The hottest new trend in smartphones is staring you right in the face

  • Smartphone displays are increasing in size without requiring larger devices.
  • Slimmer bezels, on the top and bottom, are becoming more and more common.
  • Samsung, LG, Sharp and Essential have smartphones with the new design, and Apple is expected to join.

The hottest new trend in smartphones is right in front of you.

Started by Samsung and quickly followed by others including LG, Essential and, as of Tuesday, Sharp, smartphones are beginning to pack screens that take up almost the entire front of the phone. Apple's iPhone 8 is expected to offer a similar screen when it launches later this year.

There's a benefit to this change.

Todd Haselton | CNBC

Until recently, smartphone makers needed to create larger phones to accommodate larger displays. Now, thanks to advancements in screen technology — Samsung's smartphones have curved screens that run over the sides of the phone, for example — smartphone makers are able to create smaller, more pocketable smartphones without sacrificing on screen size.

Handout: Essential smartphone

The iPhone 7 Plus is a large phone, for example, with a 5.5-inch screen. It measures 6.2 x 3 inches in order to accommodate it. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S8, which doesn't have any size bezels, packs a larger 5.8-inch screen in a more compact 5.8-inch x 2.6-inch body.

While slimmer bezels — the areas around the sides, top and bottom of the smartphone — have been desired by industry reviewers for years now, it seems like a solution to a problem that didn't really exist for consumers.

I don't think I've ever heard a family member or friend, who I consider regular consumers, complain about the "bezels" on their smartphones. On the other hand, the new devices, such as the Galaxy S8, offer more immersive experiences for viewing movies and playing games. They also look really compelling — futuristic even — particularly next to a traditional smartphone without new screen technologies.

CNBC: Galaxy S8 6
Devin Hance | CNBC
CNBC: Galaxy S8 6

With Apple expected to adopt the new design later this year — perhaps in September or a couple of months later if predictions of delays are to be believed — we may learn of new use cases. Apple is a master of combining new hardware technologies and folding them into new software experiences.

If anything, though, expect smartphone screens to continue to increase in size without the size of the smartphone growing to tablet-sized slates.