The past couple of years of smartphone design have been dominated by debate over how best to increase the screen-to-body ratio, and where to put critical components on devices that are dominated by their screens. The holy grail is, of course, the ability to integrate them directly into the display, as we’ve already seen with fingerprint sensors — and selfie cameras are next.
Oppo, a company that’s done its share of anti-bezel experimentation with display notches and pop-up selfie cameras, is the first to demonstrate an under-screen camera to the public at MWC Shanghai this week, after a tease earlier in the month. Alongside the showing, Oppo has revealed more information about how the technology actually works.
Oppo says the display uses a custom transparent material that works with a redesigned pixel structure so that light can get through to the camera. The sensor itself is said to be larger than other selfie cameras, with a wider aperture lens in front. The area of the screen reserved for the camera still works with touch control, and Oppo says display quality won’t be compromised — though hands-on photos from Engadget Chinese suggest the camera area is visible in certain conditions.
Oppo does acknowledge that putting a screen in front of a camera will inherently reduce photo image quality, with significant problems like haze, glare, and color cast needing to be overcome. The company says it’s developed algorithms that are tuned to the hardware in order to address these issues, and claims the quality is “on par with mainstream devices,” but we’ll have to see for ourselves what that means once the tech ships on a commercial phone.
When will that be? Oppo says it plans to launch a device with an under-screen camera “in the near future.” The company often shows off core technology at trade shows in prototype form before shipping it on a commercial product — the current Reno flagship phone with its periscope zoom lens is a good example — so there’s reason to believe such a phone will be coming soon.