Bezel-less Smartphones Are Coming. Should You Buy One?

Bezel-less smartphones Samsung Galaxy S8 and the larger Galaxy S8 Plus launched just last month and will be out in the US and other major markets before the end of April.

Even as the disaster that was the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 remains in the public’s consciousness, as the release date for Samsung’s new flagship phones nears, bezel-less smartphones have become the latest buzzword. Consumers have started looking at bezel-less smartphones already out in the market, wondering if they should buy one now or wait until the S8 comes out.

Really Bezel-Less?

Note that bezel-less isn’t really bezel-less. Samsung is pushing the boundaries on border-less displays, but only about 83% of the S8’s front is covered by the display, with the solid top and bottom making up the rest. The same is true for the other, so-called bezel-less smartphones, albeit with slightly different proportions.

The front and back of the Samsung Galaxy S8
The front and back of Samsung’s latest flagship model, the bezel-less smartphone Samsung Galaxy S8.

Whether a truly bezel-less display is feasible remains uncertain. What is obvious is that bezel-less, as seen in today’s crop of bezel-less smartphones, is not really bezel-less in the true sense of the word. This doesn’t diminish the accomplishment of having mobile phones with larger displays in smaller screens. It’s a big leap in aesthetics, for sure.

A Survey of the Bezel-Less Smartphone Market

The Galaxy S8 is not Samsung’s first bezel-less smartphone. The Galaxy S7 Edge, which came out at around the same time as the ill-fated Note 7, inspired its curved sides. In essence, the S8 can be considered as a new-generation S7 Edge.

Aside from its own S7 Edge, the S8’s competitors in the bezel-less phone market include the LG G6, and the Sony Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra. The former is already out on the market, while the latter is expected to be available by end of April.

The flagship LG G6’s specs are comparable to, if not better than, the S8’s. The specs of the two Sony Xperia smartphones (essentially the same phone except for the larger display on the XA1 Ultra and other differences from the latter having a larger body) do not come close, which is expected given that both are mid-range phones with nary the expected power of flagship models.

There’s also the two-year-old Sharp AQUOS Crystal, the very first edge-to-edge phone, but it is outdated, and even when it first came out, it was nothing more than a mid-range phone, nothing comparable to Samsung’s and LG’s flagship phones. Due to its age, it also doesn’t compare favorably to the new Sony Xperia models, though both the Sharp and Sony phones cater to the mid-market.

China’s Bezel-Less Smartphones

A couple of Chinese smartphone manufacturers came out with their own bezel-less phones late last year, but these, the Xiaomi Mi Mix and the ZTE Nubia Z11, are currently available only in China. The latter would have been ideally-placed as a budget option to the other, more pricey phones. However, ZTE’s plans to sell it outside China had not materialized.

Market Summary

To sum up, in terms of premium phones, the S8’s only real competitor is the LG G6.  In terms of price, the LG G6 is cheaper than the S8 by about a $100. Thus, budget-wise, it’s a better option. The difference in price is explained by the more powerful Snapdragon 835 processor in the Samsung. Still, the LG G6 has a more than capable processor in the Snapdragon 821. This boils down to which is more important for you: (perceived) power or budget. If you’re looking to spend wisely by sticking to your budget, the LG seems like a better buy.

Crowd lines up around Lincoln Center for bezel-less smartphones Samsung is releasing soon
A crowd lines up around the block outside New York’s Lincoln Center ahead of the bezel-less smartphone Samsung Galaxy S8’s Unpacked event.

The mid-range Sony Xperia XA1 and its larger sibling target a different market altogether. Both phones are much cheaper but are not really competitors to the S8 and G6. Both are good options if you’re looking to try a bezel-less phone without breaking the bank.

Pro(s) for Buying

So, should you buy a bezel-less phone now? Or should you wait until the technology has stabilized before getting one?

What stands out in a bezel-less  smartphone is obvious, at least from an aesthetics standpoint: their edge-less screens are much better-looking than the current crop of smartphones sporting already-thin displays. This was obvious way back in 2014, when the Sharp AQUOS Crystal came out – the phone garnered rave reviews for its then-pioneering edge-less display, its otherwise so-so specs notwithstanding.

Other than aesthetics, what other advantages do bezel-less smartphones have over other phones? We are at a loss to name another one.

Cons against Buying

Bezel-less smartphones compare favorably with non-bezel-less flagship phones from other manufacturers in terms of function. Aesthetics account for their slightly higher prices. If you’re on a budget, you can get functionally-similar phones without the bezel-less displays at lower prices.

The chances of accidentally pressing keys on a phone that is all screen are higher. This is particularly true if you have large hands (the anecdotal evidence suggests that large hands are prone to making accidental presses on a phone). Not major, but still a deterrent to buying a phone that is almost all screen.

Breakage risk is another potential deal breaker. With the screen making up most of the phone, common sense dictates that the chances of it surviving a hard fall is slimmer. True, a solidly-built case wrapped around the phone will prevent this from happening. But what’s the use of buying a phone based on aesthetics if you can’t really show it to anyone?

If you’re specifically looking at the S8, there’s another factor that might influence your buying decision. Samsung’s reputation suffered a setback when it recalled the Note 7. Should you be concerned that what happened to the Note 7 will also happen with the S8? Samsung has overhauled its manufacturing processes to ensure the unfortunate disaster doesn’t happen again. We won’t know for sure how successful they have been until the S8 comes out.

Buy Decision: Yes or No?

This then brings up the question whether you should buy a bezel-less smartphone now. Is aesthetics a good enough reason to buy a phone at a higher price point?

It comes down to a personal choice in the end. However, form over function does not seem like a compelling argument to buy a phone, not when it will cost you an arm and a leg in the process. It becomes a different question if manufacturers combine a sleek-looking bezel-less smartphone with never-before-seen features such as 5G capability.

Prices will drop when the technology matures, as history has often taught us. Phones not only nice to look at but having other features that justify the still-high (but lower than current) prices will also be out in the market by then. Until that time comes, you might want to hold on to your money a little while.

IMAGE CREDITS

Lead Image is Public Domain via Pixabay.

Samsung Galaxy S8 images via samsungmobilepress.com.

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