When each day brings with it the launch of a new smartphone, it is easy to lose track of what all is on offer. But last month, Xiaomi launched a phone that made heads turn. The Mi Mix is an almost bezel-less phone with a beautiful screen. The bezel traditionally refers to the grooved ring that holds a gemstone or a watch crystal, and in a smartphone it refers to the metal or plastic casing that encircles or frames the phone screen. According to Xiaomi, the Mi Mix's screen to body ratio is almost 91.3 percent.
While Mi Mix is not the first phone to attempt such a design, it is certainly among the better executed ones. Also, the phone is real -- and not stuck in the concept stage -- as Xiaomi sold a limited number of units on 4 November in China.
In the past, Sharp produced a couple of phones that had a similar bezel-less design, but its sales are mostly limited to Japan and it didn't really catch on in other markets. Sharp also presented a phone called Corner R recently but that is still in the concept stage.
In trade shows such as the Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), companies such as LG and Samsung have presented bezel-less concept models, but these again have mostly remained concepts so far.
However, recently, Samsung's curved edge display, introduced on the both sides in Galaxy S6, has caught on. These displays have removed the side bezels while the bottom and top bezels still remain because of the home button. In October, Xiaomi unveiled the Note 2, which has a curved edge screen as well.
It is rumored that Apple too is aiming at a bezel-less edged display for iPhone 8. And Samsung is also getting rid of the physical home button so that it can give more space to the screen in its next flagship phone, the Galaxy S8, which will be launched next year.
Besides Xiaomi, some other Chinese phone manufacturers are also reportedly trying to come out with bezel-less screens, such as LeEco and Meizu, which, according to some reports, is making a 5.6 inch phone with a Huawei made Kirin processor.
The Mi Mix achieved its incredible screen-to-body ratio only by applying certain advance technologies. For one, it removed the earpiece, replacing it with technology that relies on the vibration of the frame for generating sound. Then, it used ultrasonic soundwaves for the proximity sensors. And, Xiaomi also put the selfie camera in the bottom part of the phone.
Now, a big challenge for such phones is stability and sturdiness, since displays are delicate and even a slight drop or a bump can damage the screen severely. Many users have reported online that their Mi Mix broke for one reason or the other. If a user drops the phone accidently, the screen can be damaged as there is hardly any protective layer around it. A good external case might help, but safety cannot be guaranteed.
On the other hand, Mi Mix is certainly pleasing in its looks and has a greater screen area to play with. Companies such as Corning which make phone screens will have to work really hard to come up with shatter-proof displays for such phones. Only then perhaps will we see more bezel-less smartphones with large screens.