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The smartphone design we all want is finally real, but it’s not an iPhone or Galaxy device

Published Jun 3rd, 2019 6:50AM EDT
Oppo vs. Xiaomi
Image: Oppo

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We’ve had all-screen smartphones for a few years now, but all designs so far come with a compromise. Whether it’s the iPhone X’s notch, the Galaxy S10’s hole-punch camera, or the OnePlus 7 Pro’s pop-up camera, all these devices compromise around the same feature, the front camera that needs to be there, ready to take those selfies that so many people love. The ultimate design that would deal with all these compromises is already in the works, the under-display camera, and two companies have already shown off their current prototypes. What’s more interesting is that we’re looking at screen innovation that isn’t coming from Apple or Samsung, which are also studying similar designs.

It all started over on Weibo, where Oppo vice president Brian Shen shared the following video of an Oppo prototype that features an under-display selfie camera. Oppo posted the clip on Twitter as well.

Here’s a look at the entire phone:

The prototype device is contained in a protective cover, but it’s clear from the clip that the phone doesn’t have a notch at the top or a slide-up camera system, the likes of which Oppo already made.

We have no idea when this phone will launch, but once it does, we’d expect OnePlus to make use of the technology for its own phones. A leaker a few weeks ago did say that Oppo will show a phone with under-display camera tech, while Ice Universe has been teasing for a while now amazing smartphone designs for the second half of 2019.

Oppo has developed a few exciting smartphone features in the last few years, including its fast-charging VOOC technology as well as the periscope camera system that can significantly improve zoom experiences. Both these technologies were unveiled with the help of concept devices, well before they were ready for commercial use.

Not to be outdone by Oppo, Xiaomi came forward with a clip of its own that shows a similar under-display camera system. Xiaomi CEO Lin Bin posted a clip on Weibo showing the under-display camera prototype working on a Mi 9 prototype. “No hole, no notch, no pop-up camera,” the post reads — here’s what it looks like:

Xiaomi too has been eager to show off its smartphone innovations, including one of the first 5G phones which is also the most affordable 5G phone you can find, as well as a foldable smartphone that’s yet to see stores.

What’s clear is that both Oppo and Xiaomi want to show the world they’re ready to challenge their biggest rivals with smartphone features that aren’t available on other devices. It’s probably no accident that both companies unveiled their under-display cameras on the very day Apple will unveil iOS 13 operating system, as well as a bunch of other software innovations. Also, it doesn’t hurt that Huawei is currently down for the count, trying to recover after the recent ban, or that Samsung is trying to put its Galaxy Fold fiasco to bed while preparing for the Galaxy Note 10 launch.

That said, it’s one thing to show off working prototypes and quite another to launch commercial products that fans will like. After all, if the selfie camera experience won’t be on par with what’s available right now, people will start hating under-display cameras real fast. It’s unclear when the devices shown in the clips above will be ready to market, and we have no idea who’s making those displays.

The iPhone 11, Galaxy Note 10, and Pixel 4, which are the most important smartphone launches of the second half of the year, are expected to feature notch and hole-punch display designs.

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.