Smartphones are getting ever thinner with manufacturers going on about how slender their devices are which I feel is a very unnecessary topic to fuss about.
Allow me to roll back to the Huawei Ascend P6 which when it was announced was the thinnest phone at 6.18mm. Pretty lean indeed and equally stunning to look at, but it was at the expense of battery size and this gave the sleek looking device very poor stamina. Is it worth the trade off? I don’t think so.
Soon after another Chinese manufacturer called OPPO unveiled the R5 which was even thinner than the P6 at 4.9mm and from their promotional video they really put in some work to ensure it is as structurally sound as possible.
Again it’s 2000mAh battery will refuse to go over a day of normal usage and aesthetically the protruding camera bump stole some style points on this device.
Also since it was so darn thin it had no room for a 3.5mm headphone jack making Oppo one of the first, if not the first to ditch the headphone jack meaning you needed an adapter to use normal headphones. The inconvenience alone.
Later you find Apple bringing us the iPhone 6 Plus which was their first ever phablet with a spacious 5.5 inch display which though a bit chunkier (7.1mm) than the first 2 supermodels above, was a whole 0.5mm thinner than the iPhone 5 before it.
Just a few days after Apple opened sales for the iPhone 6 Plus the tech world was set ablaze with reports that the premium phablet was bending if a bit of force was applied to it. Too many videos under the theme bend test were made showing what happens when the device footprint increases and the thickness decreases.
A most recent case, the biggest tech disaster in 2016. The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 debacle. Results from the investigations performed by Instrumental are suggesting that the reason why the flagship devices were exploding was because the “Aggressive design” that Samsung employed.
Since the batteries were in a confined space, when mechanical expansion kicked in the battery wouldn’t have any room to expand and therefore inflicting stress on the battery.
Now batteries have a positive and a negative terminal which is separated by an insulating layer that prevents the 2 terminals from touching.
So because of the pointless topic of making smartphones thinner the insulators had to also become insanely thin to try and get as much capacity out of the battery in the slimmest possible form factor.
This means the insulators became really fragile as a result of being very thin and very easy for it to get damaged and allowing the positive and negative terminals to come into contact and short circuit.
Add a very volatile electrolyte to the mix and you have yourself an armed explosive. So the death of what was probably going to be the best Android smartphone was because the battery was just way too slim.
The trade offs of making a device thinner I feel are not at all worth it. To me it’s just engineers wanting some bragging rights. If that is the case then I would definitely give Xiaomi credit for their bezelless smartphone the Mi Mix. Bezels have zero functional purpose and therefore are a very inefficient use of a smartphone’s real estate.
I don’t mind a chunky device if i’m getting better structural sturdiness, cleaner design aesthetics and better battery life. However I DO mind big bezels that are adding no functional value to the smartphone. My philosophy is when designing something function always takes precedence over fashion.