Google Already Planning A Future Without Smartphone Notches

Google may have embraced display notches with the Pixel 3 XL launched late last year but isn't any keener on relying on such cutouts in the long term than the rest of the mobile industry is, newly surfaced IP documentation suggests. A recently spotted patent reveals Alphabet's subsidiary is already planning for a future with truly bezel-free displays that are perfectly uniform, though it doesn't go into many details regarding how exactly is the company planning to achieve that. The illustration below is equally ambiguous, with the dotted lines representing smartphone elements that aren't related to any claims Google made as part of the recently granted application.

Google took a lot of flak from both consumers and critics alike after unveiling what's arguably the most unbecoming notch in the smartphone space to date, which is saying something given how many hit-and-miss devices launched since these awkward surfaces gained traction in early 2018. While the company said it's always rethinking its product design practices, its officials never provided any direct comment on the subject of the Pixel 3 XL's massive forehead which arguably takes away from the overall experience of the otherwise high-quality phablet.

Samsung, LG, and Apple have all secured nearly identical full-screen handset concepts in recent times but none of them are expected to commercialize such ideas anytime soon. The technology behind contemporary small-sized panels used by Android OEMs and other manufacturers can presently allow for screen-to-body ratios over 90-percent, albeit with significant compromises. Last year's Vivo NEX is an example of one such product that features a highly unconventional front-facing camera which rises from its body instead of being integrated into its top bezel seeing how the pretty much lacks it. Few companies signaled any degree of interest in following Vivo's example as its solution requires putting more moving parts into handsets, thus making any device leveraging it more likely to break.

The pursuit of bezel-free mobile experiences started en masse in early 2017 with the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8 lineups. Last year saw little change in terms of screen-to-body ratio improvements as panel makers instead opted to focus on bettering the actual capabilities of their displays. However, 2018 also saw global handset sales stagnate and industry watchers are pointing to an overall lack of innovations as one of the causes of that trend that's likely to continue until at least next year. While the industry is now also pursuing niche solutions such as foldable smartphones, those gadgets aren't likely to enjoy mainstream popularity anytime soon, so reducing bezels is the best bet manufacturers can make in terms of easily noticeably annual improvements.

The latest stop on the road to bezel-less handset screens comes in the form of solutions such as Samsung's Infinity-O display set to be utilized by the upcoming Galaxy S10 range of flagships. The module in question features a small circular cutout in either its top-left or top-right corner, depending on the configuration, hence allowing the company to further shrink its mobile bezels and accommodate up to two front-facing cameras without resorting to less elegant notches. While it's unlikely Google will be embracing such panels next year, the firm will presumably at the very least look to reduce the size of the Pixel 3 XL's massive notch.

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Dominik Bosnjak

Head Editor
Dominik started at AndroidHeadlines in 2016 and is the Head Editor of the site today. He’s approaching his first full decade in the media industry, with his background being primarily in technology, gaming, and entertainment. These days, his focus is more on the political side of the tech game, as well as data privacy issues, with him looking at both of those through the prism of Android. Contact him at [email protected]