They were the partners of the display that saved it from falls. And then, everyone thought that they got in the way of the view and started trimming them, using options ranging from notches to slide out cameras to pop up cameras. We are talking of the bezels – those borders surrounding the phone display which have graduated from trusted defenders to serial offenders in the space of a few years.
Well. Just as we thought that their days were numbered, with brands coming out with phone fronts and even sides that were all display, it seems that we spoke so soon. The bezels ain’t dead. In fact, they might even be set for a comeback. At least the ones above and below the display.
And the company helping them on their way back is the one that made Android a part of our lives. Yes, we are talking of Google. The search giant made headlines a few hours ago when it leaked yet more information about its Pixel 4 phone. And this time, what was highlighted was the ability to use the phone without touching it, courtesy a number of sensors. A diagram showed at least eight sensors above the display which would carry all these sensors on them, enabling you to do a whole lot from unlocking your phone to using your face for financial transactions to turning pages by moving your hand in front of the display. Of course, everyone has been talking of Project Soli and the role these sensors will play and the implications it could have on fingerprint scanners and so on.
All that is absolutely on point. But there is a design aspect to this as well. All those sensors? They need a lot of space. And well, for the technological advancements that we are seeing, we doubt there is a drop notch or a punch hole notch that is big enough to accommodate them. Yes, they can be placed on a pop-up or slide-out camera unit, but as per a few engineers we have spoken to, placing them on a pop-up unit would take some doing and would also slow down the whole unlock and verification process. “A unit with all those sensors rising, all those sensors working and then sliding back, would take some doing. It would make the phone very top-heavy, and also make water and dust resistance very difficult,” an executive on the product development side of one of India’s major smartphone brands told us. “Putting them on a notch would also be super odd as it would make the notch very large indeed, even in we put the earpiece under the display.”
So where does one park all of those sensors?
The answer is simple: on a bezel above the display. Yes, that very bezel that has been so demonized and slaughtered of late could make a comeback. Just take a look at the Pixel 4 if you believe us not. “It would be the easiest solution and would require no major new design innovation, and so would be quick to implement and also not super expensive,” our source told us. “It would also allow for efficient and speedy execution, and speed is most important at the moment.” Of course, he said that as components became more efficient and smaller, perhaps notches and pop up units would be able to accommodate these sensors, and the displays would return to their former 90 percent screen-to-body-ratio glory, but for a while, and on the Pixel, the bezels might just be making a comeback of sorts.
It is, of course, worth noting that none of the Pixels have exactly set the market on fire in terms of sales, so we are not expecting bezels to come racing back into our lives straight away, as we expect camera manufacturers to stick to their bezel-less and in-display fingerprint scanner guns for a while at least. But if Google’s version of face unlock becomes Android’s gold standard (of which there is a very decent chance, given that it is likely to be baked into Android itself of which Pixel is a showcase), those bezels could be back. For a short while anyway. And well, truth be told, if they contain components that improve the user experience, I, for one, would not be complaining.