Just hours after the Oppo’s disclosure of its under-display camera, Xiaomi president Lin Bin took to Twitter and Weibo to show its 20MP in-display camera solution. The description notes shared by the company also briefs the technology behind.
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— Xiaomi #5GIsHere (@Xiaomi) June 3, 2019
In the video posted, we see a new Xiaomi Mi 9 variant with a front facing camera embedded entirely beneath the phone’s screen. So, unlike any previous notch, punch-hole, and other cutout implementations, this one stays hidden.
How does Xiaomi under screen selfie camera work?
To make in-display camera possible, Xiaomi uses a transparent OLED display (or rather a part of the AMOLED panel directly above the selfie camera is transparent).
Transparent OLED displays or T-OLEDs have been around for many years now and manufacturers like Samsung and LG have been actively showing off up to 55″ transparent OLED TVs at CES.
Samsung even had plans to start mass producing transparent OLED displays in 2016 but canceled them because there wasn’t much demand or applications.
Well, now that our smartphones are going “true fullscreen”, these transparent OLED screens can be put to good use.
The thing about these Transparent OLEDs is that all of their components are transparent. There are transparent LCD displays too, but for transparent OLEDs the transmittance is better and the technology is not very hard to engineer.
As Xiaomi details on its social media posts, the Anode, cathode, substrate and the organic luminescent materials in between are all transparent. In regular use, the current will flow from Anode to Cathode (direction of electrons being the reverse) and Organic material in between would fire up to emit light (this is a crude explanation that oversimplifies things, but you get the idea).
The camera will be placed underneath the display (under all these layers) and when needed, the display area overlaying the selfie camera will turn off. Transparent OLEDs are transparent in their off state, and thus the camera will be able to gather light.
This display is custom made using a special low-reflective glass with high-transmittance. However, when not in camera mode, the display behaves normally to present your content in full without any interruption or cutout.
So, the transparent display acts as a camera lens. Xiaomi claims this application allows more light to enter. Ergo, it should be capable of producing clearer and crispier selfies. However, we could be confident of Xiaomi’s claims when the device hits the market.
When will we see in-display or under-display cameras in phones?
Xiaomi and Oppo have already demonstrated the technology on social media, so it could be very far off. Samsung already has talked about the technology being part of its 2020 roadmap, and the company is still working on perfecting the camera performance.
So we might see the first set of hushed up under screen camera phones by the end of this year, but expect the tech to mature only next year or in 2020.