The last few years of smartphone design have been centered around minimizing bezels to get as much screen as possible in a roughly hand-sized form factor. That’s led to some… interesting approaches to squeezing in the front-facing camera. Apple, Google, LG, and others use a notch, but Samsung is using a hole-punch. And there there’s OnePlus, which has a motorized pop-up camera. Now, Oppo says it’s almost ready to release a phone with the camera hidden underneath the display. It will probably come with some tradeoffs, but the aesthetic appeal won’t be one of them.
Oppo sells phones mostly in its home market of China, which gives it the chance to experiment with designs and iterate rapidly. It’s already played around with display notches and pop-up cameras a few times. In fact, OnePlus has the same parent company and reuses some of Oppo’s chassis designs. Oppo first talked about in-display cameras a few months ago, but now it has more details.
Oppo says the display uses a custom transparent layer and redesigned pixel structures. When the front-facing camera is not needed, it’s invisible and the screen above it works normally — it even responds to touch input. When you need the camera, the pixels over top of it flip off, allowing the sensor to see your face. Oppo further claims the camera’s presence won’t compromise display quality.
OPPO's brand new solution for full-screen display – Under-screen Camera (USC) has just been unveiled here at #MWC19 Shanghai! #MoreThanTheSeen pic.twitter.com/k5qEQ3QNta
— OPPO India (@oppomobileindia) June 26, 2019
Oppo says it will announce a phone with an in-display front-facing camera in the near future. That phone will probably be exclusively for the Chinese market, but it’s only a matter of time before similar technology appears in other phones. It took about a year for in-display fingerprint sensors to branch out from wacky experimental Chinese phones into the wider market. Samsung has been talking about in-display cameras for a while, but it hasn’t made any promises.
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