We’ve been seeing concept images for a near-bevel-free iPhone 8 for some time now, but there’s a big difference between a purely visual concept and a real-life product. Concept images can completely ignore the engineering challenges, along with the practicalities of such things as earpieces and front-facing cameras.
But Xiaomi’s latest phone, the Mi Mix, shows just what is possible in a real-life phone …
The Mi Mix has very similar external dimensions to the iPhone 7, but by virtually eliminating both side and top bevels, it has managed to squeeze a massive 6.4-inch display into the casing – a big improvement on the 5.8-inch goal Apple was reported to have set.
Now, none of us have gotten our hands on one yet, so there’s no telling how well Xiaomi’s phone works – but on paper at least, Xiaomi does appear to have overcome the key challenges of a bevel-free design.
The earpiece, for example, has been replaced by what the company says is ‘cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology.’ That sounds rather like word-salad, but one presumes the speaker sits either in the top edge or behind the screen.
The proximity detector, used to detect when the phone is being held to the ear, has been switched from an infra-red emitter to an ultrasonic one sitting behind the display. A similar approach was spotted in a recent Apple patent.
The front-facing camera has been relocated from its normal position in the top bevel to the bottom bevel. It’s also said to be 50% smaller than a normal camera module. It remains to be seen how well that position works, of course, but it does at least show one possible solution to the problem.
We don’t know how well the phone copes with touch-rejection when being held, but Apple has an excellent track-record with palm-rejection in its devices, seen most impressively when using the Apple Pencil to draw on an iPad.
Apple has of course already switched from a mechanical Home button to a touch-sensitive one in the iPhone 7, and it’s been widely reported that this is just a step toward embedding it into the display itself. Bloomberg, the WSJ and NYT have all reported that this is slated for the 2017 iPhone.
We’ve also seen an Apple patent that appears to allow fingerprint recognition almost anywhere on the screen, which would solve the Touch ID problem.
It’s entirely possible that Xiaomi has just given us our best look yet at what may be in store for us with next year’s iPhone. As a side-note, there’s one oblique connection between the Mi Mix and Apple: the phone was designed by Philippe Starck, who designed Steve Job’s yacht.
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