Apple has apparently asked Samsung Display and LG Display — its two main display component partners — to work on new OLED panels that would make the bezel-less dream come true. The catch is that they've got to do this while retaining the established iPhone design of a flat screen and flat sides.
BREAKING! Apple is working on a 0-bezel iPhone! Looks like Cook is a fan of mine and he hates bezels as much as I do.According to sources, Apple asked Samsung Display and LG Display to develop OLED screens without bezels at all, completely eliminating bezels and using UPC… pic.twitter.com/mP6QgOeoPwJuly 24, 2023
This isn't the first time such a phone's been suggested. Chinese phone maker Xiaomi made a concept phone with a "quad–curved Waterfall Display" that used curved edges on all four sides to make it bezel-less (via our friends at TechRadar).
While curved-edge displays like those used on top-tier Samsung phones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra can help with bezel reduction, Apple apparently isn't interested. This is likely due to the distortion that curved displays can have on their rounded edges and the increased danger of catastrophic screen damage when dropping the phone.
Bezels have been a staple part of smartphone design since the beginning, since some space is generally needed around the display in order to fit the circuitry that drives the display and the antennas that allow it to connect to a cell signal. Looking further back in time, top and bottom bezels used to be a necessity for housing the selfie camera and touch buttons, although most phones (outside the iPhone SE 2022) have now moved on from this.
Making a bezel-less iPhone according to Apple's specifications will apparently require advancements in thin film encapsulation (the display layer that protects the active part of the screen from the outside world) and under-display cameras, along with clever placement of the display circuits and antennas. These processes will then need to be developed into mass-production methods so phones with these advancements can be built at scale.
The bezel-free iPhone could have an all-glass body, too
Leaker Ice Universe added to The Elec's reporting by claiming that a glass iPhone chassis is apparently also under development, and would make the design look and feel even more futuristic and premium.
This does sound amazing, but also very fragile, even compared to today's flagship smartphones that are already constructed mainly of glass. Hopefully,the glass-bodied iPhone would be as tough as IU claims, otherwise users could end up losing entire handsets to a case of butterfingers when previously dropping the phone would mean a much simple display replacement.
But this is all in the future. In 2023 we're expecting the new iPhone 15 series, which is still expected to use Ceramic Shield glass along with aluminum on the base models and perhaps titanium instead of stainless steel on the Pros. The bezels will apparently be thinner than previous iPhones, especially on the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, but will still likely be present and visible.
Maybe we'll see further improvements in bezel size with next year's iPhone 16. This is claimed to be introducing under-display Face ID, which is a step towards the all-display iPhone, but we're still expecting it to use a cutout for the selfie camera. Rumors can develop over time of course, but it still feels like we'll be waiting for some time before we go hands-on with the zero-bezel iPhone.