Bezels on smartphones have become a hot topic in the industry over the past few years. Not only do many smartphone users consider bezels a waste of space, but now that smartphones have arguably hit their size limit before officially crossing into tablet territory, manufacturers need to get creative to increase screen real estate without increasing the overall size of our already large phones.
For many, the ideal future of smartphone design features bezel-less displays, or at least as close to it as possible. Some manufacturers, such as Sharp and Samsung, have already dabbled with the idea with the Aquos Crystal 2 and the Galaxy Edge devices, respectively. The Aquos Crystal 2, although not as popular, did receive some positive press surrounding its unique “bezel-less” display on three sides of the device, with a noticeable “chin” on the bottom edge. On the other hand, you have Samsung, who attempted to defy logic with a sloped edge display on the Galaxy Note Edge in 2014, the Galaxy S6 Edge in 2015, and again with the Galaxy S7 Edge in 2016. Today, Xiaomi officially joins this list of manufacturers that are straying away from bezels.
Alongside the Xiaomi Mi Note 2 (which appears to mimic many aspects of Samsung’s Galaxy Note series, minus the stylus), the Chinese company unveiled another smartphone with a virtually edgeless display called the Mi Mix.
The Mi Mix resembles the Aquos Crystal 2 strongly design-wise, offering extremely slim bezels on the top, right, and left sides of the device. A chin remains on the bottom of the device, but the Mi Mix’s chin is remarkably smaller than the one on the Aquos Crystal 2. Another big difference between the Mix and the Crystal 2 is the screen size: the Mix offers a massive 6.4-inch display, while the Crystal 2 offered a 5.2-inch display. Curiously enough, the Mix’s screen size shouldn’t scare anybody off, because it’s overall dimensions appear to be very similar to Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus, which only (only) features a 5.5-inch display. Another interesting fact is that the Mi Mix has an aspect ratio of 17:9, which allows for on-screen buttons without tampering with a normal 16:9 aspect ratio of the rest of the display.
Of course, when you look at the Mix’s design, you may be surprised to find out that it still works perfectly well as a regular smartphone, despite looking like it’s missing some key components of one. For example, the phone appears to be missing the all-important earpiece (because how can you use your phone as a phone without it?) but Xiaomi has chosen to use something called conductive audio technology as a solution. The proximity sensor, which also appears to be missing, is created using “range sensing technology”. The front-facing camera is still on the front of the device but is housed in the bottom right corner of the phone, on the only side of the phone with a bezel. Users can still take selfies by turning the phone upside-down. Unconventional, but I imagine the sacrifices to make this design possible are worth it to a lot of people.
You also have the potential downsides to consider with such narrow bezels. The Mi Mix was originally thought to be only a concept at this point, but clearly, that’s not the case. Still, without much more than hands-on reviews available to us at the moment, we don’t know how well important features like palm rejection work just yet. There’s also the concern that a phone with this type of design is more fragile than phones with thicker bezels.
Unfortunately, as fascinating as the Mi Mix is, it won’t be making a U.S. appearance. However, the hype and support surrounding this device appear to be much better compared to the Sharp Aquos Crystal 2 (which was also a lower end device spec-wise, whereas the Mi Mix has both beauty and brains). With Samsung’s Edge devices also having gained traction (and better performance) over the past couple of years, I think we’re at the point where more manufacturers will work faster to eradicate bezels as consumers express a desire for them to be removed in favor of larger screens, but not larger phones.
Over the years, I find that my feelings have changed regarding bezels. I’ve always depended on them to ensure no accidental registries happen on my phone, and is even one of the main reasons why I opted for the Galaxy S7 over the Galaxy S7 Edge. Nonetheless, like all technology, its performance inevitably improves as more adopt and hone on the design. It probably won’t be long now before bezel-less displays have nearly immaculate accuracy. Assuming that’s the case, as somebody who is pretty much stuck with a 5.2-inch display or smaller for comfort purposes, I would gladly give up bezels for more screen.