Notches are silly, 2020 iPhones ironic, and the front camera hiding trend is all wrong

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Notches are silly, 2020 iPhones ironic, and the front camera hiding trend is all wrong
Ladies and gents, the last chapter of the game called "Аll-Screen Phone Makers" is upon us, and the boss is harder to beat than a Bloater in Last of Us. The urge to make an "all-screen" phone has resulted in some pretty head-scratching design decisions, and they've done a lasting aesthetics damage that was pretty much uncalled for. 

Starting with Apple's unsightly notch, going through Samsung's weird punch-hole displays, and, now, to front cameras hidden under the screen, the dubious need to take a snap with a phone's inferior shooter has forced handset makers to deploy crazy-looking solutions.

The last stretch of that reverse Holy Grail crusade is shaping up to be a camera that will be hidden under the screen. We know it will suck even by selfie camera standards, but just watch how it will be pushed as new and cool. Oppo recently teased such a solution to a great fanfare pre-MWC Shanghai but while we thought it will showcase a phone with the technology during the expo, it actually showcased a crude prototype. 

You know why? This stuff is not nearly ready for prime time. We appreciate the effort, but there are tons of issues that have to be overcome before the light that passes in between the tiny gaps between the display pixels turns out to be enough for a decent shot. 

Oppo went to great lengths to demonstrate how post-processing algorithms can overcome the physical limitations of a camera sensor tucked under layers of display package, leaving us completely unconvinced that this is the way to go.

Even Apple has such patents, though, and we shudder to think what's next. Samsung is also working on the technology and we are afraid we will lose a production cycle or two before we realize that the efforts were wasted in vain.

Apple killing the 2020 iPhones' notch is the ultimate 'all-screen' irony

Recent reports that Apple will have at least one model with a completely new "all-screen" solution next year should have sent shivers down the spine of all copycat notch-bearers and hole-in-display drillers. Credit Suisse analysts probed the biometric identification market and tip that Apple may go with a whole-screen fingerprint authentication method in 2020, reducing the need for most user-facing components. Save for the Animoji ones, of course, those may be tucked under the display. 

We kid, but Apple has reportedly been testing uninterrupted screens for next year's iPhone redesign, and analysts are saying that it will try to shove as many front sensors and even cameras under the screen. Of course, this will come with its own set of challenges that have to be overcome. What's the alternative?

Rotating/pop-up/sliding/flipping cameras are actually a much better solution to that dumb whack-a-mole game with the selfie shooters. Heck, even Olivia Culpo's iconic mirror-outfitted iPhone case is a better approach to take a selfie with the good camera, instead of a strangled for light piece that feels out of place on those "all-screen" phones lately. We mean, look at that shot, can a front camera do this?

Not really, but a rear iPhone camera and a case with a small mirror for framing can, for a fraction of the notch/hole/dual display solution price. Ok, we admit to using unorthodox methods in hammering the point home, but any solution that utilizes the best camera on the phone for all types of pictures, is better than even the most elegant under-display camera design with crappy photography output.

Instead of doing design gymnastics to fit a subpar snapper at the front, those efforts could very well be pointed towards giving access to the best camera on a phone in all situations that call for a visual memory, and that is even more valid for selfies where we want to look our best.

This is why we wanted to ask you towards the end of this drilling rant, if you'd rather have Samsung, Apple, LG, Huawei and the like, find ways to give us the main camera in all scenarios, or if you think that pushing for under-display sensors will be the Holy Grail of all-screen-phoning? We'll leave you with a disgusted elephant that just says "nope" to all this madness. What do you think?

Is the coming under-display camera push the ultimate 'all-screen phone' solution?




1. jellmoo

Posts: 2660; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

For a lot of people (myself included) front facing camera quality is a non factor. I don't take selfies. My front facing camera is exclusively used for video conferencing. I don't care how amazing the picture quality is, just that it's functional. If an under the screen solution can accomplish that, cool. I'd rather that than add a mechanical component that can add another point of potential breakage to my device.

3. sgodsell

Posts: 7605; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The thing is Time of Flight cameras do not work under a display. So I personally don't care about some small top bezel. Because if I cannot have that new camera technology, then it's not a buy for me.

10. jellmoo

Posts: 2660; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Different strokes for different folks. The front facing camera is so far down my list of priorities that it's practically a non factor. By the same token, I'm also not set on having no bezel whatsover. I just really don't want a mechanical component that will have to deal with wear and tear.

18. sgodsell

Posts: 7605; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

That's just it. A ToF camera can scan any object in its view to generate a 3D point map. So it can be used for log-in like FaceID. Or it can give you the best portrait mode around. A ToF camera can be used for AR, VR, or basically scan and generate a 3D point map of any object that is in its view. So you could even use it for 3D printing of any object, or send those scans onto someone else than could modify and/or print that object out for you. They can even do more like air gestures, or palm recognition.

19. Dr.Phil

Posts: 2488; Member since: Feb 14, 2011

"For a lot of people (myself included) front-facing camera quality is a non-factor." Unfortunately, there is a majority that DO care about the front-facing camera quality. The same consumers that are buying these phones use it for Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. Phone companies, by and large, make phones that are used by the majority instead of a minority of users.

29. Polaris1983

Posts: 33; Member since: May 22, 2019

Bloggers would use it for reporting and skype when not having access to a laptop for video conferencing. video resolution and ssd space if vital for this for long recording at 4k at 120fps for weather disasters now that 5g is coming online for fast uploads to the network as the OSes are being fixed up for this sort of evolution in high speed networking. front and rear facing cameras will soon have that have that like ability to have you in the bottom counter filming as you film using the back of the device like most do in youtube post production not to mention night vision like on the google pixel for photos soon video recording in the dead of night as the mate p30 can do this.

2. sgodsell

Posts: 7605; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

When Apple started out they had a 1/2 inch on both the top and bottom. That was a total of 1 full inch of taking up space. However nowadays I really don't mind a smartphone with a quarter of an inch at the top, and bezel less for the rest of the smartphone. The other thing is cameras and nowadays namely Time of Flight cameras. I really don't see how they could ever work under a display. Especially since a ToF camera is used for AR, VR, portrait mode, scanning a face, air gestures, or scanning and mapping out any other 3D object. If I lose that, then I will take the 1/4 inch space on top, any day of the week.

6. Cat97

Posts: 1983; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

VR is dead, AR is mostly dead.

17. sgodsell

Posts: 7605; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

I think you missed my point. The new ToF cameras can do a lot more things than the traditional plain old camera. Plus it doesn't work under a display, so it's a no go for me, and all the new innovations that a ToF camera brings to the table. What about signing on with your face, or using your palm, or eyes to login, and keep the smartphone awake? What about portrait mode? What about air gestures like the ones found on the LG G8? What about scanning any 3D objects, and then using your phone to print them out, or sending that 3D image to someone else? These are all things that the new ToF cameras can do, plus more.

20. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Ok we get that you're gung-ho on ToF cameras but you made your point in your first post. Some of the functions like 3D scanning can easily be done by the rear camera. Front cameras are a necessary evil for the selfie/Instagram crowd and I understand it. But I (and many others) also want the full screen experience whilst watching videos and that requires a compromise. Right now I'm satisfied with the pop-up camera since I rarely use it and it maximizes screen space. Given the results of the survey it looks like the author is in the minority anyway.

22. Mike88

Posts: 438; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

Ever heard about Playstation VR..?? It's the best vr experience and very successful

4. pimpin83z

Posts: 597; Member since: Feb 08, 2019

"...and the front camera hiding trend is all wrong" No it's not. I rarely use the front camera. I don't video chat, I don't take selfies, I don't have Snapchat, I don't take selfies, I'm not an 'Instagram model', I don't take selfies, I don't use filters & I don't take selfies. I've seen several comments on here where people have said they don't use the front facing camera so no, the front camera hiding trend is not all wrong.

5. Cat97

Posts: 1983; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

I don't think it matters what camera does Olivia Culpo use...:)

11. Vega007

Posts: 92; Member since: May 18, 2017

Seriously. I don't even know who that is.

7. User123456789

Posts: 1200; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Translation : If Apple does not use it, it is wrong and gimmick

30. ivan.k

Posts: 41; Member since: Jan 29, 2014

thank you for translation, captain...

8. User123456789

Posts: 1200; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

Front cameras could do this, they just need to use same hardware of rear cameras. But the bezelfobia caused by geeks and tech sites prevent this from happening. Good sensor need at least to be 1/3". I doubt companies that use IP rating 67 or 68 will ever give up to apply slider or pop up.

9. monkeyb

Posts: 414; Member since: Jan 17, 2018

“aesthetics damage that was pretty much uncalled for.“ - if they do not change we blame them for being lazy. You say in-screen finger print scanner will suck and is not ready for primetime- I think this is the type of innovation most people are asking for and hence efforts are being concentrated there. You say companies should focus on better things rather than gymnastics- I think companies always focus on what they feel will sell their products. Every time a Macbook is announced, I eagerly look to see if the camera is improved but it never happened in a decade. I put “Yes” as my answer to the poll and it is because screen innovation should not be lumped with any other innovation. Companies should do more and more things like this to innovate and improve other parts of the phone at the same time. There should not be any excuses for no innovation. The companies are earning enough.

12. det_bradlee

Posts: 163; Member since: Jun 08, 2015

Bezels please.

13. Sroh42

Posts: 6; Member since: Jul 05, 2019

18:9 is best for the phones... Less bezels... Dual front speakers... Dual front cameras... Branding...... Just take look at Pixel 2xl, Nokia 7 plus, galaxy s9. All are so beautiful

14. User123456789

Posts: 1200; Member since: Feb 22, 2019

S9 is 18,5:9 .... 16:9 is the best. Nokia 8 Sirocco is best example.

15. VariableCheapskate

Posts: 200; Member since: May 29, 2019

Notches still look dumb and feel like the OEM went out of their way to cut costs in the name of form over function. You won't admit to it but Apple feels too safe to innovate and alleviate on that area of their design.

16. j_grouchy

Posts: 186; Member since: Nov 08, 2016

I really never minded the 1/8" to 1/4" bezel at the top for sensors, camera and speaker. I really feel like these are all just solutions to something that was never really a big problem. I guess it never hurts to innovate and come up with different technologies and configurations, but it's really just gotten silly at this point.

21. jcap4

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 12, 2019

Keep it simple. The phones already have a glass back, put a small screen below the camera for selfies. Fewer moving parts, fewer cameras, more space for batteries.

23. HildyJ

Posts: 342; Member since: Aug 11, 2012

Like many here, I don't take solo selfies but I appreciate a good from camera for group selfies. What I do want is forward facing top and bottom speakers. A small top and bottom bezel to accommodate them is a trivial price to pay and if the top bezel has a decent camera, more the better. Unfortunately, I'm a voice crying in the wilderness as the majority of smartphone buyers, Apple and Android, favor bling over function.

24. Oh_Juu_Eh

Posts: 22; Member since: Jun 10, 2016

Meizu 16 series one of the best solution for front camera placement

25. odachek

Posts: 132; Member since: Sep 01, 2012

I like the hiding motorized, flipped cameras, it gave us privacy. Hate the notches.

26. TS020

Posts: 63; Member since: Feb 16, 2019

So this article was written to talk about the best solution being the back camera, yet there's no mention of the ZTE Nubia Z18s which did just that at the end of last year? Ok then...

27. matistight

Posts: 1031; Member since: May 13, 2009

I'm indifferent about cameras under the screen (fingerprints under the screen suck, but the OnePlus 7 Pro does a good job, just like the front camera, but I prefer Oppo Find X style) but to complain about the camera is frustrating. Flipping cameras are awesome, if the company gives you 1080 and 4k at 60 fps or higher, along with proper image processing when used for the front or back. It cut costs and gives the user a better experience (assuming they use flat OLED panels that have no chin or forehead, and if they do, very slim ones for front facing speakers.) The complaint of water resistance is so dumb, add a durable seal around the camera and you're fine (ex; OnePlus 7 Pro.) Lastly, with all you people complaining about the government watching you, you CANNOT complain about a phone that hides a camera and pops up when YOU want to use it. You never have to worry about if someone is watching without your permission (unless they somehow hack a bootloader locked phone and look when you have the camera open.) The fact that people care about that but pass on the Find X is beyond me.

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