The battle to kill the smartphone bezel is going too far. Samsung, Huawei, and One Plus all sell phones with curved screens that make the edges of the display seem practically invisible at first glance. Pop-up cameras and notches have pushed displays to the tippy-top of the frame. Just last week, Oppo unveiled its “waterfall” screen, featuring an 88-degree fold that practically wraps the display around the side of the phone, all in the name of eliminating unsightly bezels once and for all.

And I’m done with all of it. I’ll admit that Infinity Displays and Dewdrop screens make for gorgeous renders—you need look no further than the leaked Note 10 shots to see that. But when you get past the prettiness, the only thing that thin bezels do is make our phones harder to use and easier to break.

Less bezel, more problems

The dream, of course, is to make the world’s first completely bezel-less phone. Several companies have shown off pie-in-the-sky concepts that shift components and buttons away from the screen, or under it—Oppo has already developed an in-screen selfie camera. Barely-there bezels are already a sign that you’ve paid more for your smartphone than you probably should, but the ultimate status symbol will be owning the first phone with a 100-percent screen-to-body ratio.

galaxy s10 bezels Christopher Hebert/IDG

Samsung dramatically reduced the bezels on the Galaxy S10+ (right) as compared to the S9.

Once you get over the gorgeousness of curved glass, though, what are we really gaining with edge-to-edge displays? They’re more breakable, and more prone to accidental touches.

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Once you’ve lost front-facing stereo speakers, iris scanners, and IR blasters, you’ve lost a lot of the character, too. Ever-shrinking handsets have even sacrificed battery capacity, all in the name of bezel-free displays.

Now there’s a good chance that selfie cams, too, are going to get worse before they get better. Oppo’s in-screen camera has a lower quality than usual selfie cams, so it relies on algorithms for things like haze removal, HDR, and white balance. Based on my experiences with computational photography that isn’t powered by Google’s AI, results have been less than stellar.

It’s all the same story: As smartphone companies strive to out-innovate each other to create designs that look pretty in pictures, we’re losing functionality and innovation along the way, not to mention comfort. Bigger phones are already awkward to use, but when you eliminate the bezels, it makes the phone that much harder to hold comfortably.

Apple’s iPhone XS is pretty close to the sweet spot. Compared to the Galaxy S10’s barely-there display edges, its two-millimeter bezels may as well be an inch thick. The iPhone XS is easier to hold, easier to unlock, and just as nice to look at, but Samsung would never dream of offering a flagship phone without an Infinity Display, even if using it is a balancing act between slippery and cumbersome.



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