Bezel-Less Phone Design

The latest trend this year in smartphone design is the “bezel-less” trend. Starting with the LG G6 and now with the iPhone X, smartphones are squeezing as much screen on to the front of the device as possible.

This trend isn’t new though. Phones have been designed with tiny bezels ever since 2014 with the Sharp Aquos Crystal phone, and to be honest, the Aquos is the second most beautiful phone out of the new bezel-less lot (with the Samsung Galaxy S8 as the most beautiful).

galaxy s8
The gorgeous Samsung Galaxy S8

Let’s list all the current bezel-less phones that are out there now:

Flagship Bezel-Less Phones 2017

  • iPhone X
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 8
  • Essential Phone
  • LG V30
  • LG G6
  • LG Q6
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 2
  • Sharp Aquos Crystal (released before 2017)

But wait, there’s more! There’s a load of inexpensive Chinese phones that have all started to adopt this look. Some may not be the most finely crafted, but they still look way better than your traditional bezel-heavy phones:

Cheap Chinese Bezel-Less Phones 2017

  • Doogee Mix
  • Maze Alpha
  • Umidigi Umi Crystal
  • Bluboo S8

As you can see there are loads of bezel-less phones to pick from now, but how useful is this design? That’s what we’re here to find out. As someone who owns one of these phones (LG G6), it’s interesting to see how people are actually interacting with this new style of smartphone.

You’d assume that these wouldn’t be much different from the phones we’ve used over the past 10 years, but you’d be horribly wrong. A bezel-less phone poses a few changes in the users behavior and in some cases can cause frustration instead of convenience.

Grip

This is the biggest thing you need with a phone that costs nearly $1,000 (or over $1,000 if you have the iPhone X 256GB). When holding a phone that’s mostly screen real estate on the front, you run into the issue of your fingers covering part of the screen and even activating the touch sensors. Samsung has been perfecting a solution for this problem by creating software that will notice when you accidentally touch the phone screen while gripping their edge-to-edge Galaxy S6, S7 and now S8 displays. It’s similar to the palm detection that Wacom tablets and iPads have.

With my LG I’ve noticed I hold my phone more with my fingertips to avoid touching the actual screen when viewing. Plus, my palms will sometimes cover the screen when I’m holding the phone in a full grip. Though it hasn’t caused any major issues yet, I do find myself losing grip more often and having some pretty close calls.

I’ve watched how other people hold their phones with these edge-to-edge screens and it’s always the same way: gently. And gentle grips lead to loose phones which lead to shattered screens (and hearts). I’m thinking over time we’ll learn to adapt to this, but for the manufacturers like Xiaomi that create a chin on the bottom of their design, it seems to help the user actually grasp the device (as mentioned in a couple reviews of the Mi Mix).

Durability

As you can imagine, less bezel means less padding between the ground and your screen. I recently dropped my G6 in the street, right on the corner, and surprisingly it didn’t shatter – but it did crack ever-so-slightly.

This problem of fragile screens was raised the instant the Sharp Aquos phone came out. However, as we’ve seen with iPhones in the past – no matter how big the bezels on the phone, the screen will always shatter if dropped hard enough.

I’m pretty confident that with future glass developments we won’t have to worry as much about cracking the glass on our screens.

iPhone X Corner
Not much space between the edge of the phone and the screen on the iPhone X.

Smaller Pocketprint

No, not footprint. We’re talking about the space these phones take up in your had and in your pocket. The nicest thing about a bezel-less phone is the fact that you usually get a much bigger screen than even the largest phablets offer, but in a phone that’s much smaller.

Here’s an example: I have the LG G6. It’s about the size of an iPhone 7, but has a screen bigger than the iPhone 7 Plus (7 Plus has a 5.5″ screen and the G6 has a 5.7″ screen). It doesn’t seem like it though. It seems like you have a really small screen with the G6 but only when you place the phones side-by-side do you realize how this witchcraft works.

Part of me misses the larger form factor of the plus-sized iPhones and my previous ZTE ZMax Pro, which had a 6″ screen. However, this isn’t very functional to have so much extra phone when you really only need the screen to interact with. Remember, form follows function!

These are the biggest benefits and problems I see in bezel-less phone design. It’s a really interesting trend right now that’s causing our devices to be more beautiful than ever. I’m excited to see how designers and engineers will work around things that get in the way of bezel-less design like cameras, sensors and speakers. The next few years should be very interesting.

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