Phones with no bezels are awesome. However, they come with a caveat—a front-facing camera cutout or punch-hole. Thanks to new technology from Xiaomi, that is about to change.
The device maker recently showed off technology that allows it to place the selfie camera under the display itself. This means that phones don’t need to feature an unsightly cutout for the camera.
On Friday, Xiaomi announced that it plans to start mass-producing handsets equipped with the technology in 2021.
The under-display camera technology which Xiaomi recently showed off is reportedly the third generation of the tech. However, the company notes that none of the previous versions made it into a mass-market consumer device.
That will change in a big way next year when Xiaomi integrates the tech into its flagship smartphones.
The firm says that the technology works by allowing the selfie camera to see through tiny gaps in the display’s sub-pixels—the red, green, and blue dots that work together to make up each pixel.
It’s an interesting concept that device manufacturers have struggled to perfect. Typically, the portion of the display trying to disguise a camera looks pixelated or dimmer than the rest of the screen. Xiaomi notes that its latest technology steers clear of this flaw.
It says that the area above the display has the same pixel density as the rest of the screen while also matching the “brightness, color gamut, and color accuracy.” As such, it can “perfectly disguise” the selfie camera. The company didn’t specify whether the panel atop the camera is OLED or LCD. It also didn’t reveal what the resolution is.
Importantly, the performance of the camera itself isn’t compromised. Xiaomi notes that it should rival the quality of typical front-facing cameras.
That being said, the technology isn’t perfect. Images from Xiaomi’s own promotional video, as well as additional photos from Twitter user Ice universe (@UniverseIce), show some discoloration where the selfie camera is. Although it isn’t nearly as glaring as a punch-hole camera, it isn’t a perfect disguise.
Xiaomi's third-generation under-screen camera technology, you can hardly see the traces of the camera unless you look carefully. pic.twitter.com/g9iYa1cllA
— Ice universe (@UniverseIce) August 28, 2020
Beat at the Finish Line?
Xiaomi is currently touting the fact that it will launch consumer smartphones equipped with the under-display camera technology as soon as next year. Unfortunately, that might not be soon enough to win the smartphone maker the distinction of being first to market.
ZTE said earlier in August that it plans to launch a smartphone with an under-display camera on September 1 called the ZTE Axon 20 5G. At this point, it remains unclear whether that device will launch outside of China.
Xiaomi’s solution may turn out to be far more refined than whatever ZTE plans to roll out. If so, it wouldn’t really matter that it isn’t the first one to release a phone with the technology.
One important thing to note is that major smartphone manufacturers aren’t far behind. Now that this tech is out in the wild, the likes of Samsung, Apple, and Google will certainly want to include their own version of it in upcoming devices. The era of camera cutouts could be coming to an end.