Smartphone design is a tricky business. Every company wants all the same features as its competitors, but chasing an identical set of features has an unfortuante consequence: a bunch of black rectangles that all look vaguely similar. When one company does come up with a genuine innovation — like the zero-bezel display on Samsung’s new Galaxy S8 — the result is that every single smartphone that comes out for the next year looks mostly similar.
I’d like to say that LG is boldy bucking the trend this year, but accoridng to a report from The Investor, the LG V30 is just going to be more of the same.
A new report says that LG “is finally jumping on the OLED bandwagon,” and will release a flagship later this year with an OLED display. That follow extensive rumors that Apple, one of the few other companies that has stuck by LCD screens for the last couple years, will switch to OLED for the iPhone 8.
OLED screens have always had a handful of advantages over LCD displays: better contrast, superior battery life, and theoretically better contrast. It’s not been enough to persuade manufacturers to switch, but a new technological breakthrough has made them indispensable.
That breakthrough is designing OLED panels that don’t need a bezel surrounding the edge of the screen to house components. That has a huge influence on the design of smartphones, which have long been designed around the touchscreen — and consequently, also designed around the bezel. Removing the bezel makes the phone much prettier, and provides a rare wow factor that can sell a phone in a store from a 30-second glace.
So, it makes sense that LG is abandoning its long-used LCD panels and moving to OLED, just to keep up with the competition. But it also means that, by definition, the LG V30 will look a lot like the Galaxy S8, or the iPhone 8, or the OnePlus 5, or the Pixel 2, or basically any other flagship you can think of this year.
I know it’s strange to think of an upgrade as a bad thing for consumers. For all I know, the move towards OLED panels and zero-bezel displays will be a huge turning point down the line. But for right now, I’m just sad that one feature is dictating physical design in favor of identical black rectangles with edge-to-edge displays.