“What wrong did I do?”: A Bezel’s Letter to a Phone Display
“I existed only to protect you…”
I hope this finds you well. Well, actually I think it does. It is a great time for you, isn’t it? I mean, everyone talks about you the moment they talk about any phone. Your resolution, brightness…hell, even something called pixel density. Remember me? I used to be the one all around you. All. Around. You. I was the one that used to keep you safe.
And now you seem to be doing your best to get rid of me.
Yeah, I am the bezel. I am that nondescript border that used to stand all around you. Protect you from the drops and bumps and stumbles on your phone-tic journey. I was the frame for your photograph, dammit.
And now you seem to be treating me as some kind of liability.
Oh don’t go all righteous on me! I have been sensing your disapproval of me for a while. Almost three years ago when Lenovo tried to do away with me on the Vibe Vibe Z2 Pro, everyone had complained how the display was too close to the edge and about accidental “hand touches.”
Remember that phone anyone? it had a screen to body ratio of 78.3 percent – for comparison, the LG G6 has a screen to body ratio of 78.6 percent. One year after that Qiku (oh yeah, yeah, the same fellas who were perhaps rebranded by Micromax for the Dual 5) launched the Q Terra, which again tried to kill me. The phone had a screen to body ration of 83 percent – even the Galaxy S8 has 83.6 percent, and this is after the display went over the bloody edge literally. But again, not too many paid that much attention. (Incidentally, do not even get me started on those stupid “screen to body ratios” – the back of the phone seems never to be counted as part of the body, else no screen to body ratio would be even close to fifty percent, forget those massive 75 percent plus figures.)
But to return to the subject, people missed me initially, because you know, they liked having me around. I was the safety net around perhaps the most important part of their devices – you (the display). I was the one that ensured that if a phone or a tablet fell, the display itself would not take the first brunt of the fall (devices tend to fall on their edges more often on their faces or backs). People did not mind me being cracked a little as long as you stayed pristine – I was your first line of defense, remember? Not just that. I gave people something to hold on to while they ogled you! I was the “holding area” around you. When Apple trimmed me from the iPad for the iPad Air, people objected, saying that holding the device was a problem – which is why I am still so much in evidence on the ultimate reading device – the Kindle.
And then something happened. Somewhere around early 2016, I became the bad guy. The ugly step sister that had to be hidden away.
I don’t know what exactly happened. I certainly did nothing. I just sat around you, ensuring you did not take too much damage from falls and bumps. But suddenly, reviewers and analysts were referring to me as “ugly” and my presence around you was seen as being bad for a device. Evidently, I made devices bigger. Hah! Both of us know who made devices bigger.
Remember the days when you could easily carry a phone and even use it with one hand? I was pretty big in those days – huge bezels, remember? But no one cared. Phones were still small and manageable. No, phones actually got bigger when YOU – the display – got bigger. And when they wanted to make phones with big displays more compact, what did they do?
Simple – they got rid of me.
The chap who had done nothing to ever make them big in the first place. The poor chap who had only existed as a frame of protection. Suddenly, displays without me became easier to see and more beautiful (based on what evidence, I have no idea)- there are signboards out on the roads screaming “Infinity Display” highlighting the fact that I have been disposed of. The irony is that I still exist, often above and below displays and quite prominently there. But evidently, my absence from the sides makes things easier to see (viewers clearly only see the sides of the display, not above or below them – what amazing eyes they must have).
I just wonder: what did I ever do to deserve this? There are borders (margins) around text and images in publications and on picture frames (seen the one around the Mona Lisa?)- no one rips them off and claims things are better visually. Some of the most immersive viewing experiences one sees are in cinema halls where screens have massive borders. The stark fact is that when someone wants to see a particular object, he or she looks at the object, not what is around it! What is so special about phones then? I do not know. It is not my job to figure out what consumers want. All I know is that something that gave displays more protection a year ago is now seen as synonymous with old tech and ugliness.
Is this the end of the road for me? I don’t know, even though I have a feeling I am going to exist on more devices than not because displays are expensive and the ones without me are even more so. No, I do not mind being sidelined (literally) but I just wish to know: dear display, are you actually better off without me? Do you feel better knowing you will need larger screen protectors? Does your heart dance with joy at the thought that now there is more of you that can get smudged and scratched (no one minded a scratch on the bezel)? Does the thought that one drop on the side will almost certainly crack you up reassure you?
I hope the answer is yes. Because I existed only to protect you.
Yours (until you get rid of me)
The Humble Bezel