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Samsung’s Galaxy S8 shows Apple is behind the smartphone design trend

That’s probably okay, especially if iPhone 8 rumors turn out correct.

Galaxy S8 vs. iPhone 7.
A year apart: Galaxy S8 vs. iPhone 7
Samsung, Apple

Samsung unveiled its new Galaxy S8 smartphone today — its high-end flagship model, designed to compete with the likes of Apple’s iPhone — at an event in New York. We’ll let you browse its features and specs at the Verge — Dieter Bohn calls it “the nicest phone I’ve ever held” — and skip right to its most obvious trait: It just looks like a big screen.

While Apple pioneered the all-screen phone concept with the first iPhone, Samsung and other companies have recently pushed it further, trimming the frame around the display so much that the forehead and chin on the new Galaxy S8 are barely there.

For another example, Andy Rubin — the founder of Android, and before that one of the people behind the Sidekick phone — recently tweeted a teaser photo of another slick-looking, edge-to-edge device, presumably from the handset company he’s working on, called Essential.

Last year, China’s Xiaomi also showed off a similar device, the Mi Mix “concept phone of your wildest dreams.”

And it sounds like Apple is headed in this direction, too. Mac Rumors describes this year’s supposedly forthcoming iPhone 8 — expected sometime in the fall — as “a radical redesign, with an edge-to-edge display that does away with the top and bottom bezels where features like the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and the front-facing camera are housed.”

Apple’s — if it’s real — could easily be the best of the bunch. And let’s not pretend a half-year’s head start will wildly change any broader competition between Samsung’s ecosystem and Apple’s. Buying a phone is a more complicated decision than just grabbing the one with the thinnest screen bezel. So this shouldn’t dramatically affect sales.

But it’s worth noting that Apple — home of industrial-design legend Jony Ive, creator of unbelievably thin and elegant devices — will again look like it’s playing catch-up to a smartphone-design trend.

Last time this happened, it was when Apple was a year or two late to the broader concept of bigger-sized phones, waiting until 2014 to ship the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which caught up to the larger screen sizes that most Android phones featured.

This seems like less of a problem. Missing the boat on bigger phones suggested Apple wasn’t paying attention to what many of its current and would-be customers wanted, and that it was missing where the idea of a pocket computer was going. Apple caught up — the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were huge sellers — but it was noticeably behind the trend. This looks more like a release-timing issue, especially if Apple ships something similar this year. (If it doesn’t, that’s more concerning.)

But beyond the cosmetics of looking cool and new, thinner borders also serve a functional purpose: You can fit more screen real estate — and, therefore, more space for apps, photos or videos — in a similar-sized device, which is a good thing. Samsung is offering the Galaxy S8 in 5.8-inch and 6.2-inch sizes — compared to last year’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which is available in 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch sizes.

Apple did not immediately respond to Recode’s request for comment.

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