Disappearing Bezels on Smartphones

When I hold smartphones with very thin bezels — Samsung’s Galaxy S8 is a good example — I feel uncomfortable. It’s not a physical thing. The curved screen and the body feels smooth, a nice feeling. The discomfort is more psychological.

The feeling that I might make the phone do something I didn’t intend to do. That’s the uncomfortable feeling I get when I’m holding a smartphone with very thin bezels. The only surefire way of holding a smartphone like a S8 is to slightly cup my hand, let the smartphone rest in it, while using my pinky to prevent it from sliding down.

If I try to grip the smartphone using my thumb and pointy finger I don’t get a reassuring experiencing. I don’t get the feeling I have a firm hold. I am not sure this expensive thing won’t slide out of my hand if I try to do some things with it. There is simply not enough non-screen bezel to firmly hold on to. There’s none on top, bottom, left, or right. LG’s V30 might have just enough, but I haven’t had the chance to play it with yet.

The bezels on the iPhone X seem a little thicker on the sides (in the portrait orientation) than the S8, but I don’t think there’s enough bezel for me to hold with my pointy finger and thumb; I’m fairly sure I’ll have a similar psychologically uncomfortable experience.

Although I have knocked the design of fat foreheads and chins on modern smartphones — the latest being Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium — I think I’m changing my mind, a little bit. I don’t like huge foreheads and chins, but I do like and want there to be enough so I can get a good grip without worrying I’ll engage something on the touchscreen I didn’t intend to, or drop it. I don’t think there’s an optimal absolute thickness; the thickness of the forehead and chin will depend on how long, thick, and heavy the smartphone is so it will vary among different smartphones. The goal of the forehead and chin is to engender confidence that we can firmly hold the smartphone and that we won’t accidentally touch-engage something we did not intend to.

Yes, software can reduce unintentional touches to some degree but I’ll bet it can’t completely eliminate them. And because of that the uncomfortable feeling will remain, just less and less intensely. This is the reason why I will probably not jump on the iPhone X bandwagon. I want to be able to firmly grip my smartphone knowing I will not unintentionally touch-engage something and that it won’t slip out of my fingers because there’s little to nothing to grip; I want a psychologically comfortable experience, and I’m willing to deal with a little more forehead and a little more chin than the latest and greatest smartphones with ultra-thin bezels.