Sunday Debate: Are Smaller Bezels Better or Worth It?
Bezels have been getting smaller and smaller as the years go by, and while devices from 2011 needed to trim some fat, there is no absolute rule that says that smaller bezels, after a happy medium, are beneficial to a phone. Part of this is that, with today’s current smartphone paradigms, an absolute lack of bezels does not produce an inherently better user experience.
With each technological advancement come limitations and compromises of some sort, and bezels are not exempt from this. We took a look at the Bezel Liberation not too long ago, and now we want to hear your arguments.
However, thin bezels can make devices look more efficient, sleeker and they can drastically reduce the size of a phone in your hand. The LG G2, for example, was praised due to its small frame which made it feel much smaller than it really was. The LG G3 continued this trend, and despite being a 5.5 inch phablet, it was touted for being extremely easy to handle. Just as we move from certain standards that seemed hard-coded into the paradigms of old, bezels might be forgotten in the sands of smartphone time. But does it need to be this way?
This debate has both an objective and a subjective aspect to it, as it touches on both technological efficiency and aesthetics. We will provide a couple of quick arguments to tease both sides, but you are free to jump straight to the comments below to discuss your stance. Do you think reducing smartphone bezels, with current technologies, is efficient? Do you personally like the reduced bezels, and why/why not? Do you think less bezel is more optimal for in-hand feel or handling, or does it bring more problems than it’s worth? What is your “happy medium”?
Having thinner bezels can noticeably reduce the total surface area and resulting volume of a smartphone, which can allow it to be lighter and smaller. With minimal bezels, a phablet can typically be handled better, in some cases as good as an nonoptimal 5-incher. The smaller bezel can also result in new approaches to smartphone design: for example, an all-screen smartphone could use its full screen as part of the UI design, and it could also allow for you to set your own “bezel” areas of unresponsive touchscreen. These “dynamic bezels” could please a diverse demographic, as they could also allow people to reduce the screen size to something they are more comfortable with – through software.
Moreover, while making the sacrifice of reducing bezels is still arduous and takes extra resources and consideration, newer technologies are achieving increasingly smaller hardware parts that result in much more efficient physical allocation of each component. With increasingly smaller processes, or new memory solutions like Samsung’s ePoP, considerable space can be saved which allows for extra circuitry and battery, and more efficient use of volume. Circuitry is particularly important for bezels, as fitting the technology for the screen partially under the bezels is a common practice that might dissipate entirely. Minimal bezels could, in the future, lead to new design paradigms that might enrich our experiences…. but as stated before, it has yet to happen.
Leave Bezels Alone
Many users don’t feel like they need thinner bezels than they have, or that they have found a happy medium that satisfies their use-case’s needs, or compliments their user experience. For example, bezels can allow for capacitive keys which many users still love. Most importantly, though, the bezel makes it much harder for you to accidentally press your screen’s sides (that being said, software can address these issues to an extent). Bezels can also hurt the viewing experience to some users, as the frame can separate the outside world with that of the screen, like a picture frame does – thus focusing your perception on the contained surface and not have the focus be shifted by the entirety of your vision.
But as of today, having small bezels brings clear compromises. Bezel-free phones like those of Aqua have been reported to suffer from touchscreen issues due to the decisions made to achieve such screen-to-body ratio. Removing the area between the edge of the phone and the edge of the screen can also leave less room for side button mechanisms (this is presumably why the G2 opted for back buttons back then), and further compact the volume of the phone when we are already wanting extra room for batteries (and the fact that phones tend to get thinner doesn’t help either). Finally, if there is no raised bezel, the screen could get scratched face-down, and some types of bezels or edges also help mitigate fall impact. A fully bezel-less phone would, in itself, bring a lot of design challenges (such as accommodating a front earpiece).
Newer technologies are making it much easier to get to the no-bezel phone, and some are getting really close in certain aspects. Things like accommodating buttons might not even be a problem – there are buttonless smartphones out there, and features like those of the Nubia Z9 also mitigate the need. But as of now, many (myself included) think that the compromises are not worth a full or significant jump, and would rather see extra volume and breathing room for bigger batteries and/or new or improved technology in general. There is also a part to this debate that is largely subjective, so feel free to tell us your opinion on aesthetics and user experience as well.
- Do you think bezels are needed?
- What is your “happy medium”?
- Do you think the (current) compromises of small bezels are worth it?
- What do you think about current phones with low screen-to-body ratios?