In the vigorous pursuit of full-display smartphones, vendors are either increasing screen-to-body size ratios or offering a foldable or flexible screen. However, considering the recent debacle with foldable screens, full-display smartphones will initially be best realized through improved biometric technologies, ultrasound, and gesture control.
Analyst firm ABI Research forecasted that camera-based recognition will be a dominant smartphone biometric technology, reaching 487 million shipments in 2023, followed by in-display fingerprint scanners with nearly 228 shipments in 2023.
“Many of these technologies allow vendors to develop smartphones with larger overall screen sizes by reducing the need for sensors, buttons, and other features on the front screen,” said Stephanie Tomsett, a research analyst at ABI Research.
“They allow devices to have minimal bezels, thereby creating a relatively smaller form factor for an increase in display size, which can also be achieved, eventually, through the use of foldable screens.”
With many new interfaces developing, the use of in-display fingerprint scanners removes the need for an additional sensor or button on the front of the device, putting the technology behind the screen.
Camera notches and punch-holes, such as Samsung’s O, U, and V Infinity Displays, also add to the increase in screen real estate on the front of the device, while sound technologies such as LG’s Crystal Sound OLED use the display as a speaker, removing the need to house speakers on the front of the device. The use of ultrasound gesture control technologies does not require additional sensors to be on the front of the device.
Vendors are keen to develop new technologies and ways in which to increase the smartphone screen-to-body size ratio, driving toward designs with complete glass front displays while keeping form factor size to a minimum.
As this next wave of innovation approaches, the market is braced to provide more immersive experiences based on touch and touch-less UI experiences. Rumors suggest that Apple is working toward creating a smartphone with no holes, speakers, or grilles, utilizing many of these technologies, which is similar in concept to a device that Meizu has developed.
There will be a requirement for significant investment in these underpinning technologies, and many companies have patents in place that will further aid this push toward a full front, immersive screen experience.
Apple has a patent for an iPhone that allows the screen to be a speaker, Samsung has a patent for a smartphone that allows the screen to be a camera, and LG has a patent for a smartphone outlining a full screen, all display device.
However, with any number of options, including foldable displays, open to vendors, there is some debate as to how these options can be used in tandem, and whether some will be become obsolete due to their lack of utility, excessive added costs, or delivery of poor user experiences.
“Vendors looking to develop bezel-less screens need to be aware of the issues and challenges surrounding the technology. In particular, the bezels help to provide protection for the sides of the smartphone, so alternative methods of protection need to be found. They also prevent accidental interaction with the side of the screen, so responsiveness technologies need to be explored to ensure that consumers do not become frustrated with unwanted interactions,” said Tomsett.