Why Apple and Samsung are not giving us a truly all-screen flagship

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Why Apple and Samsung are not giving us a truly all-screen flagship
I recently showed the Samsung Galaxy A80 to a friend and he was immediately impressed with the phone. "Why isn't this a flagship," he asked, wondering how he'd never heard of it. To me it made sense, but only because that's my job. To him, the Galaxy A80's sleek all-screen facade and "futuristic," as he called it, rotating camera and sliding design looked infinitely better and more advanced than the Galaxy S10's hole-punch display. And I can't argue with that, it does look cooler. Even the majority of our readers seem to agree, based on one of our recent polls. However, what may at first seem futuristic, is in fact nothing more than a compromise to eliminate one issue—in this case the hole-punch camera or notch—that creates other, arguably worse, problems in the grand scheme of things.

But the Galaxy A80 looks so much cooler and has a number of advantages over the Galaxy S10 flagship line. Right? For one, it doesn't have a notch or a hole in its screen. What's more, even though there's no dedicated selfie camera, you can now just use the main camera, which simply rotates to face you when needed. This means that you can take high-quality selfies, using all advantages of the triple camera setup on the A80, without compromising the beautiful, edge-to-edge display. So then, why are the flagship phones offered by Samsung, Apple, Huawei, LG, and all other major brands, just dull glass-and-metal slabs with all sorts of different notches and holes in their screens, while more affordable devices from some of the same companies are pushing the boundaries of smartphone design with sliding displays and pop-up cameras? Well, there's a couple of very, very good reasons for that.

It's not because the companies can't do it, but because it's not a good idea


Why Apple and Samsung are not giving us a truly all-screen flagship

Adventurous designs like those are something that smaller Chinese companies (read: with smaller market reach) would do, but Samsung and Huawei (Honor) have now embraced some of the more off-beat sensibilities in their more affordable smartphone lines. But the flagship models are all playing it safe with their solid-state designs, camera holes, and notches.

The number one reason for that would probably be because flagship lines are more popular and likely to sell more, and solid-state design is just more accident-proof. This may sound like a weird reason to shun away from futuristic sliding displays and turny-flippy cameras, but when you're selling a large volume, asking premium prices, and investing big in marketing, you want to deliver a reliable product that's likely to survive a couple of drops or some accidental exposure to the elements. The more people get their hands on a product, the more it is going to get abused. Simple as that. Phones with moving parts are simply more prone to mechanical problems and offer no water or dust protection, while solid-state designs have proven to be considerably more reliable.

Do you wish the Galaxy S10 had the A80 swiveling module?

Yes! What gives, Samsung?
54.76%
Nah... sliders and moving stuff... not for me.
45.24%
Our readers seem to agree that the Galaxy A80 is doing something right in its approach  

And the second major reason is that "weird" designs like those don't offer a meaningful improvement to the overall user experience. Sure, they solve the problem of having a notch or a punch-hole camera, but at what cost? My colleague Preslav recently shared the experiences he's had with various off-beat Chinese phones over the past couple of months. He describes himself as someone who's "barely into selfies," so he thought that the extra actions needed to actually get to the now hidden (or flat-out missing) selfie camera would not bother him much. Turns out, he was wrong:


Though there are people who may not fully agree with this opinion, it serves perfectly to illustrate just how essential the front-facing camera has become in smartphones – even to someone who's barely into selfies. Simply making an essential feature harder to access because we don't have the technology to create the most optimal design without some sort of compromise, is not the best idea ever.

Last year, we called the notch (and its derivatives) a stop-gap to the all-screen phone of the future. We can now safely say that slider phones and mechanized front-facing cameras are also a stop-gap, a temporary compromise—literal, structural compromise—on our way there. Which approach you prefer comes down to personal taste, but companies like Samsung and Huawei have good reasons to keep experimental solutions limited to a select number of markets and product lines, or to not adopt them at all in Apple's case.

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21 Comments

1. shield

Posts: 814; Member since: Sep 12, 2015

Xiaomi Mi mix 3 and Honor Magic 2, Lenovo Z5 Pro, and Oppo find X, rly better design without ugly notch or hole, but Only Oppo find X is really future design.

2. foreverNOOB

Posts: 146; Member since: Jul 07, 2017

+1 I think that Find X has the most minimalist design of them all with clean, uninterrupted by any camera holes on both front and back and display that being one of the most bezelless phones on the entire planet.

9. TheOracle1

Posts: 2027; Member since: May 04, 2015

The Find X introduces a host of extra problems with its design. It has to slide up every time in order to open and is a major flaw in my opinion. It's also as fragile as an egg when it comes to durability. The NexS style are still the best compromise whilst retaining the full screen.

3. SmartPhoneMobiles

Posts: 176; Member since: Oct 16, 2016

Bcos Huawei will be the 1st!

4. TheOracle1

Posts: 2027; Member since: May 04, 2015

Your colleague Preslav was commenting on slider designs (like the A80) and dual screen phones. His complaints don't apply to pop up designs like the NexS. There's a good reason why companies like Oppo, Xiaomi and Oneplus are starting to roll out pop up designs and it's because they're the best solution for now. I'm more than happy to forgo face unlock and an ip rating to avoid those horrible notches, teardrops and holes. Everyone Galaxy and iPhone user that sees my NexS ask where they can get one. Samsung and especially Apple are risk averse. Imagine if Apple had produced the NexS, it would have become the 9th wonder of the world.

8. Leo_MC

Posts: 6616; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

The best solution is a narrow top bezel like in iPhone X. It's the best, because Face ID - as an overall - is better than Touch ID and there's no sense in having some part popping out every unlock, app authentication, password input etc.

11. TheOracle1

Posts: 2027; Member since: May 04, 2015

The fugly notch is now a "narrow top bezel"? You're outdoing yourself with bs on this one Leo. Smh. A narrow tops bezel would be the S9 type.

16. Vancetastic

Posts: 805; Member since: May 17, 2017

Dear lord, don’t get him started...

17. Leo_MC

Posts: 6616; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

I don't know what "notch" are you talking about, my XR has no such thing. Note has a slim, short, thin top bezel while iPhone X class devices have a similar slim, short, thin top bezel which is also narrow.

5. scarface21173

Posts: 636; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

Apple will stick with the notch 2019/2020. Face id is the reason why they have to stick with it.

6. iloveapps

Posts: 521; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Until such time that they can put the face id under the screen. Anyway, when apple do the all screen for sure there wouldn’t be a chin.

18. ahmadkun

Posts: 536; Member since: May 02, 2016

Do you think the iPhone X without a chin? Just because the chin is as the same size as the sides bezels

21. iloveapps

Posts: 521; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

Your so stupid, its called side bezel, symmetry all around. Its a chin to your fugly galaxies and chinese iphone knockoffs because its not symmetrical, it looks ugly long fat chin like your long chin.

22. Vancetastic

Posts: 805; Member since: May 17, 2017

So, a bottom bezel is called a “side bezel” now? Who is stupid?

10. Leo_MC

Posts: 6616; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

Apple can't stick with something that it never had.

13. TheOracle1

Posts: 2027; Member since: May 04, 2015

You are truly delusional. What do you guys smoke in Romania?

19. Leo_MC

Posts: 6616; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

I imagine that in Romania one can find everything one wants to smoke. If you ask me, just weed once, maybe twice a year.

7. User123456789

Posts: 550; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Oppo did this years ago and tons of ppl think Samsung had the idea. Pop up, slider or rotating camera : It is easy to be done to flagships , they just neeed to give up on Ingress Protection.

12. Leo_MC

Posts: 6616; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

The simple answer is that they can't extend the display over the front facing cameras (which is a "must have" feature)

14. Alter

Posts: 218; Member since: Mar 25, 2016

Why is an all screen phone so desirable? Many phones the past few years have large displays and small bezels. That can look very elegant and even futuristic and to me it's better than any notch, hole, or mechanical front camera. Full screen display probably increases accidental touches and fragility.

15. Valdomero

Posts: 653; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

They have to make the smallest sensor ever to put the front facing camera inside a little tiny bezel to not interrupt the whole screen experience and that costs a lot of R&D which we as a consumer are not willing to pay for.

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