Xiaomi might be best known for its extremely affordable, competent smartphones, but it also loves flexing with its some truly ambitious designs. (Case in point: this foldable prototype, or this phone that’s almost 100 percent screen.) The company’s latest is among its most eye-catching, and as usual that’s all because of its screen — in this case, a “quad-curved waterfall display” that stretches down all four sides of the phone.
As the company notes in a blog post describing the concept, sourcing a screen that could do the trick is pretty simple now that flexible display panels have grown more common. The real challenge, Xiaomi notes, was in “manufacturing a 88° quad-curved glass panel” and bonding it to the underlying display. All told, Xiaomi says, the process of correctly shaping glass layers like this involved in-house processing equipment, 800-degree heat, multiple polishing tools and thousands of attempts.
With all that said, there were limits to what Xiaomi was able to pull off here. If for instance you were wondering how Xiaomi’s engineers managed to stretch and bend that glass around the phone’s corners, the answer is simple: they didn’t. The company’s dark, moody product renders and videos do a great job of hiding them, but there are small cut-outs in each corner. So much for the “just a screen” look the company was gunning for.
Beyond all the screen cleverness on display, this latest concept is also notable for its complete lack of physical controls and ports. Instead, the company leaned on 46 of its patents and built-in clever alternatives like pressure-sensitive touch sensors in place of buttons and “industry-first flexible film display acoustic technology” in lieu of a traditional speaker and grille. The lack of a USB-C port also means wireless charging, and who knows — perhaps it’s meant to work with another of Xiaomi’s recent announcements, a remote wireless charging system the company calls “Mi Air Charge.”
Granted, not all of these developments are particularly new, but the fact that Xiaomi is exploring how all of these disparate developments can be used in tandem is one of the clearest signs yet that it plans to release a fully unibody smartphone in the future. They’re not the only ones either. Rumors have long suggested that Apple would like to ditch ports across its iPhone line entirely. If Xiaomi and Apple were to release portless devices, the pressure would be on for the rest of the industry to go full unibody, and it’s hard to imagine the status quo would remain the status quo for very long.