Smartphone manufacturers have been trying to trim down bezels on smartphones by including all sorts of crazy camera setups on devices, mostly for front-facing cameras. The most popular selfie camera setup with moving parts is probably the one featuring a pop-up camera, while we've seen considerably less flip-up and sliding camera setups in the market.
Now, in my humble opinion, none of those ideas are the solution, and most of you would probably agree. Under-display cameras are coming, and that is the ultimate goal when it comes to front-facing cameras, as it does not require any additional bezel to be added to the phone, and will stay completely out of the way, as it will be included below the display.
We've seen a similar scenario with fingerprint scanners. In-display fingerprint scanners appeared quite a while ago, and at first, they were simply horrible. Such fingerprint scanners could not compete with regular capacitive ones at all, and capacitive fingerprint scanners are still more convenient to use.
But, in-display fingerprint scanners did become considerably better, and they are at least close to capacitive ones in terms of sheer unlocking speed and precision, at least one some newer devices. Chances are we will see a similar timeline for under-display cameras as well, as both OPPO and Xiaomi already demonstrated their under-display selfie cameras, though it seems like we're still some time away from actual phones shipping with such cameras.
A tipster did say, quite recently, that OPPO plans to release a phone with under-display camera by the end of this year, though it remains to be seen if that will happen or not. If we don't see one this year, we will next year, for sure… though, as already mentioned, don't expect first-gen under-display cameras to be anything special.
Having said that, it seems like we're still some time away from under-display cameras being able to compete with regular front-facing cameras, which probably means we'll see more smartphones with pop-up, flip-up and sliding camera setups.
I personally still prefer regular front-facing cameras, as probably most of you do as well. Why? Well, the piece of mind. I don't really use a front-facing camera all that often, so that's not high on my "things to consider when buying a smartphone" list, but I'd always rather not have moving parts in a phone.
Still, I currently use the OnePlus 7 Pro, which has a pop-up camera. I'm using this device for a number of other reasons, not to get too much into it, but the design always trumps front-facing camera setup for me. So, in other words, even though I'd rather have a regular, non-moving camera in my phone, I'd rather take a pop-up camera and almost no bezels, than have to deal with notches or display holes.
OnePlus, OPPO, Xiaomi, ASUS, and a number of other smartphone manufacturers who released a phone with a pop-up, flip up, or sliding camera(s) convince us that such camera setups are extremely durable… some of them even went to the extreme, and demonstrated how durable they are, by putting some weights on them, stress-testing them, and so on.
That may as well be true, but it's safe to say that most of you would rather take an under-display front-facing camera over a pop-up, flip-up, or sliding camera setup. That is currently not the option, but it does make the title of this article true.
These new ideas may be flashy, and allow companies to remove bezels, but it seems like in a couple of years all mid-range and flagship devices will have under-display cameras. Until then, we have to deal with such ideas, so… which one of the three is the least risky, and the best when it comes to the design and functionality?
Well, that's all a matter of personal preference, so some of you may actually prefer a sliding camera setup over a pop-up camera, or a flip-up camera over a pop-up camera, etc. Me, personally, I prefer a pop-up camera over the other two, if I have to choose between the three.
The sliding camera setup makes the phone too heavy in pretty much all situations, not to mention that half of your phone moves, which simply does not sound appealing to me. Then there's the issue of dropping the phone, such setup increases the chance of breakage when you drop the phone.
Flip-up camera, like the one on the ASUS ZenFone 6, has one huge benefit over the other two setups… it allows you to use rear-facing cameras as front-facing ones. This is a huge benefit if you take a lot of selfies, or perhaps vlog using your phone, but it does make the phone look rather weird on the back. On top of that, such a setup seems to be the most exposed (compared to pop-up and sliding camera setups), and it does seem to be the most fragile out of the three.
Pop-up cameras are hidden away pretty well, and the newest iterations (the OnePlus 7 Pro's and Redmi K20 (Pro)'s setup) feature a rather interesting capability. If you drop the phone, the phone will notice it, and will hide away the camera before the phone drops to the floor, as long as you're not too close to it. This actually works really well, and it does offer at least some protection for the front-facing camera.
On top of that, if you're not using a front-facing camera all that often, you can simply leave it be, and you will forget that it's there. That is a bit harder to do with sliding camera and flip-up camera phones. The sliding camera phones are both thicker and heavier than the other two variants, and the flip up camera setups are really easy to notice, so… there you have it.
Before I wrap things up, I would like to mention one smartphone design that caught my attention this year, the Meizu 16s. Meizu is not exactly one of the most popular smartphone manufacturing companies on a global scale, but the company managed to release an almost bezel-less phone, without resulting to pop-up, flip-up, or sliding camera setups.
The phone's front-facing camera sits next to the phone's earpiece, and the top bezel is razor-thin. The top and bottom bezels are still a hari thicker than the side ones, but still, this has to be the phone with the thinnest top and bottom bezels that includes a regular front-facing camera, and no notches or display holes.
The rest of the phone's design is pretty basic, exactly what you'd expect, glass + metal build, an in-display fingerprint scanner, and so on. This design actually makes me wonder why other smartphone OEMs didn't do something similar, including moving parts in a phone doesn't seem to be worth it when you can include such thin bezels on a device without resulting to extreme measures.
I am eagerly awaiting under-display cameras to become a thing, even though they'll probably be bad at first. Under-display cameras will most certainly bring an end to moving camera parts in smartphones, and basically allow smartphone OEMs to create (almost) bezel-less devices at the same time.