You know, over the past year, there’s been a recurring theme in mobile technology. That theme is bezel reduction. This makes me sad. Sure a shrinking bezel generally means a larger screen in a smaller body, but the cost, in my opinion is too great.
We saw this recently with the LG G2. We see it again with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The bezels on phones today are practically non-existent. There is just the slightest hint of a black line on either side of the screen and that’s it. This is a good thing, because it allows for a larger screen (5.7” as opposed to the Note II’s 5.5”) in what amounts to the same size body. But the problem with that is simple.
There is just no place to hold the darn thing.
This has actually been a problem for some time now. Even the Galaxy SIII has a micro-bezel on either side of the screen. I constantly have problems even simply holding the device without inadvertently tapping an icon, or adjusting volume or otherwise acting upon the device. This makes the already awkward “Excuse me could you take our picture with this $600 phone and not run away with it?” conversation even more troubling when you have to talk them through re-launching the camera app after they accidentally bring up your contacts.
Shrinking bezels are also to blame for the so-ridiculous-it-just-might-work button placement on the back of the LG G2. Without the buttons on the side of the screen, LG was free to suck that chassis right on down to almost the edge of the screen. And it’s the “almost” part of that that’s the most irksome.
Achieving zero bezel
I understand the concept of a zero-bezel device. A device unshackled by borders would be very sweet indeed. It would open up the possibility of multi-screen views in the unlikely event you have multiple phones. It would make possible the folding phone that opens up into a larger phone. Zero-bezel is an exciting concept indeed!
But as it stands, no one is doing zero-bezel. They’re still using bezels, but they’re almost like micro-bezels. Using a miniature bezel for the express purpose of shaving off a few milimeters on the side of a device is silly and it hampers user friendliness.
It’s not like you go to a museum and see art just plastered to a wall. There’s frames. Arguably, sometimes the frames are prettier than the paintings, but that’s another conversation. Bezels are there for a reason. It’s nice to have a part of a phone that you can touch and hold without making something happen. You can hand off your phone to friends and show them that hilarious cat video you stumbled across at work. Why were you surfing cat videos at work? Let’s leave that question unanswered shall we?
Can’t we all just get along?
The point is, the bezel here and he is not a bad guy, and yet every reviewer out there goes gaga over the tiny, tiny little bezels on the latest…whatever. I’m sure reviewers aplenty will take about the miniature bezel on the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Note 3. As a matter of fact, I just talked about it. I talked about fitting a larger screen into the same sized body. Am I a hypocrite? No. Am I hoping you don’t read both editorials back to back? Probably, a little bit.
So basically it comes down to, do you prefer bigger screens, or the ability to hold, pass around, and share your phone without inadvertantly pushing the stupid search button in the bottom right corner that constantly mocks you and starts searches you never even wanted to….Whoh. That was weird. But the question remains. Personally, I would love a phone to have zero bezel and capitalize on it by havingthe ability to multiply screens, or better still get those folding phones out there that have mostly failed thus far because a zero bezel wasn’t possible. Even better, make a zero-bezel dual screen phone that can detach from itself and become two devices that work together and recombine to make one big screen. Then and only then will I advocate for bezel-icide to begin.
A word from Matias
In the meantime, black space is not the enemy. It’s ok to have a slightly smaller screen to have a more convenient and comfortable grip. Matias Duarte once discussed bezels. At the time he was talking about tablets (specifically the original Nexus 7), but on a smaller scale, the same holds true about phones:
We’ve given it these asymmetrical bezels here on the sides, so that when you’re holding it in landscape you have more grip because it sticks out longer and you have more weight to counter-balance. And the bezels are great when you’re playing games because they give you a place to rest your thumbs without obscuring any part of the screen. We carefully designed the balance of how the bezels work with the screen so that there’s always a stronger dark area at the bottoms, just like the matte on a print. Like if you were going to frame some artwork, so it has a perfect visual balance in both dimensions.
You see? Even Matias likes bezels and has given a lot of thought on the subject. It’s ok to say it out loud: “I love bezels, and I’m proud.” How about you? Are teensy weensy stripes along the edge fine with you as long as you can get maximum screenage? Or are you going to finally come out and say it in public. It’s ok to be brave sometimes. Sound off below and let us know.