One of the holy grails of smartphones, aside from foldable and rollable screens, is a camera that completely hides underneath the screen. This solves a few design problems surrounding bezels and cutouts but might actually be harder to pull off those flexible displays. ZTE was bold enough to actually start selling its first attempt in the ZTE Axon 20 5G, which turned out to be quite a dud. That hasn’t dampened its enthusiasm for under-display cameras or UDC which will get a second-gen version at MWC Shanghai in a few days.
There are two problems that need to be solved for the perfect UDC implementation. One is how to hide the camera completely when it’s not in use to avoid the punch-hole appearance on the screen. The other is how to let light through that seemingly opaque area of the screen to the camera, without the screen’s own light.
ZTE explained how its UDC in the Axon 20 5G worked but, in practice, it didn’t actually work that well. Reviews, including those of DxOMark, panned the front-facing camera, clearly labeling it as a first-gen attempt that desperately needs a successor. On February 23, ZTE will reveal that successor but it might actually be addressing the complaints users have about its first UDC.
ZTE President of Mobile Devices Ni Fei posted on Weibo a teaser for its upcoming MWC Shanghai event and it talks about the world’s first under-display 3D structured light implementation. This kind of technology is used for more accurate 3D mapping, especially of faces for face recognition. It is rarely used to improve image quality when taking pictures, especially when colors are concerned.
The next-gen UDC is expected to debut in the ZTE Axon 30 Pro, which will also run on a Snapdragon 888 and utilize Samsung’s new 200MP S5KGND camera sensor, at least according to the leaks. Those are definitely high-end specs but it remains to be seen, quite literally, if it will be able to deliver on its headlining feature at all.