Many have argued in recent years that smartphones these days are lacking any true sense of innovation and that there has been a general stagnation when it comes to design. In many ways though, 2016 proved to be year of experiments in the smartphone industry. While some companies like LG brought in modular smartphones, some others - most notably Apple - decided to kill off the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Going by the rumours so far, 2017 is likely to bring in another iconic change to the design of smartphones. Bezel-less phones are set to headline 2017, with some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Apple, Samsung, and LG looking to come out with bezel-less or near bezel-less phones, just as we had always imagined futuristic phones would look like.
Fewer bezels, more fun
Back in 2014, Sharp introduced an edge-to-edge smartphone, the Aquos Crystal. While the phone itself failed to make an impact in the market, it did give us a glimpse of what bezel-less phones could look like.
Xiaomi took everyone by surprise last year when it launched the near bezel-less Mi MIX. Indeed, the Mi MIX came the closest so far to removing bezels completely, with an impressive 91.3 screen-to-body-ratio. The Mi MIX comes with almost no bezels on the side and top, and a thin chin, which makes it hard not to be amazed with one of the most innovative phones from last year.
One of the biggest wins with a bezel-less phone is the large display, in a relatively compact device. Watching anything from movies to playing games to capturing videos and images on a display without borders is just the kind immersive experience everyone has been hoping for.
Seeing as how the average display size of smartphones has moved upwards of 5-inches, with 5.5-inch and 5.7-inch displays becoming the norm, bezel-less phones have the benefit of adding a larger display without increasing the size of the phone.
Some cons to bezel-less displays
There are a few issues that crop up with bezel-less phones, if one is really nitpicking. Going by the phones released so far, loss of bezels in the likes of the Mi MIX or the Aquos Crystal has so far meant having to move the front-facing camera to the chin, which can take a little getting used to.
Front-facing features like proximity sensors, and the earpiece, for example, have to be moved somewhere else to make room for the display. Edge-to-edge screen also ups the risk factor if you drop the phone, because if the edges are damaged on a regular phone, your screen could still be usable, but that's not the case here.
There's also the problem with accidental touches - the lack bezels mean holding the phone without accidentally registering a tap along the edges becomes harder, and can be an irritant in some situations.
Whether or not a completely bezel-less phone is even possible is something that will need to be seen as time goes by. 2017 will move closer to that reality and we look at some of the upcoming smartphones that are expected to sport a bezel-less or near bezel-less design, based on all the rumors we know so far.
Samsung Galaxy S8
Samsung began chopping down bezels a few years ago with the Galaxy S6 Edge. The handset featured almost no bezels on the right and left sides. Successive Galaxy Edge models followed the same trend. Similar edge-to-edge design was then seen on the Galaxy Note series.
The South Korean giant knows it needs to come out with a flagship in 2017 that will make people forget the tragedy that was the Galaxy Note 7. The fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 was arguably one of the company's best devices in terms of design and specifications. The South Korean giant will look to take things a few notches higher with the upcoming Galaxy S8. Here's what we know so far.
In an attempt to take on Xiaomi's challenge, the upcoming Galaxy S8 is being touted to lack bezels on the right and left sides, with slim bezels on the top and bottom. The Galaxy S8 is rumored to ditch the Home Button while the fingerprint scanner moves over to to the back.
The super thin bezels on the Galaxy S8 will increase the display size while still maintaining the overall form factor of the handset. The Galaxy S8 is expected to come in 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch displays with an aspect ratio of 18.5:9 from the traditional 16:9. Both the models are also touted to sport QHD Super AMOLED displays.
LG's modular LG G5 flagship in 2016 may not have gone down well with people, but the company is looking to bounce back with the upcoming LG G6 smartphone. Rumours that have poured in so far have pegged the G6 to sport a bezel-less design with a 5.7-inch QHD+ (1440x2880 pixels) display with an impressive aspect ratio of 18:9.
The LG G6 is expected to feature screen-to-bezel ratio of over 90 percent. So far the leaks and teasers have not revealed too much about where LG plans to slim down the bezels. It is likely that the bottom bezel (which was the modular part of the G5) might disappear while the top will continue to house the front-facing camera, sensor and earpiece.
According to the invite sent out by the company, the LG G6 will be unveiled at a pre-event on February 26 ahead of MWC 2017. The official invite further teases a bezel-less flagship that is sized appropriately to fit in the hand. Whether or not the G6 improves on the Mi MIX is something that will be seen in just a few weeks.
Xiaomi Mi 6 or Mi MIX 2
Of course, one cannot leave out the company that started the bezel-less trend in 2016. Xiaomi's Mi MIX was a limited production-ready smartphone that sparked the curiosity of the public. The phone proved that such a device was no longer a concept but a reality.
While nothing is set in stone as of now, Xiaomi is unlikely to stop with the Mi MIX. The Chinese company is expected to come out with something this year - perhaps a Mi MIX 2 or maybe a wider launch of the original.
Some rumours in November suggested that a miniature version of the Mi MIX was in the works. The device is rumored to sport a 5.5-inch screen with a similar screen-to-body ratio as the bigger variant. However, nothing more has been spoken of on that front.
Apple iPhone 8
Apple's upcoming iPhone 8 is touted to be something special from the company that is celebrating the iPhone's tenth anniversary. Moreover, expectations are high for Apple to come out with some drastic changes to what the company has produced so far.
With companies like Xiaomi having raced ahead with near bezel-less phones, and Samsung expected to do the same with the Galaxy S8, Apple is running the risk of being monotonous. The iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus did not bring anything new in its overall aesthetics. The Plus version, however, managed to grab a lot of attention with its dual-lens camera, which helped Apple reach an all-time record of $78.4 billion (approximately Rs. 5,30,498 crores) in revenue the last quarter.
The idea of a bezel-less iPhone has been associated with Apple for a few years now. The Cupertino-giant in recent years has been cautious in what it brings to the iPhone and what it takes away. Ditching the headphone jack for the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 plus was a big move but not a first.
The iPhone 8, however, is being rumoured to sport a bezel-less design. To make this happen, the company will be ditching its iconic Home Button and will implement a fingerprint sensor under the display, which Synaptic says is quite possible. The Plus variant is also touted to sport a curved OLED display. However, its too early in the day to trust any of these rumors.
Apple has been known to take things slow which is why one shouldn't expect a near bezel-less design anytime soon. As such, the company may just include some bonus features (which could include slimmer bezels) with the Plus variant as has been the trend for the company in recent years.