Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider
Smartphone makers have had us drooling for years over the idea of a phone that’s all screen, with no buttons or borders to interrupt the pure design.
But try as they might, the concept hasn’t exactly come to fruition. The most popular devices have come with extremely thin bezels — or, like the iPhone X, add a notch toward the top of the phone to house the camera and all its front-facing sensors.
Still, we’ve been seeing more patents and murmurings of an all-screen phone. Here are some details on what might be in the smartphone pipeline.
Several details have surfaced in recent days suggesting that smartphone designs could shift in many different directions.
An image shared by Slashleaks last week showcased a prototype of a bezel-less smartphone by the Chinese manufacturer Vivo.
The device also has no visible home button, leading us to assume it’s similar to the Vivo X20 Plus, which the manufacturer announced in January as the first mobile device with an in-display fingerprint sensor.
Vivo isn’t the only manufacturer considering an edgeless design.
Samsung recently registered a patent for a smartphone with a “full-screen-filling display.”
Images included with it suggest there could be a component at the top of the display, which Let’s Go Digital refers to as a top notch. However, it could also be a cutout for a front speaker.
There is no indication from the images that the screen isn’t continuous.
It might take a while for all-screen phones to become mainstream.
It looks as if Apple’s iPhone line will feature the TrueDepth camera system (aka “the notch”) for the foreseeable future, and Google is also rumored to be working on a slew of smartphones with top notches.
The tech giant seems to be preparing its operating system for a host of more modern smartphone designs, anticipating not only Android devices with top notches but also devices with flexible displays and multiple screens.
Smartphone manufacturers experimented heavily with different device form factors in 2017.
Apple may have popularized the top notch with the iPhone X, but it was the Essential Phone, the brainchild of the Android cofounder Andy Rubin, that first brought the idea to public attention.
To maximize the device’s display, the Essential Phone features a notch to house its front-facing camera.
However, the smartphone released with Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which is not optimized for that design, leaving several applications unable to expand around the notch and ultimately truncating the width of the usable screen — the opposite intent of a full-screen design. The most recent Android 8.0 Oreo software was similarly not optimized for unique smartphone designs.
The iPhone X has a similar issue in that not all apps are optimized to wrap around its top notch. This may be a pain point that Apple addresses in a future software update.
Once again, Samsung is also in the mix with patents applications showing a version of a smartphone with a notch at the top of the display.
The application suggests Samsung would consider a design closer to the Android-run Essential Phone than the iPhone X.
There is no guarantee that Samsung will ever release a device with a top notch, as patents are more concepts than actual devices in a manufacturer’s pipeline. They are, however, a good indication that Samsung is keeping its options open for how it may develop future phones.
There are also reports that Samsung could release a smartphone with a display that can fold in half. Such a device would also be likely to benefit from running Google’s Android P software.