ZTE is preparing to become the first company to bring a smartphone to market that features an under-display camera. The Chinese technology company announced today that it’s launching the ZTE Axon 20 5G in its domestic market on September 1.
Over the past few years, smartphone makers have dabbled with numerous designs that increase the screen real estate through hiding or working around the front-facing camera, including pop-ups, slide-ups, in-display pinholes, and notched cut-outs. While each design had their pros and cons, they all ultimately felt like a hack — a compromise that went some way toward achieving their goal, but with undesirable side-effects.
Over the past year, a number of companies have teased the ultimate solution to this problem — selfie cameras located underneath the display, meaning that they are completely hidden from view. However, no mass-produced device featuring an under-display camera has made it to market — something that ZTE is now looking to change.
There are inherent challenges in embedding selfie cameras underneath the display, one being insufficient lighting — the segment of the display on top of the camera has to have a gap to allow light to reach the sensor, while also having enough pixels to show visuals. This means that companies such as Oppo have had to create new displays made from “highly transparent” material, while also leaning on software algorithms to enhance the quality of the visuals that may have otherwise appeared foggy.
ZTE hasn’t given any indication of the price or extended market availability of the ZTE Axon 20 5G after it launches in China on September 1, but today’s news will likely kick off a slew of similar announcements in the coming weeks as rival companies strive to ensure that can lay some sort of claim to being “first” to market.
We know for sure that Xiaomi and Oppo are both frantically working to bring similar under-display camera technology to market, while Samsung is also expected to embrace a similar design in an upcoming device. Elsewhere, Nokia phonemaker HMD Global is also reportedly working on under-display cameras for one of its future phones.
Unlike the temporary “hack” solutions that have come before it, under-display cameras could prove to be a game-changer for smartphone design, as it opens the door to true edge-to-edge displays unencumbered by notches, pinholes, or moving parts.