We're seeing plenty of manufacturers that are trying to remove as much space around the displays of their mobile devices as possible, but few are considering that this may actually introduce usability issues. Synaptics, a touchscreen solution provider for many popular handsets, was showing off a concept tablet called Sensa at CES 2013 to show how super-skinny bezels can introduce stray thumb inputs, as well as how they might be able to fix it with a rear sensor and touch rejection.
This use case goes like this: you've got an e-book reader app loaded on your tablet, but your thumb occasionally creeps over the frame into the touch area. While you're reading this might not do too much, assuming long press doesn't activate anything, but it becomes an issue when you want to swipe to flip pages, since it would be registered as a pinch gesture, and result in zooming into the text instead. To fix this, Synaptics slapped on some touch panels on the back of an Android tablet, and had software running which detects which hand is gripping, and rejects any input from the thumb on screen. From here, the right e-reader app can also adjust to your thumb input with something as simple as adding a larger margin to the whole page, or dynamically wrapping around the gripping thumb as it moves up and down the screen.
Although this is entirely a tech demo, and any implementation of grip sensing and rear touch panels on tablets ultimately falls upon the manufacturers to implement, it's an interesting question to raise. How will our navigation experience on Android change once the bezel virtually disappears? BlackBerry and Palm both had interesting takes on what to do with an otherwise unused area, but eliminating it altogether seems to be the more prevalent design thinking these days. Do you guys think there's a place for rear touch input in any way? How prevalent or serious of a problem do you think smaller bezels will become?