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ZTE Axon 20 5G An Innovation in Under-Display Camera
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ZTE Axon 20 5G An Innovation in Under-Display Camera 

ZTE Axon 20 5G overview

This is the Axon 20 5G ZTE from ZTE. It’s not exciting for any reason other than the selfie camera. In case you are wondering why that breakthrough is significant?

Axon 20 5G ZTE First Look

Just take a look at the modern mobile design. For the past decade, manufacturers have tried to serve two opposed masters. They want to maximize how much screen they can squeeze into a smartphone while at the same time leaving enough room for the front-facing camera. 

A camera that’s become all the more important in the age of all of us socially starved shut-ins jumping on video calls every five minutes. Up until now, most companies have solved this tug of war by carving out space for the camera in the display. 

The first in the form of a notch and more recently, the hole punch. And in between, there’ve been some interesting alternatives like pop-up cameras peppered in, but with each approach there are challenges. Notching is distracting at best and ugly at worst. 

Pop-up cameras add weight and make repairs harder, and hole punch designs are incompatible with wide-angle cameras. And let’s be real, they’re not much less goofy looking than notches. So, why not just build the display right over the camera?

Axon 20 5G ZTE VS Xiaomi/Oppo Comparision

Back in June, consumer tech heavyweights Oppo and Xiaomi announced within hours of one another that they’d finally figured out how to do it, but it was ZTE that beat both of them to the punch with the first production model that can buy. 

Xiaomi 3rd Gen. Under Display Camera

That’s Axon 20 5G ZTE, launched in China in September 2020 and goes in sale globally for about $ 450. A competitive price that reflects its mid-range specs sheet but belies wizardry lurking beneath.

There is still a notch of sorts on the screen to accommodate the front-facing camera which you can see on some specific angels which is a 32-megapixel camera unit, outputting at eight megapixels. 

The difference is that the display doesn’t terminate at the borders of the notch, it continues across the gulf, and it’s been modified in the area over the lens.  In this tiny little patch, the screen pixels have been physically shrunken so light can go around them to reach the camera beneath. 

Under Display Camer architecture

ZTE Axon 20 5G Under-Display Photo

Axon 20 5G ZTE display was almost certainly provided by Visionox, a company that sells OLED screens to several manufacturers. Of course, the hardware is only part of the story, the final step in the process takes place in software because the camera’s quality is still so compromised by the presence of the display hardware sitting right over the lens, a set of algorithms are applied to process the image and make usable.

ZTE Axon 20 5G Display

Probably the thing that excites me the most about this technology is how quickly it’s moving. Well, Xiaomi has yet to ship its take on this. It’s already working on a third generation of the experimental technology, and it’s claiming significant gains in both picture quality and masking. 

If you recall, this technology was displayed at CES 2018, and it’s gone from finicky, slow, and visible to reliable, fast, and invisible in less than three years. 

So, it’s more likely that by 2024, most smartphones will have one or cameras mounted beneath the screen. Finally relegating the notch to the dustbin of history.

Hopefully, that will accelerate the development of something android needs anyway. An indicator light that tells the user when the phone’s cameras are being used. 

Apple recently brought this feature to iOS 14, which is remarkable. And with camera’s about to dive under the display like spy subs, android users shouldn’t have to rely on a third-party app to ape this functionality. 

That concern aside, I’m very much looking forward to the new phones and features that designers and developers will dream up. Now that yet another constraint on mobile design is falling away.

The Axon 20 5G ZTE is available now.

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