Unconsidered Consequences in the War on Smartphone Bezels

Smartphone OEMs are winning the battle against smartphone bezels, it seems. With the Mi Mix leading the charge, LG and Samsung turned a regional skirmish into a global campaign. Even the inventor of Android himself has joined the fight, reclaiming almost all of the top bezel for his Essential Phone.

Later this year Apple will, with their 10th anniversary release, attempt the impossible—to put a fingerprint scanner underneath the screen of the iPhone 8. What you see above is only a fan render; note the presence of a headphone jack. #Courage. Anyway, Samsung wasn’t able to accomplish this feat on their Galaxy flagships this year, and according to SamMobile they’ve have given up on it for the forthcoming Note 8 as well. But, as 9to5Mac reports, Apple has already filed patents for a Touch ID-enabled screen, and appears to be proceeding full steam ahead.

Here are two reasons why I think this is a bad idea.

The screen of your smartphone is simultaneously its most important and vulnerable component. If your screen cracks to the point where it is non-responsive there won’t be any alternative way to authenticate yourself. It’s possible that your 2017 flagship might also have an iris scanner, and it’s also possible that your screen will be damaged to the point where that sub-screen technology won’t work properly, either.

There’s another, potentially even bigger issue. Since your cracked screen now has an embedded proprietary fingerprint scanner you will likely have no other option than to get it fixed at an authorized repair center. Replacing a smartphone screen isn’t especially difficult if you have the proper parts and tools; third-party repair shops have been doing brisk business with butter-fingered users for years. But Apple especially has been fighting right to repair legislation across the USA, and a Touch ID-enabled screen would give them an unfair advantage in winning that war as well.

Links: 9to5Mac, SamMobile

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