Embracing Edge-to-Edge Displays: The Allure and Challenges
Don’t believe everything you see, but there is a certain fun in imagining products with a futuristic twist to them. One such fantasy in the smartphone industry is a truly bezel-less, full-screen phone. And as implausible as that sounds, it looks like Apple might be the one to make it happen — and on a scale imaginable.
According to South Korean outlet The Elec, Apple has reportedly ordered “Samsung Display and LG Display to develop an OLED that removes all bezels from the iPhone.” Apple has been agonizingly slow to chip away at the edge on iPhones and continues to sell the iPhone SE (2022), which should ideally be around in the half-decade era.
But as tantalizing as prospective sounds, Apple has been slowly heading towards this design nirvana over the past few years. Dynamic Island helped Apple pull off the massive boat-shaped notch in the same time frame we were hearing rumors of Apple experimenting with Touch ID and Face ID under the display.
At the same time, the bezels on iPhones have remained slimmer. And if rumors are to be believed, the iPhone 15 series will sport the thinnest bezels ever seen on an Apple smartphone. Everything seems to be converging towards the final vision of a bezel-less all-screen look on a future iPhone.
Android phones did that — and then moved on
When exactly such an iPhone will materialize, no one guesses, but it won’t be easy to pull it off. There are a lot of precedents for that. the The Vivo Apex from 2020 and the Vivo NEX 3 sported this all-screen look, with dramatic curved screen aesthetics.
Xiaomi took a slightly different approach with the Mi MIX 3, using a slide-out camera format to offer an all-screen experience. Samsung has focused on minimizing bezels on the sides and has embraced the curved glass aesthetics. Oppo wasn’t far behind with its amazing Find X.
But within a few short years, the insanely competitive craze for bezel-less phones died out as quickly as it captured everyone’s collective imagination. But it did not disappear without leaving behind a series of practical issues.
With no edges in play, holding the phone without accidental touches becomes a nightmare. For people who prefer side screen back gestures, they know a painful exercise. Then there’s the pricey side of thin bezels. Simply put, the thinner the bezels, the easier it is to break the screen.
Over the years, the fragility aspect has improved somewhat. Corning’s Gorilla Glass protection has improved, while Apple’s own sapphire glass has seen its durability increase over the years. Compared to 2018, I’ll be more confident buying a bezel-less phone in 2023 or later.
Bag full of practical problems
But fragility is not all that can be addressed. With the functional area of the display stretching from edge to edge, and metal frame meeting on all sides, it also becomes a technical challenge to fit key components such as the antenna and digitizer parts of the display.
I’m not sure if anyone would pick a bezel-less beauty that won’t let you take a call due to poor antenna geometry on a device that has some bezels but does its “phone” job well. And if you’re not Steve Jobs, you can’t just say, “You’re wrong” to defend engineering failures and get ahead without Wall Street draining your company.
Yes, Apple has all the money to pull off a bezel-less iPhone. And from the concept renders we’ve seen so far, it’s also going to look amazing. Moreover, with the kind of work done by the likes of Samsung and ZTE Under-display cameras, I’m sure Apple will also introduce the most refined version of a hidden selfie camera.
But at the end of the day, it’s still a phone. Still, everything hinges on a big assumption. However, user complaints on the official support forums and social media corners don’t lie. iPhones, despite using surgical-grade stainless steel and sapphire glass, still break easily. Unfortunately, repairs are far from cheap.
Higher stakes, higher sticker price
There’s a lot at stake here, from basic phone tasks to something as advanced as an invisible biometric face-scanning array. There are a lot of variables to consider, and given Apple’s approach of “get it right, or eliminate it completely,” I’m divided on the possibility of a full-screen, bezel-less iPhone anytime soon — if at all.
Or is it Apple just trying to make a statement? “The thing is, all of those issues vanish when you have a nearly bezel-less phone,” he says. Simon Hill of Digital Trends wrote in 2017. “The pursuit of edgeless design is the pursuit of beauty.” I agree with these words.
But paying more than a thousand dollars for a fragile piece of beautiful hardware will not be an acceptable excuse for the millions of Apple fans who save up for months for an iPhone. For the bezel-less iPhone to succeed, Apple will have to solve tangible engineering problems that Android makers have failed to address for years. It is difficult but not impossible.