ZTE has been granted a couple of new smartphone design patents filed with the World Intellectual Property Office last year prior to being published late last week. The patents discovered by LetsGoDigital reveal two different handsets, both of which feature a notch-less display with no or very thin bezels.
One of the patented designs seems to accommodate two rear-facing cameras coupled with an LED flash and a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner. As noted by the source, this model looks very similar to the ZTE Axon 9 Pro from the rear but the same cannot be said when viewing it from the front.
Unlike the Axon 9 Pro, the newly-patented device doesn't have a rectangular display notch and instead, it employs a very small display cutout for the speaker, similar to the ZTE Nubia Red Magic Mars. Then again, the same device – labeled "Model B" by the source – seems to lack a display cutout for the front-facing camera which could indicate that the unit is hiding behind the display or is intended to be a concealed pop-up module.
Otherwise, the smartphone's design seems fairly conventional; it has a physical power button and volume rocker on the right edge, a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack at the top, and a USB Type-C connector on the bottom edge.
As for the second patented device designated "Model A" by the source, this looks like the more ambitious device – at least from the perspective of design – and the sketches raise a couple of interesting questions.
This, too, is a fullscreen smartphone but there are no display cutouts or notches in sight. It lacks a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor meaning that it could borrow a page from the ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G and feature an in-display sensor.
Screen bezels are non-existent as well – at least according to the sketch – and speaking of non-existent, the device also appears to be missing a standard headphone jack and a USB port. The lower edge seemingly has some sort of cutout but it's not shaped like any USB port on the market so it's probably just a speaker grille. The lack of a USB port could indicate that the sketch doesn't yet reflect the final design or that ZTE may have some crazy ideas about limiting the unit to wireless charging only, which is highly unlikely.
ZTE aiming for fullscreen first, flexible second?
These are not the only two unannounced models by ZTE to have emerged this year, and so far it looks like the OEM aims to fully embrace the fullscreen, bezel-less, and sometimes notch-less design for some of its future flagship phones. A foldable clamshell unit was also found in the WIPO database last month but so far, ZTE's main focus in regards to flexible display technology seems to be set on wearables.
While most other OEMs intend to use flexible panels to create smartphone-tablet hybrid devices, ZTE has taken a different route, at least for the time being, in that its first foldable device takes the form of a wrist-wearable bearing the "Nubia" sub-brand.
The OEM could use its expertise earned from building the ZTE Nubia Alpha wearable to create a foldable phone eventually, but until then it remains to be seen what will happen to the two new bezel-less smartphone models granted by WIPO late last week.