Over the last couple of years, we have seen the smartphone face evolve with fast-changing trends — from a full-fledged top bezel to iPhone-ish notch to tiny cutouts of different shapes and sizes. But, regardless you are team no-notch or someone who doesn’t mind the barren black patches, a truly full-screen future is coming. One where the camera is placed beneath the display.

Yes, brands are either working on their under-display camera phones or have already come up with their vision. Here, we will be taking a look at the ones we have seen or known so far. But before we get to that, let’s have a quick look at the reasons why we need them in the first place. We’ll also glance at the glaring obstacles for this new piece of tech.

Advantages of under-display camera phones

• We’ll enjoy a truly bezel-less edge-to-edge full-view screen for content consumption. Under-screen cameras will effectively kill any need for a notch. So, there’ll be no more obtrusive indents that cut interface elements and get in the way of user experience.
• This also addresses the issues with pop-up modules and sliders. Firstly, no moving parts mean lesser durability concerns, more space or thinner phones. Secondly, with no moving part water and dust resistance is easier to implement.

Now obviously an in-display camera execution has its set of problems.

Disadvantages of under-display camera phone

• The image quality isn’t up to par as of yet since the light has to pass through the display to the sensor. And this transmission isn’t very ideal. Companies are reworking the display tech to sort this issue.
• Although companies claim the camera portion is discreet, that hasn’t really been the case. Phones launched so far have a tiny pixelated portion of the screen that could be seen from certain angles or if you pay close attention. We will need to see how annoying this partial visibility will be.
• Usually, the display panel is more prone to scratches than the camera lens. What if the display wears out or gets scraped? Won’t it hamper the camera output? So, in that sense, durability is a concern.

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Samsung, a titan in the smartphone world and also a leading display manufacturer has apparently postponed its under-display camera phone. Earlier, the Galaxy S21 was rumored to arrive bearing the cutting edge tech, but recent reports tell the company has changed its mind.

At present, with Samsung not in the picture, it’s Visionox, a Chinese company that’s providing displays to OEMs like Xiaomi. It employs new organic and inorganic materials in the area above the camera to achieve higher transparency over the regular OLED panels. It further uses an industry-first “drive circuit and pixel structure design” to reduce interference and software algorithms to tackle the fogging effect of any kind.

All that sounds good. Let’s now finally look at the phones themselves.

Under-display Camera Phones, Prototypes

1. ZTE Axon 20 5G

ZTE Axon 20 5G is the first under-display camera phone that’s commercially available. The phone has been launched only in the home market of China. But, you can see the novel tech in action in several Youtube videos.

ZTE achieved the feat by using a transparent screen layer that’s transmissive too. This way, the light gets to pass through the screen and reach the (32MP) sensor underneath. ZTE claims the sensor has light perception properties that manage the light required for various situations. Further, the brand has also arranged the pixels around the lens to match the rest of the display. This allays noise distortion to a great extent. As icing on the cake, some amount of software processing is also being used to improve the photo clarity.

Specs

Display: 6.92-inches, 1080×2460 pixels, 90Hz refresh rate | Rear Camera: 64MP+8MP+2MP+2MP | Front Camera: 32MP | SoC: Snapdragon 765G | Battery: 4220mAh | Memory: up to 8GB+256GB

2. Xiaomi under-display camera phone

Xiaomi has thus far unveiled three iterations of its under-display camera tech. The third-gen version was shown off by way of a Youtube video. As per the company, the light travels through the gaps in between the display’s sub-pixels (the RGB dots) to the sensor. It states the pixel density of the screen portion straight up the sensor is the same as the rest of the panel. Thus, it appears to have a “perfectly” disguised camera behind the screen. Xiaomi is also confident about the selfie quality and claims it will be on par with regular front cams.

Additionally, an under-display variant of Mi 10 Ultra also has surfaced online suggesting the company is working on multiple prototypes.

3. Vivo Apex 2020

Vivo has embedded a 16MP sensor under the screen. The screen is 6.45-inches in size with ultra-curved edges (up to 120-degrees on both sides). There is no physical button on either end. Instead, what you get are virtual pressure-sensitive buttons.

The back camera setup is also unique as it comes armed with a gimbal-like system for up to 200 percent better video stabilization than a regular OIS. The primary sensor is a 16MP sensor while the 48MP one is capable of continuous optical zoom from 5x to 7.5x zoom. This is possible thanks to a periscope lens structure. Vivo has thrown in much more neoteric stuff into this concept device. Vivo Apex 2020 was supposed to see the daylight in MWC 2020, but due to the pandemic, the event got canceled.

Specs

Display: 6.45 inch 1080 x 2330 pixels | Rear Camera: 16 MP + 48 MP Dual Camera | Front Camera: 16MP | SoC: Snapdragon 865 | Battery: not specified | Memory: 16GB + 256GB

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4. Oppo under-display camera phone

Oppo’s under-display implementation shares a lot of similarities with the Vivo Apex Concept phone. It not only has an in-screen camera, but also a button-less chassis. The buttons are pressure-sensitive, charging is done wirelessly, and the selfie camera portion is visible at certain angles and quality is subpar.

5. Realme under-display camera phone

Realme has also teased an edge-to-edge display phone, which looked like an in-display camera phone. The post was shared by the company VP, Mr. Xu Qi Chase on Weibo. He commented it doesn’t have a pop-up camera, which fuels our suspicion. Also, since Oppo and Vivo are already invested in this tech, it won’t be much longer before we get to see a Realme under-display camera phone.

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