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AH Primetime: Will We Finally See The Demise Of Bezels This Year?

February 13, 2014 - Written By Justin Diaz

An interesting trend started with the release of smartphones the way we know them today, and it revolves around screen size. There are lots of reason why the larger screens have started to pick up in popularity, from media handling, to games, work related stuff, and emails. That’s not all, just the basics. Lets not forget about more enjoyable browsing on a larger display, and of course there’s reading ebooks. Most of us probably never expected some of the phones to get as big as they did, but once that train started rolling there was no stopping it. Now the race is on to have the largest smartphone screen out there and it’s a constant battle between companies like Samsung and LG, who are fairly mainstream in most parts of the world. Then you have companies like Oppo in China who introduced there N1 smartphone, (which is considered a phablet) and Sony who introduced what might be the largest so far the Xperia Z ultra. At this point we’ve pretty much bridged the gap between smartphone and tablets, and soon we won’t be able to tell the difference. It’s almost at the point where we might as well start using tablets to engage in our phone conversations because that’s how big some of the screens are getting.

If you’re like me, and I know plenty of people are, (but not all) you have reservations about using a phone that has a screen the size of a high school chemistry textbook. The thing is we still want more screen space. So we’re left with this problem that needs solving, that finally some of the OEMs seem to be finding solutions for. The problem is giving users like myself more screen space that they want, but without having to enlarge the smartphone to epic unheard of proportions. Can you see where I’m going with this? What’s the solution? It all comes down to the Bezel on the phone. Smartphones used to have huge bezels. They have steadily been shrinking over time, but with the revolution of the Phablet and giant sized displays they have started inching there way back to sizes of past days. OEM’s are in fact starting to figure out that they can give us more screen space without having to actually make bigger phones. By shrinking the bezel, you will have more screen space. This next statement is strictly opinion and others will have their own on the matter, but perfect size for a screen resides in the 5-inch to 5.5-inch range for me. Anything bigger than that like the Oppo N1 and the Xperia Z ultra is just pushing it. So much so that it might not even be enjoyable. As someone who uses multiple apps for messaging with one hand on a daily basis, and is an avid Ingress player who’s out in the field usually holding the phone in one hand and a coffee in the other, (It’s cold here in the NW quite a bit so having the coffee on hand when you’re out fighting the good fight is almost essential) having a manageable size for the phone to access all parts of the interactive display is pretty important. Then there’s the whole thing with aesthetics. Bigger bezels just don’t look as nice.

If you think it’s questionable to be able to give more screen space and bigger displays without making bigger phones, take a look at a story we posted the other day about screen to bezel ratio. It has a handy little chart thanks to @somospostpc, who crunched some numbers and compiled a list with a wide array of different handsets, new and old, with the percentages of how much screen you actually get due to the screen to bezel ratios. The galaxy Note 2 which has a 5.5-inch display size, has a lower percentage of usable screen real estate than that on the Moto X which has a “smaller” display. It’s interesting to to think about, but as I said it came down to the bezel. Basically it just goes to show that it can be done. We are already starting to see more and more phones release with smaller bezels, like the recently announced G Pro 2 from LG, which got it’s official announcement from LG last night. The new smartphone from LG sports a 5.9- inch screen(which is still a bit big but I could probably live with it) and one of the slimmest bezels we have seen on a smartphone. In short, most of that 5.9-inch display will be usable screen space, and we rather like the sound of that.

Will we ever see a phone completely without a bezel at all? Some will claim that they already exist, although that’s a matter of opinion more than fact. The reality is that there isn’t a phone out there that is bezel free. It might be possible to have a bezel free device sometime with a future smartphone, but we aren’t quite there yet. While we prefer the look and style of a phone with little to no bezel better than one with, the bezel does serve its purpose. Having the space around the interactive part of the display is usually where other features of the phone go, like the front facing cameras, and LED indicators on devices, but it would be possible to squeeze those features into smaller spaces. It’s desirable to have a smartphone with the least amount of bezel possible, but until technology advances far enough to where our devices can differentiate when we’re simply holding them and we’re actually meaning to interact with them, the bezel also serves as a place to rest our fingers and thumbs when we hold our devices in our hands. Bezels are getting smaller and slimmer in every aspect, and there are current devices and those yet to be released that are proof of it. The question is how long before we actually have a phone with just about no bezel at all? Will it happen by mid summer? Or by the end of the year? LG and Samsung are undoubtedly already tackling the “no-bezel” equation, as well as HTC and other manufacturers, and they’re getting pretty close to solving it.