After teasing its fullscreen display-enabling technology for a while, Chinese mobile maker ZTE has officially launched the first commercial phone featuring an under-screen front-facing camera.
The Axon 20 5G eschews a hole punch or notch solution for its 32-megapixel selfie camera, and instead hides it underneath its 6.9-inch 90Hz OLED display, which is surrounded by minimal bezels on all four sides.
According to ZTE, the area around the camera looks just as bright and vivid as the rest of the screen. The company says it has achieved this using a high transparency material that features organic and inorganic films.
Putting a camera under the screen makes it harder to match the quality of an unobstructed smartphone camera, so to compensate ZTE has developed software algorithms that address haze, glare, and color cast issues in photos.
The company also referred to “color synchronization” between the camera and the display, which sounds as if it captures images between the screen’s PWM flicker. (PWM flicker is a way of controlling screen brightness by adding some breaks without light emittance.)
The phone also features an under-display fingerprint sensor and an under-screen speaker system. Elsewhere, on the rear, there’s a 64-megapixel camera backed by an 8-megapixel ultrawide lens with 2-megapixel depth and macro sensors.
The Axon 20 5G will be available to order in China from September 10 at a cost of about $320, but it’s unclear if it will become available internationally.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a Chinese company unveil a solution to the ubiquitous smartphone display notch. Oppo teased its own under-screen camera prototype way back in
June 2019, but the technology has yet to appear in a consumer Oppo phone.
Apple is thought to be working towards a notchless iPhone design. The notch has been a controversial design decision since it debuted on the iPhone X in 2017, and it has always felt like a stopgap on the way to an iPhone with a truly edge-to-edge display, but when that will appear remains unknown.
Apple’s 2020 iPhone lineup is widely expected to include an enhanced triple rear camera system, with at least one high-end model featuring an additional LiDAR camera for 3D mapping. The display notch, which houses Apple’s TrueDepth camera and Face ID tech, will almost certainly remain, although there have been conflicting rumors regarding whether the notch will be smaller or the same size as on previous models.