ASUS has now joined the list of companies looking to abandon the notch-style smartphone design via pop-up cameras and display cutouts, based on a slew of new patents spotted by Dutch tech blog LetsGoDigital. There are a total of four designs represented by the filings, recently published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office. Three of those pertain to cameras that slide out of a handset's frame while a fourth takes a display-hole approach. Each is built into the center of the top edge and bears an oval shape but is presented in different sizes with various layouts for the sensors and associated hardware. The largest stretches nearly across the entire device, while the smallest only takes up enough space for the camera sensors. The middle variant reaches across around a third of the overall width of the handset.
All of the designs show an earpiece just above the nearly bezel-free screen, making it easier to ascertain exactly what the images are showing. The smallest pop-up design features a single camera, while the medium and large designs come with two lenses. In the widest and narrowest camera housings, a bar-style cutout is shown that would presumably be an LED flash os some kind. The medium design shows a third round opening that's smaller than the camera sensors and presumably represents a more standard LED flash set between the lenses. A fourth patent filed around the same time takes things in a completely different direction, highlighting a camera sensor tucked behind the display glass inside a hole at the top-left corner. Based on its position, that would occupy a space in the UI that sits to the left of the notifications, centered vertically between the notification shade and the main display area.
Not breaking new ground
None of the newly reported patents is necessarily a break from what has either already been seen in the mobile arena or what's expected from other companies. The pop-up cameras, for example, appear to work in a way that isn't too dissimilar to Vivo's NEX or Oppo's Find X. If ASUS uses its patents in a future device, that would mean the hardware is embedded when not in use and automatically slides out on a mechanical system when it's needed. It could also bear a closer resemblance to the latter of the two above-mentioned devices since none of the designs show a rear-facing camera in the main smartphone housing at all. To the contrary, ASUS may simply be choosing not to include every aspect of the design since the patents apply specifically to the pop-up cameras. A similar trend has also already been started in terms of in-display cameras being used instead of notches. Samsung's Infinity 'O' display series and Huawei's recently launched Nova 4 are prime examples of that and ASUS certainly isn't breaking ground here either, as a result.
Premium or budget?
Where ASUS's patents might make a difference, if the company chooses to use them, is in terms of which market segment they apply too. Although the company has released devices in the premium segment of the market, notably with its recent ASUS ROG phone, it typically launches devices in the mid-range category. So the designs might indicate plans to be the first company bringing the invention to the low-cost portions of the Android spectrum rather than a flagship that would compete with others with similar technology.