Smartphone displays need a bezel. Here's why

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Smartphone displays need a bezel. Here's why
Back in the day before the iPhone 4S, rumor had it that the successor of the iPhone 4 would have a larger display. Furthermore, it was speculated that the iPhone 5, as it was referred to back then, would have a display with no bezel. Or in other words, an edge-to-edge touchscreen. These rumors turned out to be completely wrong.

But the rumor mill knows no rest. It is now speculated that the Samsung Galaxy S III (which has yet to be made official, by the way) will have a display without a bezel on its left and right sides. What's more is that Samsung is allegedly working on another smartphone – the Samsung Galaxy B, which will also lack a bezel around the sides of its display.

Sounds awesome, right? Well, not really. You see, the bezel surrounding your smartphone's display has at least several very good reasons for being there, and we are going to go over them right now.

Firstly, a bezel adds structural integrity to the smartphone and protects it from accidental bumps and drops. If its display extended all the way to the handset's sides, its glass surface would be a lot more vulnerable to cracking. Besides, bezels are there to make touchscreens easier to use. If you are not so sure about that, try the following: get your smartphone and hold it comfortably with a single hand. Now try to touch its display on the side, which is opposite of your thumb. Chances are that the lower part of your thumb will be in contact with or really close to the device's bezel, and if that were sensitive to touch, your smartphone would have a hard time registering your input properly.

The bezel around a smartphone's display is there for a reason

The bezel around a smartphone's display is there for a reason

But having a bezel around a smartphone's display is not only practical. It also makes the display more pleasant to look at. Let us put it this way: have you ever wondered why pictures tend to look better in a frame? The answer to that has a lot to do with the way we perceive images. You see, a frame acts as a border between the picture and the background, against which it is viewed, thus making it look complete and giving it individuality. As a result, the image stands out as it is separated from its surroundings, which makes it easier for our brain to assimilate the visual information. The bezel on your smartphone's display works in a similar way. Without a bezel, it would be harder for our brains to focus on whatever is displayed on the smartphone's screen, or at least that is the theory.

In a nutshell, eliminating the bezel around a smartphone's display may sound like the next big thing in handset design, but it may turn out to be a not so good idea due to the reasons we just described. However, we are not saying that a smartphone without a display bezel is impossible to make. It is just that whichever company decides to make it should have ways to tackle the aforementioned issues. For example, ensuring that the touchscreen does not register accidental finger contact may be possible with some clever programming.

So, guys and girls, what is your take on the matter? Are display bezels bound for extinction, or are they here to stay? Feel free to share your opinion with us by dropping a comment below.

Mock-up courtesy of Netaholics

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51 Comments

1. itiswhatitis

Posts: 423; Member since: Jan 23, 2012

Well now that I know,will probably stay!

46. gkquiambao

Posts: 62; Member since: Nov 23, 2011

imagine this: a phone with no bezel on top/bottom and left/right but the part where the bezel should had been is not sensitive to touch.

2. arcq12

Posts: 733; Member since: Oct 13, 2011

its like a car with no dashboard.. really.. lol

32. ledbetterp3

Posts: 467; Member since: Aug 31, 2011

Actually, it's more like a phone with no bezel..

3. josephnero

Posts: 776; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

i dont mind bezel on my phone as long as its not too big

4. kmix1987

Posts: 10; Member since: Dec 07, 2010

I think another problem that we will see without having a bezel will be the phone case issue. I mean usually phone cases clip on to the area on the left and the right side of the phone, so without the bezel, it would just be on top or bottom, depending on how the phone is created.

42. yourfather

Posts: 5; Member since: Dec 24, 2011

Well, if there was no bezel on the sides, but there is on the top and bottom, than there would definitely be cases and clips specifically designed to fit that/those phone(s). It's the similar principal to most of the cell phone accessories at say Wal-Mart being mostly iPhone integrated. In conclusion, there wouldn't be a problem anyway.

5. jamrockjones

Posts: 345; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

I don’t totally agree. If the screen was huge than yes you’d accidentally touch the screen, but I just tried it on my Marquee and I didn’t touch the sides when reaching my hand over. Plus if the frame part were true why are manufactures now making televisions with now bezel, cause it’s feakin sweet. I think the concept of a big screen with less bezel means that it fits better in my pocket and in my hand is awesome, hope they at least try it.

14. tomn1ce

Posts: 247; Member since: Mar 12, 2012

I touched the opposite side of my G-Nexus just using my thumb and I didn't come close in touching the screen for the lower part of my thumb. I don't think that the bezel has to completely disapear from the phone but make it smaller. A 1mm to 2mm side bezels should be good enough for those of us who put a protective case on our devices. At the same time the screen size can increase with the extra space that the bezel would give up. The top and bottom bezel can be reduced as well. As it stands right now the G-Nexus has about 12.7mm on the top and bottom of the screen. If that area gets reduces to about half the length, the screen can be made bigger in the same 4.65" screen size chasis.

15. Jimstar

Posts: 259; Member since: Oct 24, 2011

If the screen was huge...or your hands were. The way I hold my Bionic, I'd definitely get accidental presses if it weren't for the bezel. And those bezel-less TV's are still unproven, how about we wait for them to make a dent in the sales department before using them as justification.

21. Fallout09

Posts: 421; Member since: Oct 17, 2011

Bezel-less TVs rock. I currently have a 55" Samsung LED tv with the razor thin clear bezel and it look awsome on my living room wall. I love the look of a floating piture.

25. deago78

Posts: 162; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

Thats on the background of a white (or some other solid color) wall though. It may be easy to differentiate between the picture and the background there, but not so easy in the case of the smart phone where the background is changing every second based on where you're holding your phone

6. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

"bezel free" gets tossed out alot, but in reality its just "greatly reduced bezel" it will aways be there.. otherwise we would be able to hold the phone to the side and see the internal parts. :) I enjoyed the article. The answer to the accidental touch question has already been answered. The outter edges of the screen are "less sensitive" to touch than the center parts in displays like this, making accidental skin brushes b y the flesh of your thumb on the side less likely. Also, if you use samsung's flexible OLED technology, that reduces the amount of damage that the phone will take without the bezel. With a screen that no longer needs to be fixed tightly, breaks from accidental bumps are also reduced.. with or without the bezel. We've all seen the samsung development test where they bash the thing with a hammer and it doesnt take a mark. If samsung uses both techs (that theyve developed) in the upcoming SGS3 with its severely reduced bezel, i think its going to be all gravy. Apple could not have pulled it off as samsung isnt about to give them their best screen tech.. they turned them down for Amoled use, and im sure they are not about to change that. Without samsung's tech advances in this very field, every one of your points would be 100% true... and the phone would be about as breakable as eggshell china.

10. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

Also, i felt i should throw in that looking at a picture with a bezel and a screen with the bezel are not the same. Generally the picture is lit with the same light as in the rest of the room. The bezel gives it a focus for our brains as we thus are able to reduce the noise from the rest of the field of vision (aka, everything but that picture is pretty much ignored by the brain). On a monitor/tv/phone, that does not happen the same as these sources are backlit and generally brighter than everything else around it. Our mind automatically picks up the screen area and reduces that "background noise" with or without a frame. The cones and rods in our eyes adjust to the light and everything else is darkened slightly. Its like when you first walk outside and everything is bright as hell, but after a minute it stops hurting because your eyes adjust. It just happens on a more focused scale.

7. jan25

Posts: 470; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

i guess every phone manufacturer wants to revolutionize their phone designs but surely a bezel-less phones is impractical.

8. Captain_Doug

Posts: 1037; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

The bezel on the Razr kills me. Just too much. I do agree that a phone needs a protecting layer of rubber or metal or whatever around the edge but i hate the part of the screen around the edges that's still glass but isn't part of the display. I would very much like to have a 5" screen in a 4.3" chassis and it's totally possible with a 16X9 AR and on screen buttons. I'm surprised it hasn't happened yet. So far the G-nex and D quad have come closest but everything else feels/looks too massive to be of use with one hand.

28. Cwebb

Posts: 501; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

Yea, when I first say the Razr I thought of how big and bad the bezel looks on it, and then the horrid dimensions.

38. u-suck-more

Posts: 529; Member since: Aug 26, 2011

Have you met the Optimus Sol? lol. thr is wayyyyyyy too much bezel on the Sol

9. andro.

Posts: 1999; Member since: Sep 16, 2011

We don't want bezel free just minimal bezel. Especially massive unnecessary bezel top and bottom of the screen,this google has aimed to remove by having no physical menu buttons and no doubt the galaxy s3 will have a reduced top and bottom bezel The iphone top and bottom bezel is huge for instance and will continue to be so because of the screen being stuck in the old non widescreen format.

11. tward291

Posts: 559; Member since: Feb 14, 2012

the only form that a bezel-less would be impractical is on a tablet

12. rhinoceros

Posts: 33; Member since: Mar 01, 2012

What Andro said

13. VJo003

Posts: 365; Member since: Mar 11, 2012

May be they will use some industrial strength toughened glass which will negate the need of having a bezel

16. VebbX

Posts: 41; Member since: Feb 26, 2012

Soz, but they have to go, the new thing will be smart covers over the screen. Like a liquid! Soulja Boy, super solve it!

17. Jeromeo

Posts: 135; Member since: Jan 11, 2010

Could someone please create a design that doesn't leave a gap which traps finger oils, dust, dirt, and gunk in between the edge of the bezel and the screen glass?

18. gallitoking

Posts: 4721; Member since: May 17, 2011

remember when I said that no bezel. no way... this supports my theory... in a way

26. EclipseGSX

Posts: 1770; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

No one remembers or cares what you say m'kay

30. gallitoking

Posts: 4721; Member since: May 17, 2011

even better that way i have the liberty to say what i pleased.. thanks for the heads up

29. Cwebb

Posts: 501; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

This just in, Apple announces the iPhone 4$2 will have no bezel... Your thoughts?

33. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

I'll remember that when the i5 bezel free rumors start coming in..

19. JoshuaSailor

Posts: 1; Member since: Mar 12, 2012

What I'd like to see is a tablet with the entire front surface being the screen. No bezel AT ALL ANYWHERE. Edge to edge like a boss. Then just leave a black boarder all the way around that would be reserved for navigation/task management/etc. Kind of like the Galaxy Nexus except have one side dedicated to navigation (Back/Forward/Home/Stop/Reload/Whatev is needed), have one side be reserved for task switching, have side reserved for App specific menus/features, etc. The idea isn't perfect and would require more thought from a design/use perspective, but it seems like it'd be easy to follow, easy to use, and hard to mess up. Plus, it'd get rid of a whole bunch of layering that tends to occur, hiding useful features. Another option would be to allow customization of the sides. IE widget type apps. Make the top bezel contain stock quotes or a volume slider, etc. Maybe add multitouch swiping to allow switching between apps. Make it, prefereably, with a super amoled screen so that it could be ink black and any relevant buttons white. Have them automatically turn off after 30 seconds or something and bring them back by swiping left to right/top to bottom/whatev depending on user preference. If you want to hide them but don't want to wait 30 seconds, swipe the opposite way. This would prevent any accidental interaction, as tends to be one of the primary defenses for keeping the bezel. Obviously, I feel this would be most useful on tablets and not phones as there is much less precious screen real estate on phones. I feel like this could eliminate buttons entirely. (Though there will be some who will espouse the convenience of certain physical buttons, so maybe keep the power/lock buttons and such.) Another argument would be that it's a waste of pixels. There's no arguing this one. You either think it's a good use of pixels or you don't. Personally, I'd rather vastly increase my ability to multitask and use my tablet as a legitimate computer than be able to watch a video with an additional 1/2 inch of picture on each side. Finally, there's power consumption. Frankly, I find it hard to believe that the technology doesn't exist to make this pipe dream a reality with minimal battery drain. I mean, for all intents and purposes, even with all 4 bezels active, we'd be talking 25% of the pixels lit up and, for the majority of use, all 4 bezels would be off.

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