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This is what 2019’s perfect smartphone design will look like – and it’s not the iPhone 11

Published Jun 24th, 2019 9:35AM EDT
Oppo Under-Display Camera
Image: Oppo

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The Galaxy S8 and iPhone X brought us the first popular all-screen phones in 2017, but these devices were hardly perfect. The S8 had big top and bottom bezels, and the iPhone X had a wide notch at the top of the display. The iPhone X was then copied by almost every company in the business in the first half of 2018 until smartphone makers started coming up with new designs of their own to increase the size of the screen. We saw all-screen phones with pop-up cameras, slider phones, as well as devices with front and rear displays so a selfie camera wasn’t necessary. Samsung, which stayed away from copying the notch last year, came out with the Infinity-O hole-punch display for the Galaxy S10.

All these designs are stopgap solutions until display makers can make screens that can go transparent to accommodate a camera underneath. And as it turns out, the world’s first perfect all-screen phone is coming a lot sooner than we expected.

A few weeks ago, we saw the first teasers from Chinese smartphone makers Oppo and Xiaomi, which were first to show smartphones featuring under-display cameras, the holy grail of smartphone design right now. Soon after that, Oppo shared teasers for an MWC 2019 Shanghai press event where this novel type of phone will be introduced. And now we have a full version of the video that Oppo shared online, according to SparrowNews:

The video shows the evolution of the smartphone selfie camera, from the classic iPhone-like smartphone designs to all the compromises we saw last year. Oppo launched the Find X slider (top image), which has an entire back side that slides up when the selfie camera is needed. It also created a smaller selfie notch, the waterdrop design that we later saw on the OnePlus 6T and 7.

Beyond all that, Oppo developed other exciting smartphone technologies in the past few years, like super fast battery charging and periscope cameras for improved optical zoom. Oppo first introduced these innovations with the help of prototype devices. The company needed several years to make these technologies available to buyers.

The same thing might happen with the under-display tech Oppo will unveil on June 26th in China; we may have to wait a few years before this type of phone actually hits store shelves. The problem with under-display cameras is that they need to work without altering the quality of selfies photos. And we’ve come to expect a lot of things from selfies, from portrait modes to wide-angle selfies.

Image source: Oppo via Sparrow News

Oppo obviously isn’t the only company developing under-display cameras. Xiaomi, as I said, is also researching the technology, as are the company’s biggest rivals, including Apple and Samsung. It’s unclear what display vendors have been working with Oppo and Xiaomi on these novel screens.

The phone in the image and video above looks a lot like a Galaxy S10 without the hole-punch screen. Or like the OnePlus 7 Pro without the pop-up selfie. That’s probably what the first Oppo phone with an under-display camera will look like once it’s finalized. Meanwhile, Apple’s iPhone 11 phones will have notches just like their predecessors. Samsung will stick with hole-punch screens for the Galaxy Note 10, and Google will adorn its Pixel 4 phones with a full top bezel.

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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