First Mass-Produced Under-Display Camera Is Not Ready for Primetime

ZTE Axon 20 5G Credit: Tech Spurt / YouTube
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ZTE recently released the Axon 20 5G. The flagship smartphone is making headlines because of its innovative front-facing camera. It is being praised by the masses for being the world’s first under-the-display selfie camera to hit the market. This novel selfie camera is a big selling point of the ZTE smartphone, but, according to early reviews, perhaps it shouldn’t be.

Mediocre Camera Quality

The under-display camera does away with the dreaded notch in the display that accommodates the camera lens and flash. This under-the-screen camera makes it possible for the display to cover the entire front surface of the phone. The camera is barely visible, showing up as a small pixelated box at the screen’s top.

The new camera takes videos and photos using an included 32-megapixel lens. Sadly, the display diminishes the quality of the resulting pictures.

Reviewers, such as Sareena Dayaram from CNET, note that the photos are “blurry” and “hardly contained any detail.”

Selfies from the ZTE Axon 20 5G look as if they have a “beauty” filter on all the time, adding a glow reminiscent of Vaseline on the lens or a 60s movie, writes David Imel for Android Authority. “It’s a bit like your lens always has a smudge on it that you can’t clean off.” Although, some reviewers do seem to disagree.

The Competition

ZTE isn’t the first smartphone to develop an under-display camera. China’s Xiaomi is on its third-generation under-display camera, which the company now claims has the same performance as conventional front cameras.

Xiaomi’s first-generation under-display camera technology was kept in the lab, while the second-generation was unveiled publicly. The company’s third-generation camera was unveiled in August 2020 when it finally entered mass-production but has not yet made its way to any current devices. Vivo is also working on a smartphone with an under-screen camera, but it is still in the concept stage.

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