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An upcoming Samsung phone has the design breakthrough we’ve been waiting for, but no one knows which one

Published Oct 17th, 2019 10:12AM EDT
Galaxy S11 vs. Fold 2
Image: Zach Epstein, BGR

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Samsung made a significant change in the way it introduces new innovations to mobile devices. Instead of debuting on pricey flagship phones, features like the hole-punch design and multi-lens cameras were launched with the help of mid-range handsets. Those technologies then made their way into the S10 and Note 10 flagships once they were proven. It stands to reason that Samsung will continue to roll out new technology using more affordable devices before bringing it to flagships. Of course, that’s unless we’re talking about foldable phones, which feature two tech innovations that are too expensive cheaper devices — that’s the hinge mechanism and foldable display. With that in mind, new reports claim Samsung is ready to introduce the revolutionary design breakthrough we’ve been waiting for, but on one can seem to agree on which phone will be the first to utilize it.

The perfect smartphone is a device that features a no-compromise, all-screen design. That means the display would incorporate all sorts of technologies including the camera, fingerprint sensor, sound, and other sensors. Features like the fingerprint sensor and the front-facing speaker can already be incorporated into displays. The one thing we’re all waiting for is for screen tech that will make it possible for the selfie cam to sit underneath a working part of the display.

Like many others, Samsung is already developing the technology — and once it nails it down, it’ll likely sell these sophisticated new OLED displays to other smartphone vendors, including Apple and Google. But will it be ready next year? A couple of separate sources say that Samsung will launch a phone with an under-display camera next year, but they don’t agree on whether the technology will be used on an early 2020 flagship or another phone entirely.

Top Samsung insider Ice Universe posted the following message on Twitter on Thursday morning:

According to Ice, under-display camera tech will be ready for next year, but it won’t be seen on the S11 or Fold 2. Interestingly enough, he left out the Note 11, which should drop in the second half of the year. Separately, Korean news outlet TheElec claims that the next-gen Galaxy Fold 2 will be the first Samsung handset to feature an under-display camera.

The Galaxy Fold’s design is incredibly annoying, with Samsung having placed no less than six cameras on the phone, including two selfie shooters that totally ruin the design of the main screen. One way to reduce all that camera bulk is to place them under the screen on the Fold 2, a device that’s rumored for an April 2020 launch window, according to a different report.

The problem with under-display camera tech, as we’ve seen earlier this year from Chinese smartphone maker Oppo (see a prototype Oppo phone in the image below), is photo quality. The Elec reports that the polyimide substrate of flexible OLED adds a yellow tinge to photos, which has to be removed by software. Algorithms would also have to be developed to reduce blur, the story says.

Image source: YouTube

If polyimide sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the kind of polymer layer found on top of the Galaxy Fold’s screen. Glass can’t survive being bent as easily, which is why the foldable phone has a polymer layer on top of the flexible OLED screen.

The report notes that Samsung might test under-display cameras with the Fold 2 first, rather than the Galaxy S11. Whether the Fold 2 will deliver the all-screen design we all want or not, Samsung is understandably under pressure to be among the first mobile display makers in the world to perfect the technology. That’s because other companies are also readying the same technology, including Apple and all the major Chinese handset makers.

A Samsung Display exec said earlier this year that under-display cameras aren’t going to be possible within a year or two. Separately, a senior official recently contradicted that statement by saying that Samsung is still considering the possibility of releasing such a phone next year.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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