Get ready for under-display smartphone cameras

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With in-screen fingerprint readers quickly becoming a regular feature of flagship phones, manufacturers are starting to wonder about what other things they can stick under the display. In the past day, both Oppo and Xiaomi have taken to social media to show off the latest development: under-display front-facing cameras. Forget camera notches, hole punch displays, and complicated pop-up mechanisms; the under-display camera enables all-screen smartphone designs with no moving parts.

Under-display cameras will work a lot like optical under-display fingerprint readers—a CMOS chip will be placed under a transparent section of the display, and it will peer through the pixels to see the outside world. For an optical fingerprint reader, the image capturing setup only needs to be of high enough quality to identify the ridges and valleys of your fingertip. For selfies and video chats, there will be much higher demands for image quality, and we wonder what obstructing the camera view with pixels will do to the image quality. Both Xiaomi and Oppo shared videos of the in-display cameras working, but the videos are too low quality to make any kind of image quality determinations.

We’ve technically already seen an “under-display camera” from the Samsung Galaxy S10, but Samsung carved out any camera-impeding pixels with a laser, making a permanent black spot in the display. These new prototypes take things a step further, with Xiaomi promising the front camera will “disappear” and be “complete seamless.”

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