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!