ZTE's bezel-less phone tosses away black border for more touchscreen function

The Nubia Z9 has an edge-to-edge screen and will arrive in China later this month

Nubia Z9, while bezel-less, is a bit heavy and covered in glass.

Nubia Z9, while bezel-less, is a bit heavy and covered in glass.

Will bezel-less phones be the next big thing?

China's ZTE certainly thinks so. On Wednesday, the company's Nubia brand unveiled the Z9, a product that comes without the black border found on so many smartphone screens.

I had a chance to try out the device, and found both pros and cons with the product. On the plus side, the Z9 truly is a bezel-free device. The 5.2-inch screen extends across the glass surface from edge to edge, where it curves down to meet the phone's protective metal frame.

As a result, the phone does feel a bit more compact in terms of its width, which measures 68.3mm (2.7 inches). Some might be concerned that the lack of bezels will make the phone hard to use. Touchscreens, after all, tend to be sensitive, and any over-gripping could be misread as actual inputs.

However, in the short time I tried the Z9, I didn't have any problems with the touchscreen. The Nubia team said during the product unveiling it anticipated challenges, and instead has tried to turn them into an advantage.

It's done this by incorporating certain touch controls that work by placing fingers along the curved edge of the screen. For example, a user can alter the phone's brightness, by simultaneously sliding two fingers down on the opposite sides of the display.

Users can even automatically switch to camera mode, by flipping the phone horizontally, like they're ready to take a picture. The phone's software will activate and move into photo-snapping mode, when it reads that four fingers are holding the screen at its edges.

The Nubia team said these features are part of its "Frame Interactive Technology," which will be expanded to include an array of other gesture controls. When I tried these features, I found that they worked most of the time, but not always. It's still simply faster to do these functions manually, rather than rely on the software to wait and hopefully read your fingers.

Overall, the phone looks very polished, with its 1080p screen and premium build. But on the negative side, ZTE's bezel-less phone feels a little heavy. The Nubia team covered both the front and back in glass, and it weighs in at 192 grams (6.7 ounces). The iPhone 6 Plus, in contrast, comes in at 172 grams.

The back side of the Z9 also felt warm after using it for while. This might have something to do with its Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, which has spurred concerns about overheating.

In terms of specs, the Z9 is a high-end 4G handset loaded with cutting-edge phone technologies. The "classic" version of the phone, which is priced at 3499 yuan (US$574), comes with 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 2900 mAh battery. In the back is an 16-megapixel camera, and in the front is an 8-megapixel camera. On the right side of the phone there's an additional physical button dedicated to snapping pictures.

During my time with the phone, the software ran smoothly, and the camera generally produced clear and sharp photos. As for the bezel-less screen, the Z9 could be a preview of the future, but the phone isn't any kind of game-changer.

Although it looks nice, the lack of bezels doesn't really add anything, and can easily be forgotten. However, in a market already crowded with competition, it might just be a way for ZTE's Nubia brand to gain some more visibility.

The Z9 will go on sale in China on May 21. This year, the Nubia brand also plans to expand more international markets such as the U.S., but its unclear when the Z9 will be shipped outside of China.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags smartphonesAndroidconsumer electronicsZTE

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Michael Kan

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?