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Galaxy S21 won’t have the perfect screen design we crave

Published Oct 6th, 2020 7:31AM EDT
Galaxy S21 Rumors
Image: Samsung

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  • Samsung is working on the perfect smartphone design, but the technology might not be ready in time for the Galaxy S21 launch.
  • A report said that Samsung might launch under-display camera phones next year, and the technology might debut on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 foldable phone.
  • Samsung has a few ideas for placing a camera under the OLED screen, but manufacturing is problematic for the tech to be ready in time for the Galaxy S21.

All smartphones have almost the same design these days. If it’s an iPhone, then you get a sizeable notch at the top that integrates the speaker and all the components that power Face ID. If it’s an Android phone, you get a hole-punch screen placed in the middle or one of the two corners. The more expensive the phone, the tinier and more symmetrical the bezels get. In other words, the all-screen design is almost perfect. Neither concept gets you the perfect all-screen design, but smartphone vendors are nearly there. The perfect screen design we want includes an under-screen camera, and Chinese smartphone maker ZTE has already launched its first such handset, although it won’t be available in all western markets. It’s not surprising to hear that Samsung is working on this particular screen design as well. After all, Samsung happens to be the manufacturer of the best smartphones OLED screens in town, which serve both the iPhone and all the high-end Galaxy handsets. But a new report from Korea says that the Galaxy S21 will not be Samsung’s first phone to feature an under-display camera, as Samsung is still dealing with low yields. According to a new report, there might be a Samsung phone with a perfect display next year, but it’s going to be of the foldable type.

The Galaxy Z Fold 3 will be the first smartphone with an under-display camera (UDC), according to The Elec. The recently launched Galaxy Z Fold 2 features a hole-punch main display, with the selfie camera placed in an unusual position. Thankfully, the new Fold 2 doesn’t feature the thick side notch of its predecessor.

Should Samsung’s UDC tech meet requirements, the Z Fold 3 might have a perfect foldable screen.

Samsung is reportedly toying with several ideas to make cameras under screens happen. One idea is to make a Hole In Active Area (HIAA) with a laser, and Samsung is looking at two implementations. With HIA 1, Samsung would drill a hole the size of the camera. HIA 2 involves drilling many finer holes in the OLED screen layer.

Another idea for UDC is to make the display part that covers the camera transparent, without drilling holes in the display. This appears to be the most successful implementation of Samsung’s UDC tech so far, the report says.

The Elec further notes that Samsung has to develop algorithms to make up for the yellowish tint of the flexible OLED panel, which uses a yellow polyimide. Software calibration is needed to eliminate the yellow tint of the screen.

The report says that the Galaxy S21 will come with a hole-punch screen similar to what Samsung used on other Galaxy S versions in the past. The Z Fold 3 should be launched in fall 2021, just like its predecessor. This would give Samsung more time to improve UDC yields. But there’s no guarantee that Samsung will have UDC screens ready in time for any of its 2021 flagship phones. If Samsung can’t deliver UDC screens for its own smartphones, then it’s highly unlikely other flagships will make use of it next year, iPhone 13 included.

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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