Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

Samsung’s under-display camera works, but it won’t come to Galaxy S21

Updated Jan 14th, 2021 7:47AM EST
Under Display Camera
Image: Samsung

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

  • Samsung confirmed the first product that will feature a camera under the display, but it won’t be a Galaxy handset like the upcoming Galaxy S21 series.
  • Under panel camera technology will be used in connection with the new OLED screens for laptops that Samsung has been teasing online.
  • Samsung has also featured a Galaxy Note-like phone that lacks a hole-punch display in a different video, which seems to imply the camera is placed under the screen.

The iPhone notch and the hole-punch camera on most Android phones these days are the sad remains of the bezel. Smartphone vendors are developing perfect panels that will take up the entire surface available on the phone’s front side. The main problem with that approach is the front-facing camera, which can’t be eliminated. The camera has to be positioned under the display layers because selfies will always be a thing. The camera has to deliver the same performance as current selfie shooters that do not have to capture photos and videos through a display layer. The world’s first phone with an under-display camera came from ZTE late last year, but other Chinese smartphone vendors showed similar concepts all the way back in 2019. These are just the ones that have officially confirmed their work on perfect smartphone screens. Others are more secretive about it.

As an undisputed leader in smartphone display tech, Samsung is also working on its own under-screen camera tech. And the company is finally ready to launch it in commercial products. However, it’s not going to be the Galaxy S21 to rock an under-panel camera, as Samsung calls it. It’s not even going to be a phone or tablet.

When Samsung started teasing its OLED display tech for laptops a few days ago, it showed a notebook concept with incredibly thin bezels. The OLED screen would not just offer a much better image quality; it would also increase the screen-to-body ratio, the clip hinted — here’s what I said at the time about the Samsung prototype:

While that sounds great, it’s unclear which 2021 laptop models would be equipped with these panels. The notebook demoed in this video certainly looks appealing. It’s ultra-thin and features a screen with almost imperceptible bezels. But it’s unclear whether any players in the notebook business can make such a machine.

It turns out that Samsung has an answer for that. The OLED screens for laptops has a name, Samsung Blade Bezel. At the top, the display features an invisible camera hole, the UPC or under panel camera. This helps Samsung achieve a 93% screen-to-body ratio. Moreover, the OLED screen is thinner than other solutions and weighs less than a conventional laptop screen.

The short teaser clip above does little to explain how that UPC camera would work, but the fact that Samsung is ready to tease the technology indicates that the tech is mature enough to be used in commercial products. We still don’t know what notebook maker will first use the technology, but Samsung’s OLED screen for laptops just got a lot more interesting.

Under Panel Camera
Samsung Under Panel Camera (UPC) tech developed for OLED screens for laptops. Image source: Samsung

How long until the technology reaches Samsung phones? Well, Samsung also quietly teased that future recently, as seen in the top image of this post.

Spotted a few days ago by LetsGoDigital, the phone in the screenshot above has no hole-punch camera. This suggests the camera is placed under the screen. The phone comes from a marketing video that Samsung used at CES 2021 to introduce its Upcycling program that promotes the idea that older hardware can be repurposed inside the home.

Under Panel Camera
The UPC camera can be seen at the top of Samsung’s OLED screen for laptops. Image source: Samsung

The phone in the image might be the Galaxy Note 21, the Dutch-language blog speculates. But there’s no indication we’re looking at a confirmation that Samsung’s UPC screens will be used in phones this year. After all, these promo videos can contain simulated images that have nothing to do with actual progress. But Samsung’s choice to show a phone with a perfect screen design is definitely exciting. Here’s that video in full — the “Note 21” phone appears at the 2:21 mark:

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.

More Tech