The iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8 may come with 'edge-to-edge' screens, how is that possible?


"Edge-to-edge," "bezel-less," "all-glass," "90% screen-to-body" - these are all terms bandied about by analysts and "insider sources" when it comes to the upcoming 2017 flagships from the world's top phone makers Apple and Samsung. We don't need to sell you on the benefits of having the largest possible screen area in the smallest possible footprint without compromising ergonomics and ease of use, of course, but if you can't help but wonder how Apple or Samsung are going to achieve it, look no further than this primer.

TL;DR


Flexible OLED displays with plastic substrates, under-glass finger scanners, piezoelectric earpieces, sonar proximity sensors - the technology for an edge-to-edge Galaxy S8 or iPhone 8 is already out there!



In one sunny day in mid-April, reputed Apple analyst Ming-chi Kuo dropped the bombshell that next year's iPhone will have an "all-glass enclosure." Wait, why was he talking about the iPhone 8 when the iPhone 7 was still in a prototyping stage? Well, because apparently Apple was moving to а tick-tock-tock upgrade cycle, and the big design overhaul that usually happens every other year, has been spared for the tenth anniversary of the OG iPhone that just happens to be in 2017.

Since then, many "bezel-less" or "edge-to-edge" rumors have pointed to an iPhone 8 that will be mostly screen at the front, which, coupled with the rumored move away from metal for the chassis, might explain the "all-glass enclosure" prediction. This also jibes in with the parallel speculation that there will be a "premium" iPhone 8 model with curved 5.8" flexible OLED display with 5.2" active area - the panel's cover glass might fuse almost seamlessly with the glass chassis, similar to what Samsung did to the sides of the Note 7, but with even less bezel at the top and bottom. 

The other tricks Apple might be employing for this OLED-based iPhone, is embedding the home button/finger scanner duties, as well as the light and proximity sensors, under the display itself, and moving the front camera at the bottom, while replacing the earpiece with "something terrific" as president-elect Trump likes to say. Are there any Apple patents that hint at such moves? You bet, check them out below:



Moving on to the Galaxy S8. Coincidentally enough, it is also rumored to undergo a major redesign, and sport an edge-to-edge, bezel-less display at the front. Rumors about this one go even further - the current speculation is that Samsung may enlarge the screens of the two expected S8 models to soother the pains of Note 7 fans, and go all the way to 5.5" and 6.2" flexible OLED panels, curved at the sides, including the top, in order to achieve an overall footprint similar to the sizes of the S7 and S7 edge now. 

The S8 is rumored to ditch the home key for under-the-glass solutions, too, so that “Samsung Display would roll out a full-screen display whose display area ratio reaches more than 90 percent next year,” as per the words of Park Won-sang, a Samsung Display researcher. Samsung's VP of mobile Lee Kyeong-tae also chimes in that the upcoming Galaxy S8 will feature a "slick design." Has Samsung patented some of the technology needed to get there? It has, just look at those patent filings below:




If you think that the "all-glass" iPhone 8 or the "full-screen" Galaxy S8 rumors are too futuristic and out there to be true, they are not, especially for the richest company in the world, and its chief competitor in the phone realm. These technologies already exist, and some of them are even in phones you can get right now - the Xiaomi Mi Mix concept, or Sharp's Aquos line come to mind. Others have been announced and shopped around to phone makers by their inventors, but are not yet present in a handset. So, what are the engineering tricks Apple and Samsung might employ to get to the eventual "bezel-less" iPhone 8 or Galaxy S8?

Display


The common theme in the rumors about the iPhone 8 and S8 is that they will utilize OLED displays. While that's nothing surprising for Samsung, which has been donning Super AMOLED screens since the S1, it will be a first for Apple. Given how Apple has mastered the LCD screen craft, with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus the first to sport wide color displays with automatic support for the DCI-P3 gamut, it's hard to imagine a move to OLED because LCD has hit its limits for the team from Cupertino. That's not even mentioning the supply and yield issues that would arise from a complete move to OLED, given that Samsung has a near-monopoly on those, with LG, Sharp and some others picking up the slack.

It's more likely that Apple may have chosen OLED for the "premium" iPhone 8 model because of the only characteristic that LCD panels can't go up against - the ability to produce OLEDs on a plastic, instead of glass substrate, so they can flex without breaking, and still retain the image shown. Those bendy OLED panels can stretch all the way to the edges of a phone, and even waterfall from all sides towards the rear, making for one uninterrupted, bezel-less, all-glass look. 


Such a design, for instance, allowed the Note 7 to be the narrowest, most compact Note ever, including the 5.3" OG Note, and might have something to do with the claims that the iPhone 8 and S8 will fit larger screens in bodies with the current footprint of Apple or Samsung flagships.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Dimensions

6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches

158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm

Weight

6.63 oz (188 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Dimensions

6.04 x 2.91 x 0.31 inches

153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm

Weight

5.96 oz (169 g)

OnePlus 3T

OnePlus 3T

Dimensions

6.01 x 2.94 x 0.29 inches

152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm

Weight

5.57 oz (158 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Dimensions

5.94 x 2.86 x 0.3 inches

150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm

Weight

5.54 oz (157 g)

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Dimensions

6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches

158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm

Weight

6.63 oz (188 g)

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Dimensions

6.04 x 2.91 x 0.31 inches

153.5 x 73.9 x 7.9 mm

Weight

5.96 oz (169 g)

OnePlus 3T

OnePlus 3T

Dimensions

6.01 x 2.94 x 0.29 inches

152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm

Weight

5.57 oz (158 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

Dimensions

5.94 x 2.86 x 0.3 inches

150.9 x 72.6 x 7.7 mm

Weight

5.54 oz (157 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page



Sensors and front cameras reshuffle



Now, these are tricky. At the top bezel area of today's phones, we are used to seeing plenty of indispensable components nesting comfortably - the earpiece slit, the front camera, the light and proximity sensors, the notification blinker, and even LED flashes or iris scanners. Where will those go if there is no, or a very minimal top bezel?

Well, there are precedents. Sharp was the first to pave the way with its EDGEST phone line, and we even got one of its phones that sold in the US on Sprint as a living proof the top bezel can go. What Sharp did is fit a very narrow earpiece slit towards the top of the frame, and move the sensors as well as the selfie snapper to the bottom bezel that would otherwise be pretty devoid of components. as its phones feature on-screen keys. The later iterations of its EDGEST chassis, like the Sharp Aquos Crystal, ditched the earpiece altogether, for the sake of a direct wave receiver that vibrates the entire screen to produce sound – similar to the bone conduction technology we’ve seen implemented by other phones. 

That is the same premise used in what is perhaps the closest you can get now to an edge-to-edge display phone, the Xiaomi Mi Mix. This one deserves a special mention, as it fits a 6.4" panel in a body more akin to a 5.7" phone. It places the tiniest selfie snapper that could be found at the bottom, uses piezoelectric ceramic acoustic system for phone calls, and replaces the typical infrared proximity sensor with a sonar of sorts. 

According to most reports, these all work as advertised, save for the ceramic resonance which is not as loud in phone calls, as one would get with a regular earpiece slit and speaker combo. Funny enough, fusing it all together was done with the ancient mortise and tenon technique instead of copious amounts of adhesive, but we doubt this would be the assembly tech on the iPhone 8 or Galaxy S8, as these likely will need to be waterproof, too.

Pesky home buttons


There is no denying that if Apple gets rid of the circular home key it's had on iPhones from day one, it will be able to fill much more of the front area with screen. Currently, both the smaller and the larger iPhone models aren't exactly poster kids for the bezel-less future, and the circular shape of the home button, physical or pressure-sensitive, has a lot to do with it. Samsung gets away a bit easier, since it employs a more squished, elliptical finger scanner, but still its bottom bezels aren't what they could be if there was no home key. 

Therefore, getting rid of the home buttons would work wonders towards a bezel-less future, and, with the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8 both likely to sport pressure-sensitive displays, some sort of physical feedback could still be there for the nostalgic, too. Just look how the 6" Mate 9 with no home button and on-screen navigation keys fits in the footprint of the 5.5" 7 Plus in our size comparison below.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Dimensions

6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches

158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm

Weight

6.63 oz (188 g)

Huawei Mate 9

Huawei Mate 9

Dimensions

6.18 x 3.11 x 0.31 inches

156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.70 oz (190 g)

Apple iPhone 7

Apple iPhone 7

Dimensions

5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches

138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm

Weight

4.87 oz (138 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

Dimensions

5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches

142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm

Weight

5.36 oz (152 g)

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Dimensions

6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches

158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm

Weight

6.63 oz (188 g)

Huawei Mate 9

Huawei Mate 9

Dimensions

6.18 x 3.11 x 0.31 inches

156.9 x 78.9 x 7.9 mm

Weight

6.70 oz (190 g)

Apple iPhone 7

Apple iPhone 7

Dimensions

5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches

138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm

Weight

4.87 oz (138 g)

Samsung Galaxy S7

Samsung Galaxy S7

Dimensions

5.61 x 2.74 x 0.31 inches

142.4 x 69.6 x 7.9 mm

Weight

5.36 oz (152 g)

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page




Finger scanners


One of the problems with creating an edge-to-edge display phone might be the now-obligatory finger scanner. Of course, those can be moved tothe back, like on the Mi Mix, and a lot of other big-screen phones out there, and this would make it easier to operate them when holding the phone with one hand, but you still have to pick up the phone and do it, even if you just want to check on a message when the phone is lying flat on the desk next to you.

Enter a few under-the-glass finger scanning technologies that might hint at what's to come with the iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8 next year. The Koreans from Crucial Tek were first to announce such a solution, then Qualcomm's ultrasonic one followed, and the Synaptics juggernaut wasn't far behind. One of these technologies below might be just what the doctor ordered so that the iPhone 8 and S8 ditch the home key/finger scanner combo for good.




It may not be an accident that Xiaomi outed the Mi Mix, or that Huawei and Meizu are rumored to be working on phones with an edge-to-edge display, too. Every bit of analysts' speculation or insider tip points out that Apple and Samsung are prepping such devices for next year. 

Given how the Mi Note 2 followed the Note 7 design before its demise, or how Huawei announced a phone with pressure-sensitive display a week before the 3D Touch-laden iPhone 6s, we can see a pattern here. The Chinese juggernauts may be scrambling to create alternatives to the rumored bezel-less iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8, as they are accustomed to, which may serve as a tangential proof that where there is smoke, there usually is fire, too. 

The technology to build a phone that is 90%+ screen at the front is already out there, as we showed you above, and Samsung or Apple aren't exactly spring chickens when it comes to handset manufacturing. Now, the ergonomics and software side of things for the edge-to-edge era are still up in the air, but a largely bezel-less device - puhlease, said Sharp and Xiaomi - it's totally doable for the world's most profitable phone makers. What do you think?


Edge-to-edge iPhone 8 concept images: Matteo Gentile

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Galaxy S8
  • Display 5.8" 1440 x 2960 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, Octa-core, 2350 MHz
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  • Battery 3000 mAh(30h talk time)

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35 Comments

1. sissy246

Posts: 7035; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

I my self will hate to see Bezel less Samsung phones. I like some bezels. The side bezels on the note 5 are just fine and I don't mind the top and bottom but if anything just make top and bottom smaller.

8. Bankz

Posts: 2515; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Yeah. On a second thought, the bezels on the iphones are actually perfect. Especially for comfort, landscape viewing and less accidental presses. Though the edge to edge bezels will be crazy though (and NO! I don't mean it in an MI MIX kind of way as I consider that phone ugly AF)

28. joevsyou

Posts: 1091; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

you think the iphone bezels are perfect? you kidding right? the 4.7inch screen models are bigger than my 5.2 galaxy

33. sgtdisturbed47

Posts: 965; Member since: Feb 02, 2012

iPhone bezels have historically been large because Apple doesn't like the idea of just gluing everything together in a tight sandwich. Repairing an iPhone is a lot easier because of how they've designed it. If they do smaller bezels (iPhone users typically don't care), then they'll also have to figure out a way to keep repairability easy. As long as they don't turn to severely curved edge glass, I'll be happy. That crap is only feasible by Samsung's "glue everything together" standards.

37. coldspring22

Posts: 349; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

Sorry, Android phones are better than iphone when it comes to repairability and screen/bezel ratio! LG G4 has 73% screen ratio, and got score of 8 on ifixit teardown. Meanwhile iphone 7 has 65% screen ratio and got only score of 7 on ifixit teardown! Apple tends to make all products unrepairable to increase turover (think Apple macbooks with glue everywhere!). That's apple business plan. Android beats iphone's non-fixiability anyday!

34. nodes

Posts: 1154; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

in term of comfortable use, yes. had LG G2, it's great in pocket, but not when using it. bezels are too thin especially the sides.

2. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

Eh, bezel has several advantages, it protects the screen, but ALSO it allows you somewhere to grip the phone without triggering screen. I enjoy my sgs7 edge, but I need a case or I simply can't hold it without near constantly triggering the screen because I have large hands apparently? or at least according to how it is designed?

5. Daniel.P

Posts: 127; Member since: Jul 14, 2011

True, edge-to-edge is certainly achievable from an engineering standpoint, but how will palm-rejection be executed, and how will software be augmented to cope with the unique "bezel-less challenges", remains to be seen...

24. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

How about a case that fits such a design to help protect it? How you going to make a case when you cant cover the sides because of no bezels?

18. Mobilephile

Posts: 165; Member since: Nov 25, 2012

"Our phones have fat bezels to protect your screen and for your fat fingers", said no phone manufacturer ever.

31. xondk

Posts: 1904; Member since: Mar 25, 2014

If only it was that, Genuinely large hands (from what it seems designed towards) simply cannot grip without fingers accidentally touching screen. If you do not have the problem, cool, be happy, those that do, well our man hands are apparently too big for the phone designs? or maybe designers have tiny hands?

3. duartix

Posts: 311; Member since: Apr 01, 2014

Do these numbers mean that now there is 90% chance the display will break when it hits the floor?

11. Bankz

Posts: 2515; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Oh yes! Or maybe apple will employ a saphire display. If this happens though, many tech sites will turn having a saphire into a must have and a con if not included. *cough*PA*cough*

14. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1313; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

The next iPhone will be thinner which means thinner and weaker sapphire of it's used.

26. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

No one is going to use a Sapphire display because unless they perfect a way to make a man-made one vs using natural sapphire which is in very short supply and is very expensive, its not going to happen. EVER! Sapphire is one of the rarest minerals on the planet. That is why it is use for small things. That's why Apple bought a company tryign to make faux sapphire, like they do fauz diamonds. The process takes a small piece of real sapphire as a seed, and they try to use a machine which reies to duplicaed God's way of making such. Doesn't work. That's why Apple dropepd the idea and used what was yield for the glass to cover the home button and camera lens. Because the part is smaller and can have better yields results See the man-made process is very faulty. Out of 100 yields, less than 25% would actually be useful. The process takes months to do, and something that requires high yields will fail. Supply would never meet demand. You wont see sapphire glass used anytime soon if ever!

25. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

99% chance.

6. CX3NT3_713

Posts: 2348; Member since: Apr 18, 2011

PA, you been saying that, for the past last 5 years

7. Bankz

Posts: 2515; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Design is the only thing that'll be exciting next year cause I see nothing new coming out in the smartphone world for the forseeable future. That being said, the iphone and samsung will kill it next year on design. I'm actually wondering which'll look better as they seem to be mostly thesame rumored design philosphy. If apple brings on the touchbar to the iphone 8 then it will be over for samsung. Samsung are really lucky to be first in releasing flagships otherwise.. Well, you know the rest! As for the camera, I feel samsung will still continue to own apple for some more years to come. I just really hope that samsung incorporates truly awesome tech in their dual camera system and that they put a secondary display on the edges of the screen (like the original galaxy note edge in a more rigid note 7 body). That'll be the best looking phone on planet earth if it happens (assuming apple ignores the touch bar on the iphone 8)

9. waqas.mehmood2

Posts: 55; Member since: Nov 21, 2015

I dont like the idea of bazel less smartphone ..note 7 bazzels are perfect very minimal ..home button is hallmark of iphone if this gone iphone will loose charm

10. John-Knotts

Posts: 380; Member since: Feb 28, 2015

Yes. The days of dropping ones phone must now end.

12. wando77

Posts: 1167; Member since: Aug 23, 2012

Apple are going to achieve this because samsung are making it for them. And no other reason. Apple don't have the technical knowhow to actually make the screens etc

13. Bankz

Posts: 2515; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Cracked screens will now become a feature :D and the market for screens will now be the most profitable.

15. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1313; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

I can see it now. Manufacturers selling 300 million phones a year and 500+ million replacement screens. Screen manufacturers may soon start doing brisk business.

16. CreeDiddy

Posts: 2135; Member since: Nov 04, 2011

2017 is going to be an awesome year! Can't wait to see whats in store for Samsung and Apple.

17. Mobilephile

Posts: 165; Member since: Nov 25, 2012

Like it or not, bezel-less/full-screen devices are the future. Touch rejection sw will be optimized for all these new devices.

19. Bankz

Posts: 2515; Member since: Apr 08, 2016

Well.. You definitely have a point there.

20. Alex11092

Posts: 30; Member since: Jun 25, 2015

Wow, the best article I have ever read on this site.

22. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

^ And this article was quite longer than usual. The Galaxy S8 is giving me goosebumps already!

21. Mreveryphone

Posts: 1806; Member since: Apr 22, 2014

In the article there was a mention of a "active screen area" or something like that. I'm sure the "edge" parts of the screen would just be there for looks and not have an active digitizer in that area.

23. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Funny how it seems PA is all gung-ho for Apple to possible use flexible displays that wrap around the phone. But when Samsung was first talking about such, everyone was talking about how gimmicky and useless it is and a waste of time and money. Those articles mentioned so much negativity towards Samsung, yet this article contains none against Apple. How about some negative as to why its a bad design. If you have a phone like the ones in the picture, where do you put a case to protect such a design? With no bezel, what will protect it when dropped? If the screen does indeed be on the top and sides like it shows in the render, where do you put the case? Will they design some type of snap on feature for the back? But if you do, you can' cover the sides, so how do you protect that? The S6/S7/Note 7 phones all break easy if the side of the phone makes contact with an object. Example, My Note 7 (original one) was sitting on the table and charging. I knocked it down, but was able to save it from hitting the floor by grabbing the cable. But the side of the phone hit the side of the charge and it cracked the glass right on the edge. Drop tests have shown that the glass is vulnerable mostly right on the curve of the glass itself. It is a nice eye-catching design, but it is flawed because it can't be protected. For a device you will handled 100's of times in a day or in an hour for many, the phone is going to be dropped at some point. What is going to be done to prevent breakage. And all those Samsung hating hypocrites who spoke against curved displays and saying its a useless gimmick, which I don't understand how a design to make the phone look good, which is its actual purpose can be gimmicky to begin with, are now going to have a similar design, yet I don't see PA or Apple fans speaking it against it. But for the last to years, we heard you all saying that yes it looks good, but that the design is useless and gimmicky, and already PA's tone has changed into sounding like they are looking forward to it, even calling it "ground-breaking". Just like us people who always have bought Samsung products or Android say about you hypocrites, everything is terrible and gimmicky and useless then you guys don't have it. You ridicule call names and pick fights, only for 3 years later to have the same thing, doing the exact same thing and because Apple is doing it, its now ground-breaking and appears to be a good idea. HYPOCRITES! That's why its so stupid when you idiot try to argue the iPhone is better. if its better than why is it every 3 years or so, Apple phone ends up being what we had 3 years before it? what is Apple going to bring to the curved displaythat Samsung hasn't done already? The whole point of the curved display was to progressively make the phone eventually become bezel-less. This was simply an evolutionary step in that direction. But Samsung decided to also add some usage other than just looks. Apple?

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