Google has snapped up the tech to make full-screen smartphones without an iPhone X style notch, using the touchscreen itself as a speaker. As phone manufacturers hunt ways to make even greater percentages of the front of their devices display, the trend has forced some creative thinking around how to accommodate the other components that would traditionally be found in the bezels.
That has led to some controversial design decisions in 2017 alone. Apple’s iPhone X is probably the most notorious, with the “notch” cutting into the upper section of the display so that the front-facing camera and speaker could still have a spot to occupy. The Essential Phone arguably pushed the limits even more, with a small cut-out in its display housing the camera.
Now, Alphabet company Google has reportedly acquired a company which could help with that headache. UK startup Redux had developed a way to use vibrations in a surface – such as a touchscreen display – to emit sound, thus allowing the device to do away with a dedicated speaker, Bloomberg reports.
Google has declined to comment on the acquisition, including how much might have been paid for Redux. The company raised $5m back in March 2017. According to regulator filings, the shares of Redux’ holding company were transferred to Alphabet in early December last year.
The technology could give future Pixel smartphones an advantage over their iPhone rivals – not to mention other Android devices – as they attempt to deliver more display in a physically smaller package. The current Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were criticized by some quarters for not trimming their bezels quite as aggressively as other devices on the market did. Redux’s technology could help there on new devices.
However, there are knock-on benefits inside the phone, too, which could have other advantages. While the external space a speaker demands is one thing, it also occupies room inside the phone. If replaced, that could leave more space for a larger battery or other components: even, perhaps, the return of the 3.5mm headphone jack, were Google so inclined.
Redux’s technology has other possibilities, though. The same controlled vibrations could also be used to deliver haptic feedback through the display. Currently, most implementations of haptics use a short buzz of the notification vibration motor to give a general indication that an on-screen control has been successfully tapped. Being able to do away with, or at least shrink, that physical component could be another significant advantage to smartphones with Redux technology onboard.