You probably haven't heard of the phone you see above. It's called the Doogee Mix. As you’ll have noticed, it’s in line with the biggest trend in phone design for 2017 — that of slimming down the bezels around the screen as much as possible.
Ever since this phone's namesake, the Xiaomi Mi Mix, broke cover last year, we’ve been seeing a parade of high-end phones from the likes of Samsung, LG, and Essential that have taken various approaches to increasing the ratio of screen to phone body. Apple is virtually confirmed to be joining the pack soon.
The difference here is that the Doogee Mix costs less than $160. It's a harbinger of impending bezel-less ubiquity.
Now, there are some caveats here. It runs a mid-range Mediatek Helio P25 processor. The 5.5-inch AMOLED screen is only 720p. The bottom bezel is still pretty big, though at least that gives you a convenient place for the home button and fingerprint reader. It’s a Chinese phone designed for TD-LTE networks, so it probably won’t work out too well for you in the US. I don’t think you’ll like Doogee’s Android skin, either.
Also, I have to call Doogee out for producing a phone that absolutely does not look anything like its wildly misleading marketing renders:
But otherwise, this is an impressive device for the price. Performance has been fine in my short time with it. The screen isn’t great, but it’s sharper than I expected from a 5.5-inch 720p AMOLED. The build quality is good, with brushed metal sides framing a reflective back panel, and it’s a comfortable size in the hand. The specs are fine: you get 4 or 6 gigabytes of RAM, Android 7.0, and a 3380 mAh battery. There’s even a dual camera that pairs 16-megapixel and 8-megapixel sensors, with the latter used for depth information — another premium feature trickling down.
My biggest complaints are the Micro USB port and Doogee’s decision to follow the weird practice, increasingly common among Chinese phone makers, of omitting the oleophobic coating on the screen glass in favor of including a cheap plastic screen protector. This thing is a fingerprint magnet right out of the box.
But look, the Doogee Mix costs under $160. Even then, you’re probably not going to buy it. What it signifies, though, is that phones with chunky bezels are going to look increasingly dated very soon if it’s possible to produce a device like this so inexpensively. There are tons of phones like this flying around China right now like the Umidigi Crystal, Maze Alpha, and Bluboo S1 among others.
This shouldn’t be all that surprising if you think back three years to Sharp’s $239 Aquos Crystal, which featured a similar design. But bezel-less phones have only recently taken off as a wider trend, and Chinese companies bringing high-end features to low-end devices tends to be the first sign of eventual ubiquity. Remember when metal bodies and fingerprint readers were the preserve of high-end flagships?