For the last several, smartphone manufacturers have been obsessed about improving the screen-to-body ratio of their products. We’ve seen the bezels go away, but there’s one thing left in the display that kept them from achieving the actual full-screen look — the front camera.

The issue was first solved by leaving a notch, from the bar notch of the iPhone, and now to tiny waterdrop and punch hole designs. After that, companies got creative and introduced sliding and pop-up cameras that hide within the smartphone’s body when not in use. But that’s not really practical, and it only adds another possible point of failure — despite manufacturers’ claim of rigorous testing and estimate of 5 years lifespan.

Now, we were given a glimpse of the future as OPPO showcased the world’s first under-screen camera technology at Mobile World Congress 2019 in Shanghai. As the name suggests, it hides beneath the display just like how we imagined it years ago.

Activated under-screen camera in action | OPPO

To give you a better idea on how it works, it’s kinda similar to the under-display fingerprint scanner implementation that are popular right now. But in case you’re into the nitty gritty stuff, the company explained it really well.

How does OPPO’s under-screen camera technology work?

According to OPPO,  the screen makes use of a propietary transparent material that comes with a redesigned pixel structure to let light pass through to the camera. The camera sensor is bigger than usual selfie shooters and it has a wider aperture lens. The portion of the screen housing the camera is still capable of being touch-controlled, so there’s no compromise in there. They also said that display quality is unaffected, although photos suggest that it can be seen depending on different angles.

The pros and cons

Having a seamless smartphone design without any hindrances like notches is definitely a good thing. It looks great and you can take advantage of the whole screen through its fullest potential as there’s no wasted screen estate. However, since it’s still in its early stages of development, some issues are to be expected.

OPPO has admitted that it might impact image quality in certain conditions, citing glare, haze, and color cast as potential problems that they need to contiuously work on. To get around that, the Chinese brand developed algorithms to tune the hardware to handle specific scenarios that are affected by the issue. They claim that it is currently “on par with mainstream devices”, but we’ll have to wait for an actual consumer product release to see if its really as good as they say.

Under-screen camera smartphone prototype | OPPO

OPPO smartphone with under-display selfie camera

Is there a confirmed release date? OPPO hasn’t mentioned any specifics yet but they said that a smartphone with the under-screen camera should come “in the near future.” Previously, OPPO also showcased the periscope zoom lens present in their current Reno flagship in a trade show, so it’s only a matter of time before we see this new technology in an actual commercial product.

UPDATE: OPPO showed us a new prototype with an under-display selfie camera and no buttons at the recently concluded OPPO APAC Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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