How much thinner can bezels get?

by: Adam KoueiderAugust 31, 2013

LG G2 Bezel

Smartphone display sizes have been increasing steadily over the past several years, and it’s easy to see why. The display is the main way we interact with our smartphone, the deeply intimate, always connected device that we have with us at all times.

It’s telling that in 2013, smartphones with 4.3-inch displays are considered “mini” (the Galaxy S4 Mini and the HTC One Mini come to mind). Just a few years ago though, a phone was considered “mini” if it had a 3.1-inch screen (the Samsung Galaxy Mini).

My, how things have changed.

The appeal of ever larger screens will likely continue for the foreseeable future, but phones can only get so large before they become unwieldy.

The thin bezel bonanza begin with the LG Optimus G Pro, launched at MWC 2013.

The thin bezel bonanza began with the LG Optimus G Pro, launched at MWC 2013.

That’s why, in order to maintain growth, manufacturers have focused on making the bezels around displays ever smaller. By decreasing the size of the bezels, larger screens can fit in smaller frames, thus enabling better handling. For example, despite having a larger 5-inch screen, the Galaxy S4 is narrower and thinner than the 4.8-inch Galaxy S3.

samsung galaxy s4 vs galaxy s3 button layout aa

Samsung Galaxy S3 (left) next to the Galaxy S4 (right).

The question is – how far can manufacturers push it? Just how thin can display bezels realistically get? Good question!

When borders disappear

Motorola was the first to promise a bezel-free display (okay, they used the words “edge to edge”) with the Droid Razr M. Unfortunately, Motorola didn’t deliver on it completely, though the Droid Razr M did have very thin bezels (for its time).

The aforementioned Galaxy S4 has very thin bezels, but, at just 2.65mm, the recently announced LG G2 one upped it. But it’s another Korean manufacturer that holds the record – the Pantech Vega Iron, which has side bezels of just 2.4mm, bests the G2 by 0.25mm.

Then there’s the upcoming Galaxy Note 3, which is rumored to have side bezels that measure just 2.2mm.

Earlier this month, LG showed off a 5.5-inch display with a display resolution of 2560×1440 (that’s 538 PPI for those of you keeping score), and an insanely thin bezel at 1.2mm.

LG Quad HD Display

LG’s 2560×1440 5.5-inch display has insanely thin bezels at 1.2mm thick.

It’s only a matter of time before smartphone side bezels disappear completely, but that’s not without issue.

Borderless could be an issue

On increasingly large smartphones, reaching for the edges of the display could cause the palms of your hands to make contact with the display. It’s easy to forget that these bezels actually serve a purpose, and it’s that they are also there for us to grab onto.


At 5.2-inches the LG G2 display is quite large. Will the thin bezels cause a problem?

When Apple announced the iPad Mini, the thin bezels (at least for a tablet) could have caused problems for some users. Unlike smartphones, tablets are too large for most people to grip in one hand completely. The side bezel is there for you to grasp onto when you’re slicing your way through a barrage of fruits, right?

The iPad mini (left) has thin bezels, for a tablet.

The iPad mini (left) has thin bezels, for a tablet.

A nifty feature of the updated iOS 6 which didn’t get as much limelight, was that it offered palm (and finger) rejection, so that you could hold onto the screen and still use it. The software automatically recognized that you were simply resting your finger on the display. This is similar to the palm rejection found on laptops although a lot of them aren’t that good.

Currently, Android doesn’t support palm and finger rejection, so a bezel-free smartphone could potentially introduce issues for some people. Of course it would be easy for OEMs to add support for it, but making it actually work is a whole other issue (the Apple implementation isn’t perfect either).

Bezel-free smartphones are coming, whether we like it or not, and it’s only a matter of time before they are launched. Although, just as food for thought, what if the bezel was also the screen? It’s likely that combination of great hardware and software, at the OS level (listening, Google?) could alleviate or even eliminate any issues brought about by having bezel-less devices. What remains to be seen is how it will be implemented, and when.

samsung youm flexible bezel

A Samsung YOUM concept device.

With the current crop of next generation mobile devices likely to have sub 2mm bezels, what will this mean for consumers? Are devices with little to no bezel actually something to be excited for? What do you think of bezel-free smartphones?

  • Mat

    Picture description Galaxy s3 is on the left and Galaxy s4 is on the right :)

  • jeddo45

    I would totally go for a bezel free phone. It would be easy to get used to on a phone like the note 2 because It’s a two hand device, so you don’t need a bezel to grab onto. The only problem a bezel free display poses is the ambient light sensors and front facing cameras found on the bezels.

    • Vito Lee

      I think they just mean side bezels not the ones on the top and bottom. You need the top and bottom anyways for speaker, and those mentioned sensors and camera. Not to mention stupid carrier logos (*coughVerizoncough*).

  • jjordan

    I think OEM’s need to focus on cutting down the top and bottom bezels like on the Sony xperia zu…that thing would be way more manageable with way less top and bottom bezel

  • Ryan Castle

    I like thin side bezels, but top and bottom bezels should not (can’t) go smaller.
    We rest out palms there when it’s in landscape mode. That’s why the Nexus 7 has thick top and bottom bezels (although I expected a Nexus 8 from all those bezels. Pity :(

  • abazigal

    As small as the overall design of the phone isn’t compromised, obviously.

    For example, smaller bezels means a smaller form factor overall, which also means less room for battery life. You need on top for a front facing camera.

    I dunno – were people complaining of thick bezels before?

  • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

    Mmm, I think thin bezels could be a problem if software doesn’t keep up, but the natural thing to do is implement palm rejection.

  • Ben Enos

    I’m surprised nobody has brought up the fact that a bezel free phone would be way more susceptible to getting a broken screen. It wouldn’t have any protection at all for the glass so even the smallest bump might chip or cracking the edge. I’ve dropped my galaxy3 many times and there’s no doubt in my mind that the bezel on the phone has protected my screen and kept it from getting cracked.

    • Adam Koueider

      Not really, unless you’ve got a HTC One, the glass is edge to edge anyways. So while the bezel means there’s a little separation between the actual display and the edge of the device, the glass is still edge to edge and therefore still susceptible to cracked screens.

      • Ben Enos

        Huh? If it has a bezel then the glass isn’t edge to to edge. And the bezel definitely protects the glass to some degree. I’ve seen lots of phones with chipped bezels, if the glass had been edge to edge on those the screens would’ve been scratched, cracked or chipped. Plus on many phones the bezel sits higher than the glass, offering protection if it’s placed/dropped face down. No bezel = the glass is going to take a beating everytime the phone gets bumped against anything.

        • Adam Koueider

          I think you’re talking about the sides of the device, completely different to the bezel. For example on the GS2 (talking from experience here) the sides of the device go past the bezel (and the glass) to provide some protection when dropped. You’re correct in that sense.

          On some phones the bezel does sit higher than the glass (can’t think of any smartphones I’ve ever owned that do, but my old nokia had it), however, on the latest phones the (S4, Note 2, Nexus 4) the glass is edge to edge and it goes over the bezel.

          • Ben Enos

            The bezel still protects the edge of the screen to some degree. Even the 2mm or so that my s3 has of bezel offers the screen a certain level of protection and I’m sure has kept it from becoming chipped as its been bumped around in normal use. My bezel has a few small chips out of it, so I can only assume that the edge of the screen would’ve gotten damaged if I had no bezel on the phone. Same reason that the ceramic/porcelain/glass phones often have bumpers around the sides of the device.

          • Ben Enos

            I just looked up bezel and the definition is: ” a grooved ring holding the glass or plastic cover of a watch face or other instrument in position”. I don’t know what to call the area under the top layer of glass on a phone that isn’t screen but when I think of the word bezel I think of the metal edge of the device that holds the glass + screen in place. I guess on phones there are technically two bezels, one for the top glass and one for the screen underneath… Both of them play a role in the overall size of the phone compared to its screen size.

        • Nickan Fayyazi

          I don’t think you understand Adam’s post. Even if there is a bezel, the glass is edge-to-edge. The glass goes over the bezel and covers the entire front of the device. So a bezel or lack thereof won’t affect the protection of the device.

          • Adam Koueider

            Exactly! What we really need is higher quality materials for the actual frame of the device. The GS3 for example, used a very soft plastic which dented very easily.

            Apple’s iPhone 4/4S used a strong stainless steel frame, however, Apple then proceeded to put a glass back which was stupid.

            We tend to drop our phones on the sides, so what we need is a material that is both strong, yet can still resist shock.

          • Ben Enos

            I still haven’t decided aboutwhat material works best for durability. I agree that a stainless/aluminum build feels more durable than plastic but I also think plastic might take abuse a little better on some occasions. I would rather get a chip in a plastic case than get a dent in a metal one. But I definitely agree that the glass backed phones are poor design even though they look and feel nice. Glass doesn’t look so nice anymore after its been dropped and shatters. Meanwhile my “cheaply built” s3 can get a replacement back panel for a few bucks on amazon. I definitely prefer having a phone that can be fixed for $10 rather than needing a $200 replacement panel.

          • Ben Enos

            I think we just have different ideas of what is considered a “bezel” watches have glass that covers the entire face, and are surrounded by a metal “bezel” that holds the glass in place. I’m not referring to the area under the glass as its bezel. The portion of the phone that surrounds the glass and holds it in place is what I consider to be its bezel.

    • Hellz

      actually no. screens arent covered with glass. its plastic. it doesnt break so easily as dimorphic, real glass surfaces. i think they should make displays that are beveled on edges s they wouldnt actualy be end to end with all of its thickness. and you could make touch surface few milimeters shorter and noone would notice (how can you press 2mm of the edge)

      • Ben Enos

        I realize it’s not glass in the traditional sense of the word, but “glass” is often used to refer to smartphone screens…. ex Gorilla “glass” .

  • Verizon

    At Verizon we believe bezels are important. The more bezel space, the more room for our logo. It’s important to be reminded that you’re on the nation’s best network all day!

    • Adam Koueider

      Please Verizon, sell me a 10 pack of your Verizon Logo stickers so that I can “beautify” my unlocked Nexus 4. PLEASE!!!! I’ll pay double.

    • Ben Enos

      If phones stopped having bezels I’m sure that Verizon would just start etching thier logos directly onto the glass. Lol

  • SeraZR™

    To ∞ and beyong o/O

  • Jusephe

    And when the bezels will collapse to nothing, the phones will start to getting bigger again, as their screens do.

  • Jason Melling

    Ultra thin bezels have been in place on Japanese mobiles for quite some time now. This is not really something new.

  • daftchemist

    I agree bezels are something to grab onto but not on a smartphone. At least not for me.

    • thartist

      Bezel = love handles ?

    • Qliphah

      For smartphones the best excuse is for an otterbox or other case to cover the edges and give total wrap-around protection. Without a bezel how would you even put a beast of a case like the otterbox defender on?

      Speaking from my experience, you need the case to overlap the top bezel enough to cover the edges of the screen protector to prevent peeling or crud working its way under the film. In some cases this still causes issues with apps (problems with apps that use the edges such as Smart Statusbar).

  • Casey Chan

    Apparently the G2 comes with Palm Rejection of its own too :)

    from 6:31:

  • Scomii

    U guys are forgetting the Xperia ZL

  • Androidslikebiscuits

    God everyone’s always complaining about how thick their bezels are!!
    Dam those bezels!!

  • ProudToBePinoy

    In my opinion “Less Bezel, More Danger”.

  • Nekro

    I foresee a return to clams. It will have a folded flexi screen that opens up into a huge screen. It will of course have a screen on the outside of the device also. Once opened there won’t be any seam or bump on the screen.

    You heard it here first.

    • Qliphah

      Oh how I want my Pebble back….

      I hung onto that phone until a little more than a year ago. I loved the OLED time that always displayed when closed, the flip action to open, the smooth river polished stone feel of the housing, plus it was essentially a MotoRazer v3 on the inside.

      You hear me Moto! err Google… bring back the Pebl!!!!

  • Relaxasaurus
  • Elliot Kotis

    Nexus 5 bezeless, not even an earpiece.