Although Apple wasn't the first to come up with the notch design, putting one on its iPhone X in 2017 made it a tentpole aesthetic choice, practically triggering a spate of copycats shortly thereafter. In no time at all, it seemed every manufacturer except Samsung was going the route of the notch. Some loved it, some hated it — and hate it, still. To be fair, the notch was a reasonable design choice — there was nowhere else to put the front-facing sensors and selfie camera at the time.
Later, manufacturers employed clever tricks to get rid of the notch. Some introduced popup cameras, while some put a full-fledged screen on the back of the phone, letting users use the "main" camera for selfies instead.
Now, Oppo and Xiaomi, two of the most significant phonemakers from China, have demonstrated that it's possible to put the selfie camera underneath the display, thereby negating the need for a notch.
Oppo Shows Off Under-Display Camera
In his Weibo post, Oppo VP Brian Shen shared a short video clip of what appears to be a notch-less prototype smartphone lying on a desk. The camera app was launched, but despite the lack of a visible front-facing camera, the screen still showed a live view of the room ceiling. Then the demonstrator covered a part of the screen where the camera is supposedly hidden.
For those seeking the perfect, notchless smartphone screen experience – prepare to be amazed.
You are taking a very first look at our under-display selfie camera technology. RT! pic.twitter.com/FrqB6RiJaY — OPPO (@oppo) June 3, 2019
It's impressive, but in a follow-up post, Shen admitted that this under-display camera technology is still in its early days. He said it's hard for under-display sensors to match the same results as conventional cameras, and that there's still an inevitable loss in quality at the moment. Still, there's reason to be optimistic.
"But, no new technology jumps to perfection right away," noted Shen.
Xiaomi Hits Back At Oppo With Its Own Under-Display Camera
Just hours after Oppo revealed its prototype, Xiaomi president Lin Bin posted a video to Weibo of the Xiaomi Mi 9 with a front-facing camera hidden entirely behind the display.
It's not clear how either Oppo's or Xiaomi's respective technologies work. The Phone Talks notes that Xiaomi recently filed a patent that shows a similar functionality, which uses two alternately drive display portions to allow light to pass through the camera sensor.
There's no telling when these phones might come out, too. Perhaps the technology is really still in its early days, as Shen suggested. In any case, take this as a glimpse at the notch-less future.