizzo

Posts: 403; Member since: Jul 14, 2013

All your arguments about the aspect ratio are true...for right now. However, the industry keeps moving forward. Our TVs used to all be in 4:3, and all content was filmed in 4:3, then Hollywood stared filming in 16:9, and out tech followed (in order to avoid black bars on the top and bottom.) Now there is already a shift being made to the 2:1 (18:9) aspect ratio, with more and more new content to come in that ratio, so while the content we view NOW will have small black bars, soon it will not. The new display ration however, allows a bigger screen to be implemented into a phone that is still easy to grip with one hand, which is another reason that OEMs are moving in that direction. It's progress my friend.

14. Bankz

Posts: 2543; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

New tech doesn't always make sense at first until someone nails it and gives us good reasons to move forward. By his logic we would still remain in the floppy disc, video tape era..

53. LionStone

Posts: 1048; Member since: Dec 10, 2010

Well nobody has nailed it...so, his point is valid. A great new design should not also allow a great compromise and that would be the vulnerability to breakage with the curved display on the S8.

68. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

WRONG! The point is its depends on what you like. If you don't like Samsung's version and prefer Apple's then so be it. It has been nailed. Just depends on what you consider it as being in your own mind.

21. Nine1Sickness

Posts: 896; Member since: Jan 30, 2011

The 98% of the earths surface is covered by salty water.

23. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

It's more like 70% ish...

31. joeytaylor

Posts: 957; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

That's it...... I thought we were supposed to be swimming in water by now

67. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Well 71%(or 70%ish as you stated) of the earth is covered in water. 97% of it is in the oceans or is salty. The rest is fresh water found in rivers, lakes. streams, lagoons...or whatever they want to call them these days :-)

82. Sammy_DEVIL737

Posts: 1529; Member since: Nov 28, 2016

Hahaha

28. bucknassty

Posts: 1337; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

Until apple says we need less bezel then PA will not agree we need less bezel

36. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

Just another apple presstitute trying so hard to downplay the non-fruity competition until the divine fruit copies the competition 2 or 3 years later...

3. byazatt

Posts: 316; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

I want to hear what this writer's comment will be like after the so much taunted bezel less iPhone 8. I think the story will be bezel less is magical.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.