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The State of Bezels!

There has been a lot of talk about notches lately. As it turns out, I'm working on my review of the Galaxy S9 one of those small changes to the S9 is those bezels, notches and bezel's are kind of the same thing. So let's talk about bezel.
The State of Bezels!

Smartphone have evolved a lot. Obviously, over the years, you may not think designs have a whole lot of drastic change. I mean, they're still kind of the same shape. Generally, but one thing has been consistently true and that is, you may have noticed that screens are now pushing closer and closer to those edges. Now obviously devices with screens have Bezels around those screens some Bezels are bigger than others. And there's this whole wide spectrum of different Bezels on different devices and different form factors thick and thin rounded or sharp we clearly used to not care about Bezels and like have the designs from 2005 2008 anytime before this modern movement seems like there used to be more bezel than screen but now we don't like them.

In 2018 and recent smartphone design has been all about how can we get rid of bezel, how can we shrink those Bez,els maximize our screen to body ratio. Can we get rid of bezel,  how? In theory, the answer is just get rid of everything that's still housed in those Bezels and then you can minimize the Bezels and we have the tech today to test that theory.

So side vessels, definitely easy, there's nothing that has to be in them. So pretty much anyone with a budget has pushed the screen all the way to the sides of the rails. Samsung even has what we call the Infinity display where they literally curve the glass over the side so there's no problem, but in a top and bottom bezel, the phones. There are some things that you'd have to get rid of any fingerprint sensor on the front. Got to get rid of that, the earpiece got to hide that, the front facing camera and any proximity sensor or ambient light sensor in any microphone. If we really want to end vessels and phones, if we really want to shrink the bezel to zero, then we have to find a place to put all of those things.

If we start with the microphones and the light sensors, those are actually pretty small. You can put the microphones on the top of the bottom of the phone and the light sensors, the proximity sensor does have to be on the front so you can put it up to your face and make a call and turn the screen off but the ambient light sensor again is so small, it can go almost anywhere so then there's the earpiece to make phone calls, where do you put that so we've seen various uses of this sometimes you kind of double the earpiece as a front facing speakers so you still want it to be pretty big. But when you don't you tend to be able to shrink it down or shuttered way up at the top of the phone or you can do it, we saw in the xaomi Mi MIX which is a piezoelectric speaker. This is not a super new technology, but we never really needed it in smartphones before since we always had room in the bezel, but a piezoelectric speaker actually vibrates the glass and frame of the phone so that it sounds just like an earpiece speaker when you put your ear up to it. It's surprisingly good so that lets you take the earpiece on the front, put it under the glass shrink the bezel, a little more.

Then there's a fingerprint sensor. This is a fun one. Since most phones have shrunk there bezel so much already that you don't have room for them at the bottom in that spot anymore. So they've moved to the sides and more commonly the back, that's fine, but a lot of times you still want to use it when it's flat on a desk. You want to be able to unlock your phone. So, you have the option of an in glass fingerprint reader. So one of my latest articles goes over a synaptic sensor that puts an optical fingerprint reader underneath the display glass for OLED displays so you can shrink the bezel, all the way to zero and still have a front facing fingerprint reader for unlocking your phone definitely worth checking that whole video out for roughly where that technology stands and how close we are to getting it and phones but so far so good.

So then the last thing is that front facing camera, the selfie camera can't get rid of it. But if you want to shrink the bezel to zero. You got to put that somewhere else. As of right now we don't have the technology to put a front facing camera underneath the display glass, although that would be really cool. So if you want to hide that you kind of got to get creative. This is the part where I wish I could hold up the vivo Apex concept phone and show you exactly how that works. But obviously don't have one. So I'm going to use some footage from other people who have seen it. So this is what it looks like when you successfully made every trade off. I just talked about in getting rid of everything that's normally housed in Bezels and putting them somewhere else. The light and proximity sensors are still in the tiny bottom bezel of the phone and at the top, so they still work. The earpiece is the piezoelectric speaker so it's vibrating the glass and you can hear it when you put your ear up to it, the fingerprint reader is a massive optical sensor in the middle of the display as underneath about a third of the glass and the front facing camera is actually on a motor that pops up in this little housing from the top of the phone when you turn it on. That is the length. They went to, to give us this bezeless phone or this concept every single one of these things was removed from the bezel. They use the flexible OLED display and curved all the drivers and underneath and that leaves you with this beautiful six inch bezeless screen, but it's a concept phone, this phone probably cost them a couple thousand dollars to make and was also extremely difficult for them to make and having motorized moving parts like that and smartphone is generally not good for durability and also waterproofing so there's a lot of little things don't really think about when it's a concept phone and it looks so great, but it just looks so great.

That brings us to the question of what can today's phone makers do in a reasonable budget with today's technology to get closer to bezel less. Well, today you can move the light sensors around you can move the fingerprint sensor to the back or even get rid of the fingerprint sensor entirely. You can shrink the earpiece or even get rid of it. If we're feeling daring, but pretty much everyone at this point realizes the front facing camera is like that last step, it's very important to a lot of people. So we aren't quite as ready to take as many risks with it. So that's how we got this whole notch situation where we really want to push the boundaries and go closer to bezel less and we shrink the top bezel on the side and the bottom, but we didn't really know where else to put the front facing camera so we just gave you the iphone X, in fact if you look back the essential phone got it all kicked off. They had the camera and the front facing ambient light sensor proximity sensor and then that little slit at the top is the earpiece and then of course we got all those front facing sensors in iPhone 10 and sure enough now there's rumors of LG G seven Neo doing the same thing, Asus zenfone 5Z, the rumored one plus six and probably many more to come.

If you're wondering how I feel about the notch this notch isn't the future. It isn't even a feature, it's just it represents this awkward middle stage between cell phone designs of the past and the bezel less that we want. When we figure out what to do with that front facing camera these notches are just kind of the best ideas designers are trying to come up with now for finding clever ways to keep a front facing camera but also shrink as much of the Bezels as possible.

At this point you can only really go like the Samsung way or the Apple way they've kind of coined their camps. The Samsung way is we don't want to notch. We're just going to shrink and keep the Bezels and just pack them as tight as possible on the top and bottom of the phone, but keep all the sensors, where they normally go better looking for sure. At this point, but it's more stable that way.
The iPhone way the apple way is more of its aggressive. It's uglier. But it's more pushing towards that bezel less future that we want when we finally figure out what to do with those front facing sensors. It's like when Apple just decided they wanted wireless audio to be the future and stopped putting a headphone jack in the phone. It's weird. And it's awkward at first, but it definitely moves us forward to that more seamless future, so starts as a big ugly notch. Now with our current technology but ideally next year shrinks a lot shrinks again and eventually when we get the technology to hide that camera and get rid of those sensors on the front completely it's gone.

 As far as today's phones go I gave the essential phone my design and build award because it did the notch as best as we seem to be able to with today's technology. Like I said, it's shove the earpiece way up at the top and it has both the proximity sensor and ambient light sensor and the front facing camera all up in that tiny little notch in the center. So I think the next essential phone. Hopefully, there is one can keep basically the same design, just like shrink the chin even more and try to keep that top notch as tiny as possible, bigger screen maybe, tiny side Bezel's I'd be pretty pumped about that.

Basically, to summarize everything on our march towards that coveted hundred percent screen to body ratio towards these bezel less phones, we came up against this obstacle of the technology we have right now. That is, we can't hide all those sensors and that's what created this notch and if we're going to move past it is just like this little phase in the history of smartphones. We have to be optimistic about the technology that we saw and phones like that Apex phone.

I'm just pumped that there are people that are creative enough to push the boundaries in ways differently than just following the way that Apple in the central we're pushing the boundary to begin with. Hopefully it's just a face.

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