Why thin bezels are a horrible idea for smartphones [Opinion]

June 10, 2014

Don't you just hate it when your apps keep crashing?

If a smartphone can be too thin for its own good, we can agree the same applies to bezels. The industry keeps pushing bezels away like they are some kind of bacterial disease, making for devices that are nearly all screen. Is this what people look for in their next smartphone, or is it one of the many gimmicks manufacturers use to hit more sales?

Body-to-screen ratios keep decreasing and this bullet train is not stopping anytime soon.

Body-to-screen ratios keep decreasing and this bullet train is not stopping anytime soon. We have previously touched on this subject, wondering just how thin bezels could get and how that could be a problem. The bezel-less concept was still young and we weren’t sure what could be going on, but now we know this movement could bring more problems than it brings advantages.

What are some of the problems current and future bezel-less devices could face? We will go through some of the main ones in the sections below.

Accidental touching

This is an obvious issue. It’s also the first problem you will notice when you try out your shiny new bezel-less device. The all-screen concept will look beautiful in the shelves, as well as in your hands, but the hype will die down as soon as you start making accidental taps.

It becomes a dreadful annoyance that you can't seem to brush off unless you hold your device in all sorts of uncomfortable ways.

In fact, it becomes a dreadful annoyance that you can’t seem to brush off unless you hold your device in all sorts of uncomfortable ways. This is especially the case with larger devices, like tablets. These are designed to be held with a grip, as their sizes and weight require so.

It’s easier to hold a tablet when it has a sizable bezel to support it. This is a fact, and even (dare I mention?) Apple knows it. This is why, with the iPad Mini, they introduced a software solution in which the device ignores touch when it notices it is caused by your hand gripping onto the iPad.

lg g pad 8.3 apple ipad mini 2012 aa 8

The thinner the bezel, the easier they break

We have found a correlation between devices with thin bezels - they are all very weak.

Let’s leave confort behind. Let’s assume we can make these devices work with no accidental presses and hair-pulling problems. We have realized thin bezels don’t help much in making your smartphone more durable. In fact, it often makes them very fragile.

This is not just me talking, either. Here at Android Authority we have become very known for our drop tests, and we have a few examples we can use as evidence. We have found a correlation between devices with thin bezels – they are all very weak.

lg g2 drop test aa 47

In drop tests, devices like the LG G2, LG G Flex and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 don’t fare very well. They all cracked and in some cases the display was rendered useless. These all have very thin bezels, especially on the left and right edges of the phone.

LG G Flex Drop Test Outdoors AA  (11 of 25)

These are not bezel monsters, either - they just happen to have a bit of meat in their bones.

This inferior ruggedness could be due to many factors. For one, manufacturers usually focus on thinness as well, meaning they put make screens more compact and easier to break. Another obvious theory is that these screens are closer to the edge of the phone, making them more susceptible to cracking in falls.

Now, if we take a look at devices like the Xperia Z2 and the HTC One M8, which have significantly bigger bezels, you can really tell the difference. These are not bezel monsters, either – they just happen to have a bit of meat in their bones.

sony xperia z2 drop test (23 of 25)

We haven’t done an official HTC One M8 drop test, but I have dropped my personal device a couple times (one time it fell right on the screen), and it is alive and unharmed. As for the Xperia Z2, it proved to be just as solid. And yes, the image above is the Xperia Z2 after our drop test.

Things can get ugly real fast!

Some people may choose to give up durability and comfort for a bezel-less beauty. Some of these phones do look gorgeous, but we have seen that lack of bezel doesn’t really equal to good aesthetics every single time. Some of these bezel-less devices can get real ugly. Of course, this is a subjective topic, but I know many of you will agree when you see these devices.

sharp-AQUOS-PAD-SHT22-21-bezel-less handling

Let’s take the a look at the Sharp AQUOS Pad and AQUOS Phone Mini. These devices have such a small bezel they look unnatural. This is probably the best example of bezels gone wrong. Sharp really just went nuts here. This really seems like making thin bezels just for the sake of it.

sharp aquous phone mini Gizmodo Japan

Of course, LG has outdone themselves with one device – the LG Isai FL. This phone’s bezel is amazingly thin, but it does manage to look a little better than Sharp’s option. Regardless, it still seems a bit unnatural and uncomfortable.

LG Isai FL Blue And White @evleaks

Will this trend continue?

Not every manufacturer is following the gimmicky thin bezel trend, and that is always good. If you look for something more durable and comfortable to use, you can choose devices from Sony, HTC or the like. Those who prefer te thinner bezels can go with LG or Samsung.

With that said, I doubt manufacturers are doing away with thin bezels. In fact, LG’s Chul Bae Lee, Vice President of LG‚Äôs Mobile Communications Design Lab, said he wanted the LG G3′s bezel to be even thinner! Is that even possible? Needless to say, this is hard proof of where the industry is moving.

lg g3 hands on (2 of 31)

How can we fix these issues?

But what good is a smaller, thin phone if you need to put a case in it? This problem needs to be hit at the source... design.

If there is one thing I will never do, it is to criticize something without trying to find some possible solutions. We need to think of ways to make things better for those who do prefer the elegant look and smaller size thin bezels tend to offer.

It’s definitely advisable to¬†get some form of protection, whether that be in the form of¬†insurance or a case. But what good is a smaller, beautifully thin phone if you need to put a case in it? This problem needs to be hit at the source, which is to say, it’s design.

Why did the Xperia Z2 hold up so well in all our tests? If you really take a close look, the bezel is still pretty thin, even if not as much as the others. The difference seems to be that other layer of plastic surrounding the device. Design and different materials working together can make a huge difference in both weight, size and durability.

composite-material

We can go ahead and look at the skies for answers - literally. Most modern airplanes are constructed with what they call composite material. This simply means multiple materials crafted together to create a stronger product. In phones, manufacturers have started to use more composite materials, which also include reinforced plastics.

We can take the LG G3′s metal/plastic build or the Droid Razr’s iconic kevlar back as examples of composite material. We need to move past just making plastic or metal phones. We need to find the right balance between durability, aesthetics, design and build quality.

razri Image Credit: PC Pro

The problems with accidental presses are also fixable. Apple found a nice software workaround, so we are sure other manufacturers (or Google) can do something about this. As for design, there is really not much we can do or say about that. That is simply a factor only the device designers can fix.

We do know one thing, though: there are problems with these svelte bezels. Manufacturers either need to fix them or stop making our phones more fragile and problematic than they need to be.

Comments

  • Filip Zacek

    The LG Isai and Sharp phones look ugly and unnatural because their top bezels are tiny but their bottom bezels are pretty sizable. The top and bottom bezels of a phone should be of similar size in order to look aesthetically pleasing…

    • Daniel DS

      Exactly. That’s why I adore the Nexus 4′s design so much.

  • Marcellus1

    Bezels on tablets are useful, but that’s not necessarily true for phones due to the way they are usually held. The article mentioned software workarounds for accidental touches, so that problem can be solved even for tablets. As to screen damage, aren’t flexible screens and other unbreakable screens supposedly coming just around the corner? Also, as mentioned by Filip Zacek, small bezels don’t have to be ugly just because they currently are. Take the LG Isai FL and make the bottom bezel as small as the top and it would look much better.

    • Edgar Cervantes

      I agree. Thin bezels can be good-looking. I did mention that too, but I think things can easily get ugly with thin bezels. As for “unbreakable” displays, I don’t think we are there quite yet. The LG G Flex was supposed to be one of the first implementations of such screens, and it didn’t get us very far in the drop test.

    • abqnm

      I feel there is a line to be drawn for too thin. On the sides at least. I don’t mind smaller top and bottom bezels. The sides need a little bit. My HTC One M7 has only about 4-5mm on either side, but that is still enough to cause me to trigger the outside edge of the screen at times. I don’t think any smaller than this would be good, unless manufacturers develop some good and reliable filtering algorithm to ignore certain touches at the edge.

      As for them being easier to break, that just comes down to case design. You can have a tiny bezel and still have a durable screen. Just don’t run the glass all the way to the edge and then protect it with only the tiniest raised edge of the plastic case (looking at you Samsung). I have never seen more (Android) phones still in use with broken screens than the Galaxy S3. That could have been fixed with better case design.

      • Michael Samsara

        There does come a point where both phones, bezels and people can become too thin and not only start to look ugly but be weakened in a multiplicity of ways as a result.

        Nobody wants to go back to the days of the 4 pound “mobile” phone but jeez – it is nice to have a little bit of heft that at least lets you know you are holding something in your hand and not so ridiculously thin that they can’t put an even half way decent battery in it – all for the sake of appearances. There is a way that style and functionality and durability can be blended – it just means someone has to use their head and set their priorities properly.

        Right now – it appears – we have people designing devices who are aiming for one goal – thinness re size and bezels too – regardless of whether it blends and/or functions well and/or undermines the device’s aesthetic and functional integrity.

  • sam

    The samsung s5 bezels are larger than the samsung s4. I have seen this sighted as being as much for the water and dust resistance as for durability. Put a s5 and a s4 together (I have both) and you’ll soon see that samsung moved away from the s3 to s4 design philosophy of fit more into a similar space

    • AnonGuy

      The S4 was also known for having a fragile screen and the bezels almost assuredly exacerbated that. This post is dead on. There is a point where the detriment outweigh the benefits. The Note 3 bezels are the least I can manage at the moment. Any thinner and there are issues with palm (accidental) touches and the screen being so close to the edge of the screen does affect how easily it will break or Crack.
      .
      I really am not understanding some of the comments here criticizing what he write, most of them lacking in logic.
      .
      Looks don’t matter if you put a case on the phone, and with bezels that thin edge swipes, etc. (Moving icons or widgets from one home screen to another by sliding, for example) with a case become problematic as well.

  • http://www.phandroid.com Kevin Krause

    You’re wrong, Edgar!

    • Edgar Cervantes

      Kevin… Go back to your fragile iPhone! lol

  • _X_

    Haha…wonder how he struggled to write this article without mentioning the S5…to me Samsung nailed it when it comes to durability in a phone! It nails every drop test! Still bought a Samsung transparent rubber cover for my phone. ..those flip covers are irritating! !!

  • arcwindz

    Thin bezels are great on smartphones, the isai was a bit too much, but something like g2 is great (except for the rear button)
    I personally don’t really care about bezels, what i care about is the size of the device itself. G2 has amazingly thin bezels but very large device especially the width. Nope, not good enough for me.

    • Edgar Cervantes

      I loved the LG G2! It was my primary phone for months, and it had to be replaced twice due to cracked screens….

  • cooljames
  • Plinky

    “The thinner the bezel, the easier they break”
    It’s not about the bezels, it’s about the glass surface reaching the edge of the device. That’s because the glass can’t handle compressions as good as plastic does.
    That’s why a Lumia 920 can handle “edge drops” very well.

    • Anthonydotcom

      Preach! I was thinking the same thing. As long as glass is glass it’s going to break. My old HTC Sensation hit the floor so many times without a case. The bezel and outer shell took a beating but that screen was scratch free. That screen was also concave. Maybe HTC was onto something with that.

  • splus

    Speak for yourself. I have NEVER accidentally touched the screen over the bezel on my LG G2.
    Bezels can be much thinner than they’re now. So much wasted space making phones larger than they need to be…

    • Edgar Cervantes

      I often have accidental presses, especially when laying down and using the phone above my face. I need that grip.

      • 3rdflyleaf

        I had the same problem when using my brother’s G2.

        • RebekkahBooseyesu

          My Uncle
          Joshua just got an almost new white Kia Rio Hatchback only from working
          part-time off a home computer. try this R­e­x­1­0­.­C­O­M­

      • Varun Dhasmana

        I agree with you on that but except for that position, it isn’t a problem.

      • keenmay

        on a side note…anybody drop their phone while using it laying down? POW!, lol

        PS, no problem with with thin bezel. I do occasionally accidentally pressing on the volume buttons on my nexus 5 while using it in landscape. Those back buttons on the LG G2/G3 starting to get enticing.

  • Gator352

    The woman in the pic above looks disgusted. It’s either because she’s looking at a 720p screen or has T-mo service and is at a friends house 10 miles out of town…

    • Edgar Cervantes

      Or Sprint, and is right in the middle of the city. lol

      • Gator352

        Hey now, I have Sprint and I get great service! :) Prolly the only one but…ya know…lol

        • Edgar Cervantes

          LOL. You live in a very special place, then!

  • Roberto Tom√°s

    “Accidental touching” ‚ÄĒ there is a software solution to this problem.
    “The thinner the bezel, the easier they break” ‚ÄĒ plastic screens from Sharp, AUO, Samsung, and perhaps LG (but not the Flex) all disagree. there are even generic solutions from third parties like Corning at this point.
    “Things can get ugly real fast!” ‚ÄĒ it’s hard to argue that, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. however: Variety is the spice of life. Bezelless designs are important, necessary improvements that aught not be drowned out because of some gramar-nazi equivalent in the field of design who has a problem.

    this article was possibly the worst opinion aa has ever published

    • Edgar Cervantes

      I did mention your points, as well. Regardless, of what you and I may think, current Android phones with thin bezels have issues, and I believe it is important to address them. Yes, there are software solutions, but not all manufacturers have implemented them. Yes, some screens might hold up better in the future, but they currently don’t, and we have data that proves it. And yes, looks are subjective, which I made very clear.

      I love thin bezels…. Like I said in other comments, I owned the LG G2 and other thin-bezel devices. I loved some of them and still consider the G2 one of my favorite phones, but Google and manufacturers still need to do some work.

  • Anthonydotcom

    Im torn on this one. I love the way the G2 and G3 look with their barely there bezels but I wonder about those accidental touches. As it is my hand is always getting in the way on my M8. Or what about those times when you have to swipe in from the side, but you’re using a case. Does the case get in the way?

    In the name of science I will purchase a G3 (hurry up T-Mo) and use it side by side with the m8. n Only because i love you guys.

    • Hussain

      I have the g2
      Wonderful device

    • hhgv

      I own G2 and I never hadha an accidental touch

    • cervantesmx

      Yeah, accidental touches are for Shrek and people that can’t grab their phone properly. Its not a flip phone yo! Don’t try to grip it like one and expect the screen to know wtf you’re doing.

      Haha, I kid, I kid.

  • Hussain

    2 words
    “Stupid opinion”.

    • Gilles LeBlanc

      Yup, the editor was out in the parking lot hot boxing in his car when they posted this.

      • http://www.AndroidAuthority.com/ Darcy Alexander LaCouvee

        I wish!

        • Andreas Mikarlsen

          one has to have thinner bezel when a standard screen is 5.2″ its just too big, i remember when i got my note 1 it was called a phablet, today its a ordenary mobilephone.

          • Edgar Cervantes

            But is that a problem with bezels, or a problem with current screen standards?

          • Andreas Mikarlsen

            I would like to say both, the bigger the screen the thinner the bezel the less speakers and buttens you can have. I use a n5 my self and i like the size, its on my edge tho.

  • Hussain

    Now after I read comments.
    I think this article is offensive.
    The writer is forcing his opening.

  • http://www.AndroidAuthority.com/ Darcy Alexander LaCouvee

    If software can be matured to the point where it can detect accidental touches and purposeful ones, then bezels begone! Don’t get me wrong – bezel-less devices look remarkably beautiful – but it remains a fact that thinner bezels result in easier to break devices that are harder to use.

    • splus

      No. NOT a fact. Neither of those two. Just your opinion.
      For me phones with thinner bezels are easier to use. And as for breaking – just think about it – glass on phones with thick bezels stretches all the way to the edge, same as glass on phones with thin bezels. They have equal chances of breaking.

  • T.J.

    In my opinion, LG got it perfect with the G3′s bezels. It’s too bad the phone is so big though.

    • Azeem

      Same size as s5 but bigger screen.

      • T.J.

        I’m pretty happy with my Moto X size. I don’t know if I could go over 5″.

  • MasterMuffin

    None of those problems concers me and I think the Sharp phone looks good :/

  • http://blog.sawilson.org/ Scott Wilson

    Thin bezels are better. Period. There isn’t even a discussion here. If you are so poor at designing things that you can’t implement proper edge detection, and deliver a device with small bezels, you are in the wrong business. People have done it. We know it’s possible. Devices with large bezels look ancient and dated like iPhones do now. Step up your game people.

    • cervantesmx

      A bit blunt, but I must agree.

  • MalikDepthside

    I like a rugged case.. no bezzel means my rugged case looses a lot of its ability to protect without blocking easy access for my fingers to the screen… no no no

  • ConCal

    This is idiotic. It’s like saying the reason for car crashes is freeways. Sure huge bezels would make a more industructable device, but that’s not the underlying problem.

  • Jesus

    Remorseful HTC M8 shopper?.

  • Plantain

    Well, that’s your opinion, which is just that, an opinion.

  • ichuck7

    It’s a trade off. I need a device I can use with one hand. But I want as big of a screen as possible. The G2 fits that perfectly. Yes the accidental presses are annoying, but it’s a trade off. What’s worse is huge ugly bezels.

  • Lisandro O Oocks

    I can add bezels myself with a case purchase.
    Duh!!

    • cervantesmx

      Seems like a simple solution and a decent compromise.

  • chaki-

    How much did they ( sony and htc ) payed you for this article? Huh? Some new phones for crash tests?

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  • Eddie Spageddie

    The only thing that would deter me from buying the LG G3 and slapping a nice case on it is if I win the lottery, then I’d have plenty of dough to not worry about buying a case nor worry about whether or not the screen would crack if I dropped it.

    • V-Phuc

      I agree that a protective case is an excellent idea. However it provides only some protection against drops, but doesn’t solve the problem of thin bezel. As with all things, there should be a limit of what’s optimal and what’s not. Going toward no-bezel tablet or phone may not the best idea. As for LG3, all critics so far have been good, but the best critic may come from someone having owned and used for some time, let’s say a couple of weeks or a month, then we’ll know if the thin bezel is problematic or not.

  • Tjbomb3r

    Problem > accidental touches/odd grip.
    Solution (or work around to some) > FlyGrip!
    Best investment I’ve made for any smartphone or tablet!

  • thartist

    You’ve gotten old all of a sudden?

  • Vikas Sarwa

    Dont know about future bezels but my Sgs3 bezels are good and I hate ibrick (i hate it so much that i had to mention it ;)

  • http://www.KamilGPhotography.com/ KamilG225

    I can’t believe I scrolled down and people just trashed an author’s opinion. It’s a pretty ignorant thing to do to say your OPINION is correct over someone else’s. Especially when there is no correct answer. Chill out people.

    • renz

      This.

  • Alvin Adiwira Santosa

    LG Isai, in my opinion, looks nice. especially the blue one. I don’t do much gaming on my phone, but I do a lot of Youtube on it. The way I hold my phone when watching video is landscape mode, both hands on the phone each with index finger on top and thumb the bottom side and the rest of my fingers rest on the back of the phone (contact with middle finger). So I wouldn’t have any problem with the thin top bezel of the phone. But I’m not sure about typing on the phone when it is held in portrait mode. will the thin side bezel get in the way? accidental presses? Not sure..

  • districtjack

    Edgar, I really wanted to say stop your whining and don’t drop your phone, but your more meat on the bones analogy makes sense. If there is more matter between the edge of the digitizer and the area of impact, there is less chance of heartbreaking screen cracks. I am however, one of those rare people who do not drop my phone outside, ever. If I am ever wrong about this, I have a Ballistic 5 layer case.‚ėļ

  • Mark Mann

    Something to think about… The examples you gave of “durable” phones… The HTC and Sony phones… They’re made of metal the LG g2,and flex, and samsung phones are plastic

  • AF1R .

    This article was written by an Asus design engineer.
    Those thin bezel tablets are the tits!

  • paul marx siena

    i LOVE BEZELS!!
    hahaha

  • a

    The writer is a fan of Sony xperia esp. HTC one m8. He likes comparing a phone to an airplane lol.

  • cervantesmx

    Accidental touches are for Shrek and people that can’t grab their phone properly. Its not a flip phone yo! Don’t try to grip it like one and expect the screen to know wtf you’re doing.

    Haha, I kid, I kid.

    • D.I.

      Don’t ridicule my bear paws.

  • Andrew Tan

    Never issue for me. I never ever need to touch the screen. I hold my phone finger at back not front.

  • wikwakcow

    an article with [opinion] tag, what should i say?

  • habal lawi

    This is the first time I agree with androidAuthority editor on something!
    It always bothered me how no one….NO ONE..could see the side effects of too thin bezels on smartphones!
    Unintentional touches, increased fragility, you can’t see underneath your finger while holding the phone from sides! ….even cases now pop up so easily because there is not much bezel to hold on to, to protect your device!
    I love thin bezels too. But I think even phone bezels can get TOO THIN.

  • Timmy

    Personally I like the thin bezels which allow more visible screen viewing in a smaller overall size. The G2 is awesome and I’ve not had any issues with accidental touching due to the bezel size…fat fingering maybe but not because the bezels were too small.

    I’ve also dropped my G2 several times but I always use a case regardless of what phone I own. The window case is thin and adds little weight to the phone. It also seems to protect the phone when dropped on a tile floor and concrete. It’s now chipped in the corner but still working well. In addition to the case, I always use a screen protector (Ghose Armour) which I think adds a little (probably very little) to the overall structural integrity of the phone in case it’s dropped. Between these two I feel my phone is safe from most places I would drop my phone.

    As for looks, like the author says it’s completely subjective and I agree with the statement but not the position. I happen to really like the small bezels but that’s just my opinion (still waiting to get paid for it). Using more durable components will certainly help keep thin bezeled phones from accidental damage.

    The popularity of the G2 and presumably the G3 should be signs that more people prefer thin bezel designed phones.

  • Flip Jumpman

    The lady in the picture has man-hands!

  • http://biblestudiesfromanasshole.blogspot.com Bible Studies from an Asshole

    “But what good is a smaller, thin phone if you need to put a case in it? ”
    Pretty sure you meant put it in a case. If you put a case inside of the phone, you’re probably David Copperfield.

  • Guy

    Disagree with that article. I came in with an open mind. It made sense at first but thinking about it, the points are weak.
    1st Accidental presses will occur regardless of the bezel, it’s capacitive Touch screen as opposed to the resistive.
    2nd screens on flip phones that are not touch fell and broke. So unless we can strip down bullet proof glass to a pocket friendly size, I assume all sorts of breakage will occur. It’s all based on the build quality.
    3rd the phones which “look ugly” in the above example would still “look ugly” with bigger bezels as the device itself is ugly. The LG G3 is beautiful and the bezels are really small, especially for the size of the device. So smaller bezels does not mean an uglier device. That just depends on its design.

  • Jim

    Plenty of bezel on my new tablet. Happy?

  • Chris

    This is stuuuuuupid. Bezels are the devil.

    “In drop tests, devices like the LG G2, LG G Flex and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 don‚Äôt fare very well. They all cracked and in some cases the display was rendered useless. These all have very thin bezels, especially on the left and right edges of the phone.”

    Yeah because the iPhone with its INDUSTRY LEADING BEZEL LARGENESS doesn’t fail drop tests…lmao

  • Myamo

    That was quite a roundabout way to say you’re into fat chicks…

  • Da Fuq

    I don’t think the Sharps are ugly :)
    But you have a point, durability is more important than screen-to-size ratio.

  • Aries Santoso

    Just ST*U..!! Bezel exist for us to hold the gadget..!! If no Bezel.. can you hold it right for reading e-book or else..? The author is absolutely right.. Nothing is useless..!! My 2 years old Motorola RAZR MAXX is a damn phone with the huge bezel but that’s my life saver.. dropped more than 50 times even the screen directly face the ground.. stil survive until now with zero problem.. Even my Gorilla Glass survived after direct hit with steel ruler.. problem dude..?

    SONY Xperia Tablet Z2 is my next target, huge bezel..? Speak for yourselft ******..!!!

  • alexsacramento

    What’s A Bezel?