Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

This is the world’s first phone with a camera under the display

Published Aug 20th, 2020 6:50AM EDT
ZTE Axon 20 5G
Image: Oppo

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

  • The ZTE Axon 20 5G will be the world’s first smartphone with an under-display camera.
  • The Chinese vendor will announce the handset on September 1st, but it’s already started teasing the phone on social media.
  • The first renders do not show any camera samples from that under-display camera, however.

Smartphone design has almost reached perfection. Most of the phones out there have large displays that occupy almost the entire real estate available under that large slab of glass. They’re sold as all-screen phones, but they’re not quite all-screen phones. The iPhones have notches that house components required for 3D face unlock functionality. Android phones feature hole-punch selfie cameras that can contain one or two sensors. And then there’s the ugly Pixel 4 that features a sophisticated radar sensor at the top of the screen that does little to warrant that prime placement on the handset.

There’s one more step to correct these selfie cam compromises, and that’s placing the front camera under the screen. Several handset makers are toying with this display innovation, and a few Chinese vendors have already demoed the concept with limited success. The Oppo prototype seen above was first demoed at MWC Shanghai 2019. It’s not enough to place the camera under the screen; the selfie cam also needs to produce results comparable to regular cameras. But 2020 will mark the year when the first handset with an under-display camera hits stores, although you might not be able to get your hands on one.

Unsurprisingly, the phone in question comes from China, with ZTE having already confirmed the handset a few days ago. The company revealed the ZTE Axon 20 5G would be “the world’s first under-display camera smartphone,” set to be unveiled on September 1st.

Since then, actual images of the device have made their way online, including teasers that show the handset with the screen turned on.

ZTE Axon 20 5G
Render of ZTE Axon 20 5G, the world’s first under-display camera phone. Image source: ZTE

ZTE’s president of mobile devices Ni Fei shared the images on social media, Dutch blog Tweakers reports.

The first image gives us a look at the front and back sides of the handset, without revealing too much detail. The handset looks just like any other Android flagship right now. The display is turned off, so there’s no way to see the selfie camera. On the back, the phone features four sensors, which is also par for the course for smartphones these days.

A second image shows an Axon 50 5G with the screen turned on. The phone looks just like one of the Android handsets from previous years that shipped with pop-up selfie cameras. The photo also indicates a significant compromise ZTE made on the Axon 50 5G. The bezels aren’t symmetrical, as there’s a rather large chin on the bottom.

ZTE Axon 20 5G
Render of ZTE Axon 20 5G, the world’s first under-display camera phone. Image source: ZTE

The one thing we do want to see on the handset is the selfie camera in action, but we have no teasers for that. It’s unclear how well the selfie camera performs, and what sort of tricks ZTE might be using to enhance those photos. Algorithms will probably be needed to improve the results of selfie shots, but I’m just speculating. What’s clear from previous demos of under-screen displays is that camera performance wasn’t that great.

Tweakers does say the front camera has a 32-megapixel sensor, while the primary rear camera features a 64-megapixel camera.

We’ll learn everything about the ZTE Axon 20 5G in a few weeks. That said, it’s unclear whether the phone will be sold outside of China initially, so don’t get your hopes up just yet.

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.