The evolution of the mobile phone interface is rather startling. From the button keyboard with the slim LCD number display, the window began to get bigger. The once-monochrome LCD became more finely-detailed, then dispensed in favor of color. When the smartphone debuted, physical keyboards were replaced by touchscreens, LCD by LED, and selfie cameras on top. But as the screen display expanded there seemed no place else to put anything physical on the face side of a mobile phone. While selfie cameras remained “indispensable” there appeared to be no means to have its presence interfere with the ideal edge-to-edge display. Still, developers find a way.
One Chinese smartphone manufacturer, Oppo, may have found a possible logical progression towards keeping the selfie cam while also getting it out of the way of a massive edge-to-edge screen. According to The Verge, Oppo introduced their new concept at Mobile World Congress – Shanghai, and it is both ingenious and challenging. The idea is for an under-screen camera (USC) where the selfie cam is now positioned under the top part of the screen display. This is made possible by using a customized transparent material for the screen display to allow light to reach the aperture.
Granted, while the custom material for the screen covering up the selfie camera allows for light, there is still compensation required in the enlarged sizes of the aperture and sensor. The display area in front of the camera would still remain responsive to touch control, and under normal circumstances it will cover up the cam setup (except under certain lighting conditions). Oppo is also aware that eventual wear and tear might reduce image quality due to the unusual cam setup, which they hope to address by additional software algorithms, in order to keep it “on par” with normally-placed camera smartphones.
Now here is the bad news: the under-screen cam system that Oppo presented in MWC Shanghai was only a prototype. They do have plans to launch such a device, but only in the near future with now specific date given. Thus far, people only know of the USC tech either from this demonstration in Shanghai, plus a handful of tech reporters from Engadget Chinese that have gotten close-up looks at the prototype phone in action.
Oppo has made strides in smartphone design to find ways in balancing the presence of a selfie camera with the public desire for large screen displays. Their earlier solutions have ranged from minimalist and non-obtrusive display notches to having the selfie cam pop up from the top edge of the phone whenever it is needed.
Image courtesy of Android Central