Just how bezel-free should phones be?

Apple iPhone X

If I were to try and sum up the evolution of smartphones over the past ten years as concisely as possible, I would say that smartphones went from having variety to uniformity. 5 to 7 years ago there were a lot of smartphones with many different features to choose from. Some had physical keyboards, microSD cards, and removable batteries while others didn’t. There was a wide variety of screen sizes. There were even two more major operating systems to choose from. Today, we are down to two operating systems and a whole lot of phones that look awfully similar to one another.

Part of me really hates that. I’m not sure if it’s feeling desensitized from the progression of mobile technology after having been invested in it for so long, but it really does feel more boring and monotonous than it used to. At the same time, it’s easy to understand why it has become that way. It all comes down to money, and companies go where the money goes. At the moment, the money is with giant, headphone jack-less devices with virtual keyboards and batteries that are nearly impossible – and sometimes just plain dangerous – to remove. From the looks of it, we can add “bezel-less” to that list from this year going forward as well.

It’s not likely that all smartphones are going to phase out larger bezels over the next few years, but it’s safe to say that the most popular phones probably will. The feature has become such a big hit just in the past year alone that if a company released a flagship with big bezels in 2017, it was quickly placed on the back burner. For people who enjoy smaller bezels, this was a good move; for people who still appreciate their bezels as a way to firmly grasp their phone, the situation appears dire.

I can appreciate both sides of the argument. As somebody who appreciates small phones and big screens, shrinking bezels should be nothing short of a godsend. Alternatively, I feel that I still need some sort of bezel on the sides and bottom edge of the device because my fingers and/or palm always manage to spill onto the screen somehow. I don’t know, maybe I just don’t know how to gracefully hold a smartphone. But in addition to this new era of bezel-lessness, new features like interactive edge displays and squeezable sides are also things that make bezel-less devices seem daunting to use and a bit counterintuitive.

In an ideal world, I think I would want to keep some bezel on the sides and bottom of any given device. The top isn’t as much of a concern, as I don’t think anybody puts their hands up there on a regular basis, but keeping some bezel on the sides and bottom of a device seems ideal in order to give users a place to hold their device comfortably without obstructing the screen, as well as keeping the structural integrity of the device better protected from expected-yet-unexpected drops.

And that’s basically where we are now. Most of the phones that are known for being “bezel-less” aren’t truly bezel-less; their bezels are just harder to detect. But I fear that as quickly as this trend has caught on that more companies are going to head for the extreme, and that’s the kind of bezel-less that I’m not excited to see. As pretty as bezel-less phones might be, bezels are still an important part of smartphones from a usability standpoint.

Readers, what are your thoughts on the rising trend of bezel-less devices? Do you think they should continue to be as bezel free as can be, or do you agree that some bezel should remain? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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BlackBerry KEYone on sale, including GSM and Verizon models

BlackBerry KEYone front, back, side

We’ve seen lots of mobile deals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, including microSD cards and Android tablets, and now there’s a sale on a notable smartphone.

The BlackBerry KEYone is now on sale for Cyber Monday. The offer is available from Amazon and Best Buy and applies to both the GSM unlocked and Verizon version’s of the KEYone.

This deal on the BlackBerry KEYone will be available through December 2nd while supplies last.

Perhaps the most notable feature of the BlackBerry KEYone is its physical keyboard, which is something that’s become nearly extinct in the smartphone would. In addition to letting you type out messages with real buttons, the KEYone’s keyboard lets you assign shortcuts to individual buttons, use the keyboard as a trackpad, and it’s got a fingerprint reader in its space bar.

Other features of the KEYone include a 4.5-inch 1620×1080 display, octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage, and a microSD card slot. There’s an 8-megapixel front camera with a wide angle lens for all of your selfie needs and around back lives a 12-megapixel camera with 4K video capture and phase detection autofocus.

Rounding out the spec list for the BlackBerry KEYone is a 3,505mAh battery, a USB-C port for charging that battery, and Android 7.1 Nougat.

Does this sale have you interested in the BlackBerry KEYone?

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Unlocked HTC U11 getting Android 8.0 Oreo update starting November 27th

HTC U11 Amazing Silver official

We’re starting to see more Android 8.0 updates flowing to devices as 2017 winds down, and tomorrow another device will start getting its Oreo treat.

The unlocked version of the HTC U11 will begin receiving its Android 8.0 Oreo update tomorrow, November 27th. The rollout has been confirmed by Mo Versi, HTC’s VP of Product Management.

Android 8.0 brings with it several new features. Some of the goodies included with Oreo are an autofill feature that’ll remember your logins so that you get into your apps faster, a picture-in-picture mode for watching videos while you perform other tasks, and notification dots to help you quickly see which apps have new alerts for you.

HTC has confirmed that the HTC U11 Life, HTC U Ultra, and HTC 10 will also receive Android 8.0 updates in the future.

If you’ve got an unlocked HTC U11, keep an eye out for your Android 8.0 Oreo update starting tomorrow!

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OnePlus 5 Android 8.0 Oreo beta update now available

OnePlus 5 rear hands-on

Less than one week after the OnePlus 3 and 3T got their Android 8.0 updates, another OnePlus phone has received an Oreo treat.

OnePlus is now offering an Android 8.0 Oreo beta update for the OnePlus 5. This is the first Open Beta build of Oreo for the OP5, and you can download it and install it on your phone right now.

The update includes an upgrade to Android 8.0, which adds new features like picture-in-picture, auto-fill, and a new Quick Settings design. Also included are the October 2017 Android security patches, a new app folder design, and more.

Because this is a beta software release, it’s possible that you’ll encounter bugs while using it. If that’s ok with you, then you can hit the link below to flash the Android 8.0 Oreo beta for your OnePlus 5.

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An abundance of accessories help the iPhone remain a popular choice

iPhone cases

With Thanksgiving officially over, and Black Friday – which really means the entire weekend and Monday ahead – well underway, you might just find yourself tempted by some of the many deals going on. If you’re in the market for a new smartphone, now’s an excellent time to hunt for one. However, if you’re already a proud owner of your daily driver, it’s also a great time to keep an eye out for the many accessories that are on sale as well.

I didn’t intend to do any shopping over the weekend. Black Friday savings can be an excellent way to save money, or a very dangerous way to spend a lot more money on things you really don’t need. For me, it tends to be the latter if I don’t reign myself in. Friday came and went without a hitch, but earlier today I couldn’t help but peek at some of the many emails bombarding me with their advertisements.

I made the mistake of clicking on an ad for a phone case company that I frequent. I’ve only ever had the one case on my iPhone SE since day one, and while it (and my phone) still look brand new, I have always felt that a good way to get rid of boredom with a smartphone is to change out the accessories – particularly its case. Even though I didn’t necessarily need a new case, it couldn’t hurt to take a look at what was being offered.

Except it could, because one thing I forgot about iPhones is that there’s almost always an overwhelming amount of cases to choose from. This is true even more so for the iPhone SE, which shares the same body as the iPhone 5 and 5S despite sharing many of the same internals as the iPhone 6S. There have been a lot of cases made especially for the iPhone SE since its debut last year, but case makers have the added bonus of being able to reuse iPhone 5/5S designs as well.

But Apple’s iPhone has always had an exceptionally wide variety of cases from third party manufacturers, likely because the situation with the iPhone SE’s design isn’t an isolated case; it’s just the first that used the same design three times over. The iPhone 3G and 3GS had identical housing, as did the iPhone 4 and 4S, iPhone 5 and 5S, and the iPhone 6 and 6S. This year, when Apple introduced the iPhone 8 rather than the expected iPhone 7S, was the first year that broke that cycle. Even so, the iPhone 7 continued to be the most popular selling smartphone in Q3 of 2017 (likely due to minimal differences between the iPhone 7 and 8, a subsequent price drop for the iPhone 7, as well as high anticipation for the iPhone X) giving case makers yet another year of potentially good sales on cases released a year ago.

For the most part, the iPhone has been incredibly predictable over the years. Having two years of the same phone design, along with the continued popularity of the iPhone, gives accessory manufacturers (particularly those who make cases) an easy way for a steady stream of money. Until this year, even iPhone users could benefit from this cycle if they were the type to upgrade once a year (as long as they upgraded to another iPhone). As a user of both iOS and Android, one of the worst parts about switching from iPhone to Android is that I’m usually restricted on case options unless I go with a Samsung flagship, and even Samsung flagships seem to have their limitations when it comes to cases. I strongly believe this factors – at least in part – to why the iPhone continues to be such a popular choice among consumers. No other smartphone comes close to the amount of accessory support that the iPhone has, and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

Readers, how much do accessory options affect your decision to purchase a smartphone? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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