Every phone should have a second screen on the back

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When you really stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. For years, we’ve talked about the wasted space on the front of a phone – a.k.a. the bezels. Finally, 2017 is looking to kill bezels once and for all. But for all this time, the back of the phone has been an even bigger waste of space than the left and right side of the home button. These days, just about every flagship phone is a glass sandwich, so let’s do something with that space. As long as we’re putting glass on the back of the phone, let’s have it cover something useful.

Tiny, but powerful

The Meizu PRO 7 seems to be looking to do just that. The back of the phone seems to have a display for time, notifications, and the like – similar to the second small screen we’ve seen at the top of a few phones of late. This could be a potentially useful piece of tech, depending on how it’s implemented.

Imagine if you will using that second screen to center a selfie shot with the main camera. Would we even need a selfie camera on a phone any more? A small screen like that would give you access to information from your phone without even having to look at the front of it. Use the rear screen as a touchpad to scroll the screen, or swipe down the notification tray. There are any number of gestures that could be built in to such a concept.

Master Yota

Of course, I’m still wistful of the Yotaphone concept, which put an entire E Ink display on the back of the phone. This E Ink display could be used for all manner of things from airline tickets, to saving a permanent screen, to simply decorating the back of your phone. In this writer’s humble opinion, this is the rear screen done right. I get that there may be some uses for a full 1080p panel on the back of a phone, but in this techie’s opinion, a second screen should have a unique use that fills a need.

In the case of the Yotaphone, you could use that E Ink display for functions that would normally be a battery killer – like navigation or reading. You’re doing these activities at a mere fraction of the power you’d normally consume with a screen on. So, if we’re to see a screen of the back of a phone, that one has my vote. I wonder if you could even take that concept to eleven by making the E Ink display a color display, much like the Pebble Time.

Go big or go home

But, what if we could add a second full size panel on the back of a phone. It would certainly have to have a Chuck Norris Code ninja involved to create the software to support such a screen. When would the screen register a touch, and when wouldn’t it. There would be a ton of questions to answer. But suddenly, you wouldn’t have to worry about which side was the front and which side was the back. Remember the Alcatel Idol 3 that could be used upside down? Take that concept up another notch. Now you can use your phone however you happen to be holding it. That’s a concept I could get on board with.

Of course, what purpose that second screen would have, I’m honestly not sure. There is the utility of the aforementioned touchpad, but with the entire back of the phone. You could have a dual screen viewing experience where the back panel reflects the front allowing two or more people to share an experience. It would certainly add a new dimension to 360 photos and videos. There are probably a number of other uses that I can’t even imagine for a second full color panel. But, man, the toll on your battery. Yikes.

You decide!

But what do you think? Should every phone have a second screen on the back? Could we finally rid ourselves of selfie cameras in lieu of a viewfinder on the back of a phone? What would your ideal rear screen look like/do? Sound off in the comments below. This could be a fun little thought-experiment. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with.

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About The Author
Adam Doud

Adam joined the tech world after watching Jon Rubenstein demo the most epic phone ever at CES 2009. He is webOS enthusiast, Windows Phone fan, and Android skeptic. He loves the outdoors, is an avid Geocacher, Cubs/Blackhawks fan, and family man living in Sweet Home Chicago, where he STILL hosts monthly webOS meetups (Don’t call it a comeback!). He can be found tweeting all things tech as @DeadTechnology, or chi-town sports at @oneminutecubs. Read more about Adam Doud!