As bezels shrink, can modular phones make a comeback?

By | 28th February 2018
Essential Phone

I recently wrote up about Vivo's concept phone, the Apex, and asked whether or not you want a pop-up camera in your phone. Vivo has an interesting idea, there's no doubt about that, and definitely a unique way to tackle a situation where consumers are on the bezel-less bandwagon. And while the notch design, which Apple championed, has caught on with the smartphone market as a whole, that isn't what every company is going to use.

But there is obviously still room for the bezels on smartphones to shrink, even on devices like the Galaxy S9 and the iPhone X. Whether or not these companies move in that direction, though, remains to be seen.

After all, Samsung and Apple might not want to build a phone that has a pop-out camera, especially if the public isn't all that responsive to Vivo's concept.

I think one of the issues, at least as far as a front-facing camera is concerned, is that selfies are oftentimes spur-of-the-moment type situations. "Oh, hey, let's take a photo together" or something of that nature. Having to wait, even 0.8 seconds, for the camera to pop out might kill the moment. What's great about the current implementation is that a selfie cam is right there, ready to go when you need it or want it.

I can't help but wonder if a modular design future is something we're going to see pop up again at some point in the future, as devices lose the bezels and start offering more access to the display. After the Vivo Apex was revealed, I saw someone say that a pop-out camera was a "tacky idea", and that the idea was too silly to actually ever see the light of day in a real, consumer-level device.

I don't know that I'd call the feature tacky, but having a camera pop out of the top of your phone does seem a bit silly. But, that being said, as I mentioned above I think it's a unique way to look at a solution for offering as much screen real estate as possible.

So maybe this is where the modular idea can come in and actually find a way to surge ahead. It's true that modular phones didn't really take off like some companies had hoped, but being able to allocate all of the screen real estate to the display, and reduce those bezels to basically nothing, could leave some room for modular accessories --like different front-facing cameras-- to rise to the top.

Maybe Essential is on to something after all with their Essential Phone and its modular design.

But, it still does tread into the same issue as the pop-out camera, in terms of having to wait to take a photo as you find the desired accessory. I've personally never really seen the appeal of having to carry around a ton of accessories for my phone, similar to a how a photographer might bring a camera bag with a plethora of options for their camera. The smartphone is meant to give me everything I need, and as quickly as possible.

I'm willing to keep some bezels on my smartphones to make sure of that. That's an easy trade in my opinion.

What do you think? As bezels shrink on smartphones, would you consider a modular design future if it meant you could get as much screen real estate as possible? Or are you willing to keep some bezels in your life to make room for things like the front-facing camera? Let me know!