Smartphone design is slow dump, hole punches and other spots cut into the display to make room for the front camera. Devices like OnePlus 7 Pro have reached the final form of front-mounted screens thanks to a complicated, motorized pop-up camera, but it would be nice if we could make screen phones without all the moving parts. A possible solution comes in the form of a sub-display camera – a camera that sits behind the pixels on the screen to take a selfie through the screen.
So far we have seen both Oppo and Xiaomi display prototypes of this technology in blurred social media, but at Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Oppo showed its prototype for the first time. The Engadget participated in the show to see the device personally, and it seems that this first generation is not the seamless screen camera solution we were hoping for.
With Oppos prototype, you get a full-screen design, but Engadget reports that the display over the camera "seems to be more pixelated" than the rest of the screen. Opos solution involves making the screen over the top of the camera transparent with a transparent anode and a "redesigned pixel structure for improved light transmission." Well, this redesigned pixel structure is less dense than the normal screen, so the image over it looks bad. In the pictures it looks like a semi-transparent notch.
On-screen optical fingerprint readers seen on devices such as OnePlus 6T and 7 Pro work much like a front camera under the screen. Both place the camera equipment behind the screen and look through the pixels to collect an image. Optical fingerprint readers can see through the screen while still seamless and invisible, but they only need to do the basic work of identifying the heights and valleys of a fingerprint by adding the image to an algorithm. Producing an image with acceptable enough quality for your Instagram selfie is a much harder problem, and at present it seems to collect enough light with the screen in the road is a big problem.
Oppo says it worked to maximize the size of photoreceptor to collect as much light as possible and still need to play out pixels to collect enough light behind the screen. There is apparently also a lot of software correction going on behind the scenes. Even after all this work, the Engadget Chinese report (through translation) notes that the image quality is "slightly foggy" and "brightness and color are somewhat unnatural."
Currently, Oppo says it doesn't have a timeline when the technology would hit mass production. At least we know what to look for now.
Listed image by Engdaget