Xiaomi’s portless phone concept is all display and no buttons

Xiaomi shows off its waterfall display tech that transplants buttons and ports.

by Justin Choo

Just how much do you like your edge-to-edge display phones? If your answer was yes, Xiaomi has a concept that’s right up your alley.

They call it a quad-curved ‘waterfall’ screen and it’s self-explanatory when you see it in action. The display extends and curves beyond its edges like water gushing over an edge. Aside from the rear, the phone is practically all screen.

Wait, what? So where do all the ports and buttons go?

An excellent question there – this is what makes Xiaomi’s concept mind-boggling . Xiaomi says its engineers tried to make the smartphone “as simple as possible and bring the ‘just a screen’ form factor a step closer to life.”

According to Xiaomi, the technical challenge in bringing this concept to life wasn’t so much in designing a flexible display for the task. Instead, the difficulty is in manufacturing an 88-degree quad-curved glass panel and being able to attach the display to it.

Xiaomi’s waterfall display gets its name from its flowing lines

The waterfall display gets its name from its flowing lines.

Firstly, the hot bending process to create curved glass was considerably harder than a typical curved glass phone as they needed to create a steep 88-degree angle all-around. Secondly, they had to develop specialised polishing equipment for this unique form factor.

Apparently, the polishing process alone requires hot bending at 800-degree Celsius temperatures and high pressure, four different polishing tools, more than ten “complex” polishing procedures, and “thousands of attempts.” I’d wager there’s quite a fair bit of coffee involved as well.

They didn’t quite explain how they attached the display to the glass apart from a “breakthrough 3D bonding process” but I guess they figured that not everyone would be as excited about the intricacies of cutting-edge glue tech.

How Xiaomi intends to use the sides of the phone now is not quite clear, though they teased “46 self-developed patented technologies” that allow them to create more elegant alternatives. Some of the features cited include ultra-thin piezoelectric ceramics that detect changes in pressure and strain and generates electrical responses, flexible film acoustic technology (in-display) presumably to replace conventional speakers, under-display cameras, wireless charging, eSIM chips and pressure-sensitive touch sensors, just to name a few.

No word on whether this concept phone will see actually see a production run – we’re thinking likely no – but the features it purports to have are actually feasible outcomes for the future. If anything, the waterfall screen is less exciting than the idea of a portless and buttonless phone. Can’t wait for new developments…

Sauce: <em>Xiaomi blog</em> via <em>Engadget</em>