Explainer: What is an under-display camera and how has it changed modern smartphones – Times of India

The under-display camera is a feature that is available in very few modern smartphones and this feature helps front cameras to produce images even after being behind the displays. ZTE Axon 20 5G was the first-ever smartphone to come out with an under-camera display in 2020. In 2021, Xiaomi Mi Mix 4, Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 and ZTE Axon 30 were released with this feature. Here we will be discussing this new technology, how it works and what has made it popular.
How does the under-display camera technology work?
The part of the display that goes over the camera is transparent and these devices need to have a display-in-a-display. The primary display in these devices are made up of OLED or LED technology and the small cut-out uses a different kind of glass that allows the camera under it to capture light. These ‘holes’ are usually visible during regular use even when the camera is turned off.
Why is this technology so popular?
The demand for an all-screen smartphone has increased in leaps and bounds in recent years. Consumers demanded the largest-possible screen real estate on their phones while being easy to hold. For users, the edge around the screens is free spaces that can be used for content. So, smartphone makers are trying hard to hide sensors and other parts that will be facing the users.
Challenges for producing all-screen devices
Some manufacturers have tackled the all-screen affairs by flipping, rotating or pop-up mechanisms. All of these moving parts have a damage risk and are usually expensive to repair, so none of these features was very popular among the masses.
These parts reduce internal space for batteries as they take up space inside the phone. The motors needed to move these parts adds thickness and weight to the device. The limitations of the moving surface also reduce the possible combinations of sensors and lenses that the maker can put on the phone.
Challenges faced for using an under-display camera
It can pop out while binge-watching content or gaming in full-screen mode and is usually described as a ‘blurrier patch’. However, smartphone brands are aiming to make them less obvious to the user’s eyes. These holes become less noticeable as the screen gets brighter.
Poor image quality has been the biggest challenge for the under-display camera feature. It is difficult for the front camera sensor to get the best image quality as the light has to go through multiple layers of glass and is partly blocked by pixels.
Samsung tries to solve this issue in Galaxy Z Fold 3 through software and AI processing. This results in better images but it still doesn’t solve the problem of image quality that user’s face while making video calls. Moreover, the missing pixels needed to let light through the image sensor beneath the display are prominent.
Oppo, Vivo, and Realme have either announced or demonstrated their prototype devices with under-display cameras, but all three brands are yet to introduce them to the market.
Future of under-display camera tech
Major brands like Samsung, Xiaomi, ZTE and Apple among others have made breakthroughs in this technology. Users can expect this technology to be imbibed in flagship phones from these brands in the coming years. This technology will be more appealing for consumers and it might go beyond the smartphone form factor.
The first smartphone with an under-display camera was launched in 2020 and this technology is in its infancy. We can expect this technology in more flagship smartphones in the upcoming years and gradually it will trickle down to mid-range and even entry-level devices.

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