Vivo's Apex concept phone has tiny bezels, pop-up camera and in-display fingerprint sensor

It's no secret that smartphone screen bezels are getting smaller. With curved displays and miniaturization of common smartphone components, the idea of a "bezel-free" phone is getting closer than ever.

Vivo has a new concept phone, dubbed Apex, that shows off the company's vision for a smartphone with tiny screen bezels — and all of the crazy technology involved with achieving the goal. It's wild to see in person and amazing when you think about everything at play here.

The Apex uses a 6-inch 18:9 flexible OLED display, and that's key for multiple reasons. Vivo doesn't use the flexibility of the panel to curve the usable surface, but rather to bend the components and connectors along the edges to reduce the bezels. On the top and sides, the bezels are tiny at 1.8 mm. The bottom bezel is currently set at 4.3 mm, but Vivo is confident it can get that one down to the same 1.8 mm in time — but even still, the Apex has a screen-to-body ratio over 90%.

This is an amazing combination of technologies to enable a future of bezel-free smartphones.

Using an OLED display also lets Vivo place fingerprint sensor technology underneath the panel, which in this case isn't a single point but instead a large swath of the screen — about one-third of the area, right where your thumbs land when holding the phone. When activated, you can place your registered finger anywhere in the area, at any angle, and have it recognized. Because this is an optical sensor it takes a beat longer to recognize than we're used to with modern capacitive-style sensors, but I think it's worth it to get this style of device.

But there's more to a smartphone that gets in the way of a bezel-free display. The new notch-style displays we've seen crop up in the last year attempt to make room for sensors, speakers and cameras — well, Vivo has solutions for those. The earpiece speaker is replaced by a vibration-based bone conduction-style speaker, which is a proven technology that works just fine. It has placed the proximity sensor underneath the display, and the ambient light sensor (for automatic screen brightness) on the top of the phone. Then there's the front-facing camera, which somewhat hilariously pops up from the top edge of the phone when you switch to the selfie mode in the camera. (Watch the video above to see it in action!) Not only does it look awesome and work flawlessly, but it's also a little privacy feature.

Many of these technologies come with compromises in terms of phone thickness and things of that sort, but not as much as you'd think. This concept phone didn't feel out of the normal realm of thickness, size or weight, and this model had a glass back, dual rear cameras, a loudspeaker, USB-C and a headphone jack. I could easily see all of these solutions designed to fit into the types of form factors we expect in smartphones today.

Unlike the phone Vivo showed off back at CES with an in-display fingerprint sensor, this Apex phone is a concept built to show off the company's new technologies and what it envisions for the future. So the final devices using these technologies, whenever that may be, won't necessarily look like this — but it really didn't feel all that unfinished to me.

Sure the Apex itself is a little thick and heavy, but the fact that all of this technology came together into a single device without massive compromises is extremely exciting. You can bet that Vivo, and other companies, will be releasing phones that look a whole lot like the Apex concept phone in the near future.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • This is silly at this point. There is almost ZERO benefit to this. What, I get an extra 1/8" of screen at the top? What - precisely does that get me? Nothing. It's just silly. Breaking news: WE DON'T need bezels any smaller at the expense of functionality.
  • I like that they are doing this not because of practicality, but to show off new ideas and the possibilities of the current state of this consumer tech.
  • Sure I like to see new ideas too. And I appreciate attempts at new things very much, especially in the age where all smartphones are melding into 1 homogeneous slab. I just don't want new things to REMOVE or regress existing functionality. Waiting for a (breakable) motorized camera to popup before I can use the FFC might seem cool, but after 5 tries or so, it would only slow things down. Not putting the FPS on the rear, but making us wait longer to use the screen for a FPS - again might seem cool, but in the end will just slow me down. Not having any speakers on the front? I'll leave obvious issue to everyone - whether or not the screen can vibrate ..
  • People want larger screens. Prototypes like this get larger screens in smaller phones. That's just one thing people actually do want. Maybe not you, but the wider market.
  • Thank God there's options right? Cause you know, this doesn't appeal to you and don't have to buy it. And don't speak for WE and speak for YOU.
  • This is exactly what I want, all display almost no bezel.
  • Dump post. This is your perfect example of a person with no imagination.
  • No need for a notch, no need for top bezels. I say bring it on!
  • Will it make it out of China?
  • By the way, thanks for showing this Andrew. It's not something I would want, but I guess it is cool tech.
  • Looking forward to this push. I love the bezeless craze and look forward to these +95% screen to body ratio formats.
  • This phone looks dope. Front camera is a little weird. Loving this near bezelless trend.
  • This is what I love to see a full front screen looks like. I love the new tech movement. The pop up camera looks like a problematic item to fix should the motor over fail. That's the only down side I don't like about it. But it's something new and refreshing.
  • Amazing.
  • This is vevo showing the consumer that is posible to push the limits of the bezzels. A think it's a great implementation. I mean they can even put a flash next to the camera. And now the fingerprint under the screen (like everybody wanted) yes it is slow but this is a prototype with time it can be faster.
  • Amazing design. I hope this is the near future!
  • True that. Love this concept phone!
  • I like it...and to ppl complaining about the pop-up camera, not everyone needs to take duck faced selfies every 20 minutes. I have used a ffc a handful of times since phones came out with them regularly. So not everyone has the burning need to post pics to get likes to feel better about themselves. In display fps is pretty sweet I would prefer that much more than rear sensor even if it is a split second slower
  • Fantastic concept.
  • and a Headphone Jack
  • All China phones are using apples camera layout
  • Emphasis on concept This isn't something you can buy just yet but it's a glimpse of the future
  • It does look futuristic but that camera is a huge weak point. I myself dont do selfies often but I can already see people constantly complaining about how easily it bent or broke off or the motor stopped working. To fix slow FPS the easy answer is to have a physical one on the back and keep the one under the screen up front. The last thing is how well it blocks the fingers on the edge while just holding the phone.
  • Im loving this. This is the type of display setup Samsung should be doing. Enough with the useless curved edge.
  • Great stuff, I'm waiting for a similar phone with NO front camera. They are weak, and only used for stupid things such as taking hideous selfies that nobody wants to see except the people on it who really really want to show themselves on instagram and facebook. If you want a nice pic of you, just ask some guy passing by to take a decent shot of you (and whoever hangs out with you) with the rear camera. In most case the picture will be much much beter than the distorded thing you get with your arm holding a 4MPX camera