Galaxy S21 and Note 21 won't be 'all-screen' phones, but the Z Fold 3 will

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Galaxy S21 and Note 21 won't be 'all-screen' phones, but the Z Fold 3 will
Love it or leave it, Samsung's way of creating an "all-screen" phone is using a punch hole for the front camera (its so-called Infinity-O design), and what it did for virtually all of its important 2020 phones is simply to move it from the corners to the center of the display. 

Well, it also shrank it quite a bit for the Note 20 Ultra, for instance, but still, if you are annoyed by the punch hole, you will stay annoyed by the punch hole for the foreseeable future, reports Korean media The Elec today.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 may be the first Samsung phone with under-display camera


Apparently, Samsung hit just the next in a number of snags when it comes to the Holy Grail of "all-screen" phone solutions - a front camera hidden under the display. Initially, it was reported that it is advancing handsomely to have a retail solution ready in time for the Galaxy S21 series, or, if things didn't pan out, for the Note 21 models.

Now, however, the first Samsung phone with under-display cameras is said to be none other than the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Given that the Z Fold 2 just went on sale about two weeks ago, we are about a year away from perusing an eventual Samsung phone that has no display or frame piercings for the selfie camera. How does Samsung plan to achieve this?

Well, it will reportedly implement a two-step HIAA (hole-in-active-area) process. It uses HIAA 1 on the current Galaxy S20, A-series and Note 20 models, where it laser-cuts a precise opening in a flexible OLED screen so that there are no visible edge distortions. It is quite advanced in this process, to the extent that it reportedly sets the standard for the smallest and best punch holes among its peers.


A selfie camera hidden from your sight, and tucked under the screen cover, however, to achieve a uniform uninterrupted look, is something else entirely. Not only does the HIAA 1 method have to be very precise (that much Samsung has already mastered), but, evidently, Samsung has to employ a HIAA 2 methodology of sorts, where it pierces numerous miniature holes in the layer over the tiny front camera sensor so as enough light could pass through to take a selfie or record a video. 

It is reportedly precisely the HIAA 2 efforts that hit a snag and will prevent Samsung to implement under-display camera (UDC) in time for the Galaxy S21. While successful, the method apparently achieves very low yields for now, and phones like the S21 or Note 21 will have to be produced in the tens of millions for all the hungry fans. 

A Z Fold 3, on the other hand, will be a fairly exclusive device that Samsung won't sell in such quantities, so it may fit the HIAA 2 bill. As an alternative to the complicated piercing process, Samsung has allegedly begun exploring another UDC production avenue, making the top display layer over the selfie camera sensor underneath transparent. It has repeatedly demonstrated transparent screens for a while now, so the technology shouldn't be a problem.

Another issue to consider with the HIAA 2 efforts is that the polyimide screen cover of Samsung's flexible OLED screens has a yellowish tint to it, so the hues that the light passing through the numerous tiny holes in it carry to the sensor will be distorted in terms of color credibility. Samsung plans to address this with various sensor and software calibration approaches, but the selfie camera sensor thickness must also be taken into account if it is to be embedded in the display panel itself. 

In short, there are numerous issues to address with if we are to get satisfactory selfie quality from under-display cameras, and we are happy to hear that Samsung is prepared to tackle them head-on. Better late but perfected than early and half-hearted. Looking at you, ZTE AXON 20 5G whose selfie camera leaves a bit to be desired in terms of dynamic range and sharpness, under-display or not.

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