The smartphone hype train is reaching full speed for a smartphone from—believe it or not—Lenovo, which has been teasing an all-screen notchless smartphone on Chinese social media. People throw around the term “all-screen” far to often, but here Lenovo truly is promising the ultimate smartphone design. Pictures posted by Lenovo VP Chang Cheng promise a phone that—aside from a minimal ring around the display—is totally screen.
In the posts, which were first spotted by Cnet, Lenovo says the Z5 has a 95 percent screen-to-bezel ratio. Cheng says the design was enabled by “four technological breakthroughs” and “18 patented technologies.” What the post doesn’t say is what, exactly, happened to the front-facing camera. Unless Lenovo’s drawings are deliberately misleading, it would appear the only option for a front camera is some kind of pop-up solution, like on a recent Vivo concept phone, or no front camera at all.
Lenovo calls the Z5 its new flagship, which implies the design isn’t just a concept and will have wide availability. The Z5 seems to be a totally new product line that just starts at “5,” since, as far as I can tell, there was never a “Lenovo Z4” phone released in the past. Lenovo owns Motorola, and the company started the awful Moto Z line in 2016. But there have been just two models and no way to count to “5” over a two-year span.
Whether or not this will launch in the US (or even outside of China) is anyone’s guess. So far the teasers have been entirely in Chinese, and outside of China Lenovo has typically downplayed the Lenovo brand on smartphones in favor of Motorola. After the launch of the Moto Z with Motorola’s “MotoMod” modular system in 2016, Motorola is committed to at least “two more generations” of MotoMod compatibility. If it sticks to that timeline, Motorola’s flagship in 2018 should still have MotoMods. Maybe the Lenovo phone is the successor to the Moto Z line and has MotoMod compatibility? Maybe MotoMods are dead a year early? Maybe the Moto Z and Lenovo Z will be on the market at the same time?
If Lenovo really does through with this, we are pretty much finished with traditional smartphone design. There’s not much room for improvement on the front after a design like this, and the primary design question for a smartphone would have to become “what does the back look like?” I guess the next step would be wild foldable smartphone designs.