Smartphone Displays Are Becoming Bezel-Less

By Richard McKayDecember 13, 2016

The word ‘bezel’ comes from the diamond business, which describes the ring around a piece of jewelry or a watch. However, in the world of smartphones, it’s referred to the frame that holds the real, usable display screen in place.

During the 'dumb' phone era, cell phones themselves were more like a bezel. Screens were small, and it was just fine. Nobody cared about it until the advent of touchscreens. Once people started poking and swiping, user expectations drastically began to change.

Touchscreen is probably the most influential disruptive technology that triggered the idea of today's bezel-less smartphones. As it is now, the mantra is “bigger the better.” Users want larger screens so that every part of it can be put into use. As a result, manufacturers are indulging in making trimmed down smartphones with minimal structural frames that have almost edge-to-edge screens. 

Pushing the logic forward, the next big thing we are expecting to see in smartphone technology is only-screen-and-no-bezel trend. Some tech enthusiasts are even predicting a future smartphone concept where the display screen will encompass the entire phone from the front, sides, and even back. The conceptualization of a smartphone that is all screen throughout is driving manufacturers like Sharp, Samsung, Apple, and others to come up with new releases with practically bezel-less, edge-free, narrower frames. In most cases, it seems fantastic because it allows for incredible designs and fashionable phones with display screens getting larger than one can imagine.

However, the truth is, smartphone touchscreens are actually sensitive and fragile. Due to this characteristic, some say, the bezel on a smartphone is still an ergonomic necessity to let users firmly grip the phone, or to avoid accidental pressing on the screen in a way the touchscreen fails to understand what exactly the user is trying to do.

The fact of the matter is, we still need the bezel, but not forever. Thanks to the ever-innovating world of technology, flexible displays based on 'Gorilla-Glass' technology will soon be a reality by the end of this year. Big players of the game like Samsung and LG are frontrunners in developing bendable, foldable, rollable, displays that can absorb any amount of impact without breaking apart.

The physical transition from 'thin frames', to 'nearly invisible', to 'no frame at all’ will definitely be a game changer, but its ultimate manifestation won't be possible without proper software solutions. This holds true, because, in a bezel-less phone, some part of the user’s hand will be in constant interaction with the touchscreen, meaning, the phone's operating system will have to be in a position to figure out whether the user is simply holding the phone or trying to use it. Integrating this intelligence is obviously no small feat.

As bezels get slimmer, manufacturers are trying to create 'in-built' solutions into the phone's OS so that it recognizes the difference between gripping, tapping, or to say swiping. The fact is, smartphone bezels aren't just frames. They serve as a secondary layer of interaction, a meta-interface that includes sensors to manage the volume, power, and navigation. Certainly, it would need a groundbreaking innovation on the software side of things to totally eradicate it. 

Nevertheless, considering the world's top minds are at work in resolving this problem, it's apparent that someday we'll eventually have a bezel-free smartphone design. That day, however, isn't far away.