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You can finally buy a phone with an under-display camera

Published Sep 2nd, 2020 5:36PM EDT
Under-display camera phone
Image: ZTE

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  • ZTE’s Axon 20 5G is the world’s first commercial phone with an under-display selfie camera.
  • ZTE says that it had to overcome many hurdles in order to build a phone with an under-display camera, but it allowed the company to focus on a true all-screen design.
  • The ZTE Axon 20 5G is available to preorder in China right now for around $320.

One of the main reasons that the iPhone 11’s notch and the Galaxy S20’s hole-punch selfie camera exists is because the technology to hide the front-facing camera and all of the facial recognition sensors underneath the screen was not ready for primetime when those phones hit the market. Apple, Samsung, and many other industry leaders are moving in the direction of all-screen, bezel-less phones, but they had to settle for compromised designs in the interim. But on Tuesday, the first commercial phone with an uncompromised all-screen design finally arrived.

ZTE revealed the Axon 20 5G this week, and while its specifications won’t set the world on fire, its design might. The Axon 20 5G has a front-facing camera under the display, allowing the screen to stretch seamlessly from one edge to the other without any notches, holes, or pop-up mechanisms to impede the phone’s look or feel.

As ZTE explains, many technical challenges needed to be overcome in order to bring the Axon 20 5G to life. In order to balance the performance of the display and the performance of the camera, the company used a high transparency material that includes organic and inorganic material to improve light input. A new chip and integrated driver circuits in the phone synchronize the color between the display and the camera. There’s also a special matrix to optimize pixels and an algorithm to optimize camera performance in different lighting conditions.

The camera isn’t the only invisible component in the Axon 20, either. ZTE included under-display ambient light, sound, and fingerprint sensing technology so that the screen wouldn’t be blemished by notches.

ZTE’s Axon 20 5G with an under-display selfie camera in orange. Image source: ZTE

Aside from the new technology, the ZTE Axon 20 5G features a 6.92-inch Full HD+ OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate, Snapdragon 765G processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of internal storage, and a 4,220mAh battery with 30W Quick Charge support. The quad rear camera has a 64-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel secondary, and two 2-megapixel sensors as well. The under-display selfie camera has a 32-megapixel sensor.

This is obviously a midrange phone, but that doesn’t make the design any less impressive. Now that we’ve seen that a true all-screen smartphone is possible, it shouldn’t be much longer before the biggest brands in the industry catch on and release their own devices without notches or holes or pop-up cameras.

The ZTE Axon 20 5G is available to preorder in China right now for 2,198 RMB (~$321 USD).

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.

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