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Lenovo’s bait and switch proves the all-screen smartphone is still a fantasy—for now

by Brandon Russell | June 9, 2018June 9, 2018 10:00 am PST

The biggest trend to emerge in 2018 has been the display notch, a controversial design feature popularized by last year’s iPhone X. Now, the notch is found in virtually every new Android phone that’s announced, from the mid-range to the very high end. Even Google is planning to jump on the trend.

It’s been a polarizing trend, to say the least, which is why people were so hyped for Lenovo’s “all-screen” Z5, a device that promised to free consumers from the hell of notches and bezels. For days, Lenovo teased sketches and renders that showed a phone that was nothing but screen, and it looked amazing.

But when the Z5 was announced, it was far from what was promised. The device looks almost identical to the iPhone X, notch and all.

It was a classic bait and switch that saw Lenovo tease one thing but unveil another. Needless to say, consumers felt betrayed by the company’s sneaky tactics, which cleverly preyed on discourse over the notch.

Lenovo’s disappointing trick admits a truth nobody wants to admit: the all-screen phone is a fantasy. At least, it’ll be a long time before we see a device like the one Lenovo teased.

The truth is companies don’t have technology advanced enough to create a phone with a completely bezel-less screen while retaining basic features, like a front-facing camera, ambient sensors, speakers, and more. We should have known what Lenovo promised wasn’t possible.

There could be hope on the horizon, however. We’ve seen patents showcasing front-facing cameras that live below a phone’s display, while companies like Xiaomi have experimented with putting components beneath the screen. It might not be a matter of if, but when.

Vivo also looks set to introduce a truly all-screen device later this month, though it may come with a few compromises. One of the biggest will see the front-facing camera pop out of the phone, which isn’t the worst idea in the world. That will free up space for the display to stretch all the way across the top of the phone.

But there are concerns about the durability of such a design. How prone will a pop-up camera be to breaking? How will it hold up after months of extended use? Is the design practical?

Until our dreams become reality, companies have to make compromises. Samsung has accepted these limitations by offering devices with small bezels on the top and bottom. Meanwhile, other companies clearly see the notch as a worthy trade-off in the pursuit of a higher screen-to-body ratio.

For now, consumers will need to accept the industry’s current limitations and embrace the notch as companies edge closer to a truly all-screen smartphone.


Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell likes to rollerblade while listening to ACDC.

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