As you may have heard from bigger websites that have live coverage from MWC Shanghai, OPPO presented a prototype of the first smartphone with a front-facing camera that is under the display. This way you don’t have any notches, holes nor a bezel on the top. Instead, the screen extends all the way to the top and the camera is under the display and when not in use, the screen works pretty much like normal. But (and there is always a “but” when it comes to first generations) it is not perfect.
People present at the conference quickly pointed out that the portion of the display where the camera is present is noticeable and has a more pixelated look. Also, if you look closely, you can see the image sensor underneath, even though it is not very visible. This is dues to the fact that the display has a different, less dense, pixel arrangement to make room for light to enter and reach the sensor. All this would not be a major issue if the image quality was on par with other smartphones. Sadly, this is not the case. Sample pictures proved that the image is a little blurry, has inaccurate colors and in general lacks sharpness. This happens despite the fact that OPPO claims it uses software tricks to improve the image quality and it has a bigger-than-normal sensor that can capture more light.
Having the sensor under the display and not requiring dedicated space on top allowed OPPO to use a bigger sensor with bigger pixels compared to a traditional front-facing camera. Even so, it seems the results are not as good as people expected. The resulted image could be used for video chat and the occasional selfie, but it is a far cry from what teenagers and other selfie-enthusiastic people want. It will be hard (if not impossible) to impress someone with the pictures taken with this phone once uploaded to social media. And I think that it is OK, at least for the time being. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to defend OPPO in any way or to try and take parts. I am only saying that for a first generation prototype things are good.
Not everybody wants a good selfie camera and not everybody wants a completely bezeless smartphone. For those that want a really good front-facing camera, there will always be the notch, pop-up camera or the more traditional top bezel. But for the people that don’t really use it or only use it occasionally, a smartphone that has this trade-off for a truly full-screen phone, it may be worth it. It is gonna take a while until the first commercially available smartphone will be available on the market. OPPO did not say when, but it expects in the next few months to have something ready. Hopefully, by then the technology will improve further, even though I do not expect drastic changes. For a first generation device, it is decent enough to be worth checking out. And, in a couple of years, we will look back at this first prototype with admiration for what it meant, rather than judging it for not reaching our expectations.
Also, let’s not forget that other manufacturers are working on similar tech as well. Xiaomi also teased us with a video that contained a prototype device with an under-display camera. Samsung, even though had nothing to show off to the public for now, stated openly that they are indeed developing under-display camera tech. I am sure that many others are also secretly working on this, either by licensing existing tech from the companies mentioned before or by trying their luck with something self-made. The under display camera tech will improve, will get better and with more work and research, we will reach the point where the selfie will have the same quality with an under-display camera as we have today.