Why Ultra-Thin iPhone Screen Bezels Might Be Less Amazing Than They Seem

But they sure will look good

  • The iPhone 15 Pro may ship with super-thin screen bezels. 
  • Borderless screens can be easier to damage and harder to use. 
  • Tablets need bigger bezels, so you have something to grab.
An iPhone mockup with a very small bezel.

Victor Carvalho / Unsplash

The iPhone 15 Pro may come with an impossible small screen surround, or bezel, but an all-screen design might not be all that. 

It sounds like the grail of phone design: A screen that truly goes to the very edges of the unit, with no screen borders. You can have a bigger screen in the same-size handset or a smaller phone with the same-sized screen and none of that wasted black space at the edges. But is it wasted? With current tech, there are still some good structural and engineering reasons for keeping a bezel. And when it comes to tablets like the iPad, a bezel is almost essential just for usability. 

"Without enough space to hold onto comfortably, users may experience difficulties in handling their tablets without accidentally tapping or swiping something they didn't intend to," says Richard. "The importance of having adequate space around tablet screens has also been highlighted by some accessibility experts who work with individuals who have disabilities such as tremors or limited dexterity."

Ultra-Thin Bezels = Durability Issues

In your mind, take a small mirror and drop it onto a hard floor. The imaginary mirror probably smashed into pieces, right? Now imagine that same pre-smash mirror, only with a wooden frame around it. See how it might stand a chance when you drop it now? 

With a phone, the screen layer is often flexible and wraps down and away from the surface at the screen edges. The bezel can perform several functions here. It can hide the circuitry at the edge, providing a buffer before you get to the screen proper, so edge damage isn't really noticeable. To remove or reduce bezels, that circuitry has to be moved under the screen. 

Someone holding at a smart phone with a tiny bezel on the edges.

golubovy / Getty Images

"Yes, it's possible for a phone bezels to be too thin, which can potentially lead to some practicality and durability issues," Efrain Torres, owner of phone repair company CellFix, told Lifewire via email. "[Ultra-thin bezels can] compromise the structural integrity of the device, making it more susceptible to damage from drops or impacts."

It could even make case design difficult. 

"Having no bezels at all could make it challenging for case manufacturers to create cases that actually protect the phone from drops and impacts," Jacob Richard, founder of Camera Prism, told Lifewire via email.

Multi Multi-Touch

Then there are the practical problems. Our phone screens are multitouch screens, meaning they register multiple simultaneous touches separately. This is what makes two-finger taps and pinch-to-zoom gestures possible. But without a border, you will touch the edge of the screen while also tapping the screen. 

Did you ever look at a map with another person, and they tap on something just as you touch the screen to scroll it? The UI goes haywire, and you end up zooming all the way in (or out) and maybe even in the wrong city. That's what happens when you make two uncoordinated touches, and if your fingers are constantly touching the edges of the screen, that can happen a lot

Overhead view of an iPad and an iPad Pro laying on a white desk with plants nearby.

Daniel Romero / Unsplash

"While thin bezels provide a sleek, modern look and an expansive screen, they can also make the device more prone to accidental touches, leading to unintended inputs," says Torres. "However, some manufacturers have implemented software solutions to mitigate these issues, such as touch rejection algorithms that can differentiate between intentional and accidental touches."

Even a thin screen border can mitigate this problem on phones because of the way we tend to hold them—balanced on our fingers while the thumbs do the tapping. But with tablets, bezels are even more important because you have to grab them like a book.

With the iPad, Apple has already done a very good job with the iPad Pro, which has much thinner bezels than cheaper, older iPad models. I have used most iPad models over the years, and while finger rejection was a bit of a problem on the early models (if you let your fingers stray outside of the huge bezels of the first iPads), as soon as Apple reduced bezel size, it fixed the problem. 

One has to assume that it will do the same for all future iPhones, bezel or not.

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