The picturization of the most fundamental technology device everyone owns — the smartphone — has not changed much since Steve Jobs introduced the iconic iPhone back in 2007. Today, if you ask someone to draw or illustrate a smartphone, they will probably begin by scribbling a rectangle followed by a smaller black one inside it. Throw in a few dots here and there along with a circular physical button or those three capacitive ones below the screen or nothing at all if you’re an on-screen software keys person. The curves may be imperfect, the lines could be a bit janky, but everyone’s portrayal of it will largely remain the same.
That won’t be the case, however, a year or two from now. A new wave of designs is now being ushered to these handhelds. Designs which are gradually leading to the demise of the bezels inching us closer to the sci-fi dream of a phone that looks just like a single slab of a screen. But that’s not the only alteration this transition will bring. It will also reshape the generic smartphone silhouette. The general figure of the phone which you find on mockup websites, documentation, stock images, accessory boxes, icons (and emojis?), and a whole lot more.
There are no home buttons anymore. Boxy bezels on the top and bottom have been shredded off as well. So, the new set of these generic smartphone identifiers will be just black rectangles? Well, eventually, yes. But as of now, things are rather a bit convoluted. To accommodate these so-called edge-to-edge designs, every OEM made their own variation of the front of the phone. Each of them has their own quirk for standing out amongst the crowd.
Apple went with a little notch on top for housing all the necessary sensors along with a thick dark border on the iPhone X. Xiaomi’s Mi Mix series has a rectangular chin. Samsung essentially just shrank the existing spaces on either side with the screen wrapping around the edges for the S8 and Note 8. LG and Google opted for a rounded inner rectangle to maintain consistency with the outer corners. The Essential Phone comes with a tiny cutout for the front-facing camera and a chin as well.
So, if you doodle the usual two-rectangle drawing now, there’s no way it would be able to represent all of these smartphones together. Only one of these will come out on top or perhaps, two.
I think we can safely assume the iPhone X outline will become standard on at least iPhone-specific products and services. If rumors are believed to be true, Apple will be democratizing the iPhone X design and features which reaffirms that statement even further. Hence, it will only be a couple of months before this new design will become standard across the industry. Apple’s own developer website, of course, already showcases this.
As far as Android phones are concerned, there’s a good chance that Samsung’s S8 approach will be the most widely accepted one. The primary reason for that is a lot of other companies have followed a similar design language for bringing bezel-less panels to budget phones, like Vivo. Even the OnePlus 5T has a very Samsung-esque front with crammed bezels on the top and bottom. In addition to that, the majority of services today implement Samsung’s home-button design for depicting Android phones. That being said, this can obviously change in the next year as the bezel-less fad continues to become the norm across the market. So the question of “who will win” currently remains mostly unanswered for the Android side.