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I hate that people are obsessed with this one iPhone 16 feature

Published Apr 5th, 2024 10:27AM EDT
iPhone 15 Pro on a table.
Image: Jonathan Geller, BGR

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Imagine this nightmare scenario: It’s mid-September, and the iPhone 16 series just launched, but it’s sold out because Apple couldn’t secure enough OLED panels. Display vendors have been struggling to deliver the ultra-thin bezels that Apple wants.

Of course, this will never happen. Samsung, LG, and BOE will eventually get the yields right so that APple can ship tens of millions of iPhone 16 handsets. I’m referring to recent rumors that screen manufacturers are failing to deliver the new iPhone 16 panels with a so-called Border Reduction Structure (BRS), the bezels, which are supposed to be ultra-thin.

I’m seriously annoyed at this point that it’s 2024, and phone vendors, Apple included, still talk about bezel size. This isn’t 2017 and early 2018, when no smartphone vendor could achieve the perfect symmetry and thinness of the iPhone X bezel. Bezels are small enough; it doesn’t matter whether they’re symmetrical right now.

On the other hand, while I don’t care if the iPhone 16 Pros or non-Pro models have smaller bezels than their predecessors, I get it. I know why it has to happen. It’s a difficult technological breakthrough, one that might not seem necessary. But Apple, Samsung, and everyone else can’t stop improving smartphone designs just because things are getting more difficult. Apple will especially feel pressured to keep pushing the envelope.

When the iPhone X launched in 2017, it wasn’t the first “all-screen” phone. It wasn’t the first smartphone with a notch display, either. But Apple managed to pull off a design trick nobody else could replicate. All the Android clones that followed the iPhone X packed massive bottom bezels.

There’s no denying that Apple won that design battle. Everyone else in the industry adapted soon, and more-or-less symmetrical bezels became the norm for all-screen smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Front With S Pen
The Galaxy S24 Ultra has thin enough bezels too. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

Apple’s iPhone X bezel design couldn’t have been easy, especially in its initial phases. Fast-forward nearly 7 years, and Apple is pushing the limits once again. Here’s how a Korean report described the BRS problem Apple has:

To implement a thin bezel, the circuits under the bezel must be placed more tightly, and some wiring must be bent downward, which increases the technical difficulty. It is known that no company has secured a stable iPhone OLED production yield to the level that Apple desires.

Of course, none of this is official. But if the report is accurate, not even Samsung has been able to improve the yields of OLED panels with ultra-thin bezels.

Why is Apple doing it? Again, because it has to. Apple wants to extend the screen size of the iPhone 16 Pro units without making the phones themselves significantly bigger. One way to do this is to cut the already slim bezel. Eventually, Apple might want to remove the bezel completely. Until then, you need incremental innovations.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Software
Check out the slim bezels of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

But say Apple were content with the iPhone 15 Pro bezels, wouldn’t it be better? Not really. Someone else would do what Apple is doing now, winning bragging rights that it beat the iPhone in the process.

Also, since Apple is paying Samsung, LG, and BOE to make such smartphone screens, expect other smartphone vendors to pack screens with ultra-thin bezels in the coming years. The more reliable the manufacturing process is, the more companies want similar displays.

As a longtime iPhone user, I’m absolutely happy with what we have today. I couldn’t care less about bezel size. But I’m looking at the matter as a smartphone user who doesn’t expect any major design innovations in the near future. Smartphone vendors like Apple can’t have the same mentality. They need to push forward as aggressively as possible.

If these iPhone 16 OLED design rumors are correct, we should see them confirmed in future design leaks. Also, as we approach Apple’s Septmber event, we’re bound to see screen protectors leak that will probably confirm the size of those ultra-thin bezels.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.