With boosted dimensions, new aspect ratios, bezel-busting designs and curved edges, innovative displays are perhaps the most striking - and immediately noticeable - feature of the latest cutting-edge smartphones presented in recent months. The trend is also expected to spread to sector heavyweights Samsung and Apple, bringing new codes of smartphone design firmly into the mainstream.
Pushing back borders
In fall 2016, Xiaomi caused a sensation with its Mi Mix smartphone designed by Philippe Starck, featuring a prominent 6.4-inch virtually borderless display covering over 90% of the handset's front face. The phone also shakes up current design norms by ditching the mechanical home button to make more room for the screen. One major advantage of this type of screen is a boost in display size without necessarily increasing a device's overall form factor. The Xiaomi Mi Mix marks the beginning of a trend that's likely to spread to Samsung and Apple product lines.
South Korean tech giant Samsung has been a pioneer in the field of curved screens, successfully rolling them out to the mass market via the Galaxy S6 Edge and S7 Edge. In these models, the screen curves down over the sides of the handset for bezel-free edges, an idea that has now been picked up by other handset makers, principally Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi (Mi Note) and Vivo (Xplay5 Elite). The technology still seems to have a bright future ahead. In late 2016, Sharp presented a totally borderless curved screen theoretically capable of covering the entire surface of a handset. This could come to several models from 2017.
New screen formats
Alternative screen formats are another way of refreshing smartphone design and handling. LG has taken the plunge with its G6, presented at the Mobile World Congress in Spain in February. The handset has an impressive 5.7-inch display that covers most of the device's front face. What's new here, though, is the 18:9 aspect ratio (2880x1440 pixels), a space-saving format that makes room to place two identically sized square application panes side by side when using two apps simultaneously with Android's new multitasking function.
Will Samsung and Apple follow suit?
There's a strong chance that virtually borderless or curved screens could be enshrined as a market trend by two of the most eagerly awaited smartphones of 2017, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Apple's iPhone 8. Leaked photos of Samsung's new flagship, doing the rounds on social networks, suggest a bezel-busting screen covering most of the upper surface and an S8 edge continuing the firm's line of curved models. Apple, on the other hand, is reportedly working on a special edition iPhone packing a 5.8-inch OLED screen into a handset that's the same size as phones with 4.7-inch displays. That would mean trimming bezels to a minimum to use almost all of the phone's front face. However, the actual display area could be limited to 5.15 inches to make room for a row of various sensors, such as a fingerprint reader, hidden away under the screen.