Thick bezels are probably the most universally hated element of smartphone designs. Manufacturers have come up with all sorts of fancy ways to try to negate the seemingly unavoidable black borders, but aside from optical illusions to try to make you forget about it, it's always there in the background. A number of manufacturers have started introducing curved displays, such as Samsung and Xiaomi, but a number of Chinese manufacturers have also decided to go another route: try to eliminate the bezels altogether. And some of them have gotten surprisingly close to doing so. Here are a couple to keep an eye on:
The Ulefone Future
Ulefone has come surprisingly far from when I reviewed one of their smartphones a while back, and have since released a number of different phones with fairly unique designs. A micro-bezel phone they plan on releasing in the near future is the Ulefone Future shown in the video below.
The display itself has bezels that can barely be seen, with the edges around the phone belonging to the (horrendously ugly) rear case. The display is perhaps better viewed through the video below, where it appeared to have been a pre-production or lab model that didn't have the same rear housing as the one shown in the video above:
Some of the other specs the Ulefone Future has include 4GB of RAM, 5.5" display, the MediaTek MT6755 (Helio P10) SoC clocked at 1.95 Ghz, 32 GB of internal memory and a fingerprint scanner on the side of the phone which Ulefone touts as being more 'convenient.' Presale prices for the phone have been listed at anywhere between $239 to $259, and should ship in the next couple of months.
The Elephone S3
Elephone have put out a number of interesting and disappointing products over the last 12 months, but one of their more interesting devices is the Elephone S3 with... you guessed it... super tiny bezels.
The video above doesn't do it justice because it makes it look like Elephone is cheating with the really dark room that the video was shot in - I really don't know what they were thinking, but then again it's Elephone, and they don't have a reputation for thinking a lot of things through. Perhaps a better video is this comparison video with the Xiaomi Mi5. Skip to 1:04 on the video and look at how the display rolls off the edges of the 2.5D screen - gorgeous stuff:
The Elephone S3's specs include a 5.2" FHD display, the fairly outdated MediaTek MT6753 SoC, 3 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal memory and a 13 MP Sony IMX135 rear shooter. All in all the specs are more or less low-tier, and I'm not too sure why Elephone has went this route. Pre-orders for the phone are currently starting at $179.99 and going as high as $189.99.
The two phones above are definitely coming for roughly the prices listed - I've actually been offered both for review and have turned both down due to a somewhat busy schedule. But vaporware is definitely a common thing when it comes to micro-bezels: other phones I didn't mention, like the UMi Super, appear to only have ultra-thin bezels on their video renders and the phones themselves never manifest.
Both the Ulefone Future and Elephone S3 seem to have taken their micro-bezel design method from a patent that Oppo filed just over a year ago, and it's quite likely that we'll see a lot more smartphone manufacturers - especially those more common outside of China - taking on similar design cues, which should bring on a healthy new era of nicer smartphone designs.
These are not the first Chinese manufacturers to boast these tiny displays, however, with manufacturers like ZTE having already done something quite similar just under a year ago with the Nubia Z9. The difference with these two is that they typically set the standards seen in the lower-tier smartphone market, so in the not-too-distant future we will probably be seeing these tiny bezels becoming a standard smartphone design pattern.