Our fixation with smartphone “chins” has to stop

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Our fixation with smartphone “chins” has to stop
Smartphone design hasn’t exactly peaked yet, but it’s getting there. Each year, the aesthetics of our handheld companions are becoming more refined. Companies are shifting away from the utilitarian looking devices we had in the past with big, ugly buttons to more elegant and subtle forms with polished details. The materials used in smartphones are now higher grade and give them a luxurious feel, even the colors are reaching new heights with various gradients and reflective coatings.

But these changes came gradually and with them changed the way users are perceiving smartphones and judging their design. If there’s one thing the human brain is good at doing, it’s getting used to nice things. And, oh, have we gotten used to good looking smartphones. You can tell that’s the case by some of the biggest complaints we’ve had in recent years.

Remember the notch?


Now, I’m not here to say that notches aren’t something worth complaining about. However, objectively speaking, it wasn’t that big of a deal either. Sure, the way it would poke from the top of the display was kind of intrusive but at the same time, it did offer some extra screen real estate for your notifications, clock and battery percentage. And while watching videos, it could easily be negated by just sticking to the 16:9 aspect ratio of the video rather than stretching it to the whole display.
 
So it wasn’t so much that notches were terrible, it was just that there was so little else to not be happy with when it comes to smartphones (besides the constant need for longer battery life) that people fixated on that one small issue way more than necessary.

We all knew that the notch wouldn’t be around for long (you hear that, Apple?) and that companies will be quick to come up with alternative designs. While it will take a while more for the notch to disappear from all models, plenty of flagship smartphones are already offering bezel-less displays. If you found the use of the word “bezel-less” inappropriate for the devices we have today, you’re exactly the reason for this article.

Still a millimeter away from perfection


With notches replaced by punch holes or motorized pop-up cameras, we’re left with even less to nitpick about when it comes to smartphone looks (besides those pesky moving parts). But less doesn’t mean none at all, and some users have taken their demands to another level. The focus has shifted from the notch to another element: the bottom bezel. Despite engineers working tirelessly in R&D facilities all over the world to shave off as much as possible from the so-called “chin” of smartphones, their efforts aren’t met with the recognition they deserve. Quite the opposite, actually. Every time there’s a discussion about an existing or an upcoming phone’s design, there’s inevitably at least one person that says something along the lines of “the bottom bezel needs to be thinner” or “that chin is still too thick” when in fact it’s barely a millimeter or two thicker than the side or top bezels of the phone. Sure, there are cases in which the chin is objectively big for 2019 standards, but in some models it’s thickness is negligible.
 
I understand that for our brains even a small difference is noticeable, but to point it out as if it’s some significant downside of the design is simply ridiculous. If you’re that bothered by one side of your phone being a fraction thicker than the rest then you’re probably looking for imperfections a bit too hard.

And it’s not like most people even care about that stuff. No one is going to put their phone next to yours and go “Ha-ha! My phone’s chin is smaller than yours!”. Plenty of smartphone users don’t even realize the notch was something to be appalled by and they won’t spend even a second thinking about the bottom bezel of their phone.

It says a lot about the state smartphone technology has reached that we have people who feel compelled to point out as a flaw something so minor. The competition between manufacturers has pushed the limits so much, that we, the consumers, have adopted extra harsh standards by which to judge the products available to us. And that goes beyond simply complaining about the thickness of the chin. Photo quality, display resolution, RAM and so on are in the same bucket. We’ve become so spoiled by the hardware we have at our disposal every day that we fail to appreciate how amazing it is to begin with, focusing instead on “shortcomings” that will disappear in a year or two with or without our criticism.

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44 Comments

1. hypertonik

Posts: 27; Member since: Nov 17, 2014

Why do you have such a fixation in the first place?

2. User123456789

Posts: 1084; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

People forget that the screen connectors have to be somewhere. There are two choices: 1) connectors at the bottom like Find X with no top bezel 2) connectors at top like Xperia 10 with no bottom bezel. It is impossible to remove both simultaneously. Now people complain if bezel has 6mm. This is less than S6 thickness. And because of this bezelfobia (tech sites are to blame too) brands have given up on front speakers, which give better experience. Speaker beside usb is so annoying. I have ipad and have to keep my hand there to prevent the sound to "go away" from me.

12. Cat97

Posts: 1969; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Lame. Option 3 (iPhone X/XS) : screen bent at the bottom so the connectors will be under it and not need extra chin.

13. Kloak

Posts: 82; Member since: May 27, 2018

Do you know that most of those phones use the same right? The iPhones did not get rid of th chin, actually they did the opposite, they just added the same thickness to all the other bezels.

14. Cat97

Posts: 1969; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Actually you are wrong on all counts. First, the iPhone XS has the smallest lower bezel in business at 3.9mm, no other phone comes even close. And no, other phones do not use bent screens because Apple has a patent on the idea and it is also expensive. That's why most Androids have an ugly lower chin which is further exacerbated by the increasingly smaller forehead. And yes, the chin must disappear, most Android phones look lame and weak because of it. And I use an S10e, which could look much better without the unsightly chin.

17. DFranch

Posts: 557; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

Unsightly chin huh, I wouldn't brag on the iphone design choices too much. I'll take the 5mm chin on my OnePlus 7 Pro any day over the ridiculous notch on the iphone. Oh, and as a bonus there is a fingerprint sensor too. What will they think of next. Maybe the iphone will add one of them this year.

45. ijuanp03

Posts: 630; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Wrong. Chinese OEMs have smaller chins at 3mm.

63. Kloak

Posts: 82; Member since: May 27, 2018

Other manufacturers use bended screens not just the iPhone, many manufacturers has the bottom bezel as slim as the iPhones, again it didn't remove the chin, it only made the rest of the bezels thicker, if the iPhones would make the other sides as slim as the other phones it would look as a chin too, a childs trick that its hard to believe someone wouldn't notice but apparently someone didn't.

27. Vyshak75

Posts: 81; Member since: Mar 03, 2016

How about the bezels all around the phone? iphone has the biggest than the android one's...

50. TS020

Posts: 58; Member since: Feb 16, 2019

My Xperia SP from years ago has the USB connector on the top left side of the phone. Power button is on the right.

3. User123456789

Posts: 1084; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Look at the phones of third picture. All with strong red hue when white image is displayed. That is why I only buy LCD. Easy to note : oled with blue hue means LG poled, red hue means Sa,sung amoled.

5. alanrock

Posts: 326; Member since: Oct 04, 2018

yeah , and that huge chin on middle phone , terrible combo.

9. maherk

Posts: 6999; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

This is the color temperature of the screen, you can easily adjust it from the settings. What you're talking about I believe is the tint that occurs when looking at the display from an off angle.

4. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

There's something wrong with the article and it's not written nicely. "Companies are shifting away from the utilitarian looking devices we had in the past with big, ugly buttons to more elegant and subtle forms with polished details. The materials used in smartphones are now higher grade and give them a luxurious feel," The materials are either glass or metal and smartphones have been like this since many years.. Apple had glass back in iPhone 4, so it's not like these material changes came gradually. Smartphones weren't ugly. When iPhone 5 came it was a very beautiful smartphone, same when iPhone 6 came. The S6 edge completely redifinrd Samsung's smartphones and was one of the most beautiful smartphone ever. Every year companies try to make their smartphones better and better so it's not like we were using ugly things and now they have transformed to something beautiful suddenly. The writer completely missed iPhones and writing on behalf of a Chinese phone user

11. Vancetastic

Posts: 1698; Member since: May 17, 2017

Awwww...no iPhone mention. Poor baby! Maybe it’s because iPhones don’t have “chins”?

18. DFranch

Posts: 557; Member since: Apr 20, 2012

They are prominently mentioned in the forthcoming article on notches!

59. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

It's not about mentioning iPhones or not, it's about forgetting what brands other than what he uses are doing.. He is writing on behalf of Chinese brands which used to have ugly plastic phones with very stupid buttons, then they started moving to better materials, made a glass phone finally, added a notch then dewdrop notch then punch hole notch... And now he thinks they are close to perfection gradually. He is completely forgetting thy beautiful phones from Apple, Sony and Samsung

46. ijuanp03

Posts: 630; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

surprisingly, iPhones have bigger chins than the latest Chinese smartphones. It's illusion that you don't see because it has even big bezels at the sides and on top.

6. MsPooks

Posts: 206; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

Amen! Google's about to change the discussion to FOREHEADS! Chins are so early-2019.

7. j_grouchy

Posts: 183; Member since: Nov 08, 2016

I think we all need to start talking about the proverbial elephant in the room: the rear bezel. I mean, that thing accounts for like, 99.9% of the back of the phone! Aside from the camera, all there IS is bezel back there. We really ought to be shaving off the back bezel as best we can...

8. Tukur36

Posts: 8; Member since: Jul 21, 2019

Most consumers rarely give a second though about the hardware of their phones. It is the tecno_journalist that constantly remained about the amount of Ram, how Fast is the phone, the Bazel thickness or how big a notch and cutouts. They may do well to write horible articles about these and people attention will move to more productive fields. I remember how writers used to complain about the phone thickness until phones becomes so thin and light that it turns to paperweight and fragile. We may all do well to give this article a wider publicity.

10. Cat97

Posts: 1969; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

It has to stop when the chins will be eliminated.

15. JMartin22

Posts: 2378; Member since: Apr 30, 2013

The problem isn’t bezel thickness, it’s asymmetry. Having a razor thin top and side bezels, to the point where it’s almost nonexistent, just looks lopsided and jarring with a visibly thicker bottom bezel. It makes the phone look mid-ranged in design. Samsung is the only one who has really balanced this out relatively well. They’ve gotten better with the Note10. I expect further refinement with the S11+. However, the best compromise would be the apple route honestly. Have slightly thicker top and side bezels and match the bottom bezel to look uniform. That’s assuming the design engineering is too difficult or risky with an all-razor thin dimension of a phone.

19. Krazyass69

Posts: 56; Member since: Feb 09, 2019

A full screen display is not ideal in terms of ergonomics, as it can register accidental touches and what's the point of taking out the chin if a user adds a case

22. MrMalignance

Posts: 317; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

I'm guilty of both. Accidental touches and using cases. I was actuy kind of annoyed as my latest phone has a "lightly curved" screen, but still picks up touches without a case

24. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

My phone is full screen with a small chin. No accidental touches and I don't even notice the chin. It's 6.6 inches of a wonderfully immersive and uninterrupted screen. No punch hole, waterdrop or notch. Yes NOTCH Leo!

26. MrMalignance

Posts: 317; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

@TheOracle: What phone do you use? Also, how do you hold your phone? I usually do a traditional 1 handed hold, but can't escape accidental touches

42. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Vivo Nex S. No silly curved edges like the Galaxy and OnePlus 7 Pro therefore no accidental touches. The software is also optimized for one handed use and combined with CPL Launcher I can navigate with my thumb only.

48. MrMalignance

Posts: 317; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

I see. Is it flush flat, or a gentle curve at the edge like the LG type phones?

52. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Flat.

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