Under-display camera technology looks to be one of the biggest new trends in the mobile sector, with OPPO announcing what it calls a next-generation version of the tech.
In its announcement, OPPO emphasized its camera solution’s lack of interference with the image quality of a given display – which has been something of an issue with the nascent technology. “Offering the perfect balance between consistent screen quality and camera image quality, it is an under-screen camera solution with no comprises,” the company said in a statement.
As proof, OPPO gave a prototype device to a vlogger, who promptly uploaded a video showing off the tech. OPPO also published images of a device displaying a full screen of black-on-white text – with no obvious distortions to image quality – and a ‘selfie photo’ taken using its under-display camera prototype.
Early reviews are mixed, but mostly positive. Assessing OPPO’s purported selfie photo, The Verge noted that there appear to be certain color artefacts in parts of the image, but conceded that the picture does “look considerably better than what you’d get from the first under-display camera to hit the market, which was on ZTE’s Axon 20 5G.” The latter device was unveiled in the late summer of 2020.
The vlogger, meanwhile, suggested that the under-display camera sometimes produced a slight shadow in the display, under certain lighting conditions. And in its own assessment of his video, GSMArena reports that the camera itself produces initially blurry preview images, but asserts that “once a photo or video is captured, computational photography improves it quite a lot.”
Clearly, the technology is not yet perfect. But OPPO’s promotion of it, especially before the smartphone brand even has a commercial product in which to implement it, shows how important it is to the company. Getting the camera under the device’s display means freeing up more real estate on its front face for the display, and getting more surface area for a device’s screen is a major priority for most smartphone makers.
For a brief period, the rise of biometric authentication presented an obstacle to this goal, with dedicated sensors required for fingerprint scanning, and an obvious need for a camera for face scanning. But in-display fingerprint sensors have become increasingly popular in recent years, and ZTE managed to equip the under-display imaging system of its aforementioned Axon 20 5G with support for facial recognition.
Apple is interested in this technology, too. A number of patent filings have indicated that America’s biggest phone maker has been devising means of getting an under-display version of Face ID operational. And with its reputation as a leader in technological innovation, the company won’t want to fall far behind its rivals in China.
OPPO has now upped the ante, and it’s only a matter of time before Apple, ZTE, or another smartphone rival makes a counter-move in this intensifying part of the mobile tech competition.