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Forget Google Pixel 6 — Pixel 7 could get this massive camera upgrade

Google Pixel 6 Pro
(Image credit: Jon Prosser x Rendersbyian)

A recently published Google patent suggests the Pixel lineup could receive a major upgrade in the form of an under-screen camera — but it may not be included until the Google Pixel 7. 

This isn’t the first patent that has hinted at a Pixel phone without a visible front-facing camera, but this latest document goes into the technology in quite substantial detail. Spotted by Lets Go Digital, Google filed this paperwork last September and would see the Pixel competing with the likes of the ZTE Axon 20 5G, which already sports an under-display selfie camera. 

While the Axon 20 has a pretty underwhelming front shooter, Google’s patent suggests that the tech giant has found a quite ingenious workaround that could lead to a Pixel phone that doesn’t have to comprise image quality in order to remove the punch-hole camera. 

The patent revolves around a Pixel device with an OLED display panel and a front camera that would sit below this screen. To make this possible an extra display panel is integrated with the OLED screen. Samsung has also filed a similar patent for an under-display camera, including an integrated sub-display in order to accommodate an under-screen shooter. 

Google’s implementation of the second screen differs from Samsung’s, however. These documents propose a system in which a mirror would be placed between the camera and the sub-display. When the camera isn’t in use, the second screen display is reflected through the mirror onto the main display screen. 

Google Pixel under-display camera system

(Image credit: Lets Go Digital)

Once the camera is activated, the prism rotates so that incoming light can be collected, allowing high-quality photos and videos to be captured. The second screen would also feature three sensors according to the patent. This could be so that the phone would be able to offer face detection, a feature that was absent on the Pixel 5 (though it did compense with a fingerprint scanner). 

It sounds like a pretty advanced system, and something we’d definitely be keen to test for ourselves. Unfortunately, it may be a while yet until Google actually releases a Pixel phone that features an under-display camera. 

While the Pixel 6 was tipped for the technology originally, leaked renders of the phone show a device with a punch-hole camera. This could mean that the system outlined in this patent might not be utilized until at least the Pixel 7, which likely won’t launch until 2022. 

Google is also being widely tipped to release a Google Pixel Fold at some point in the near future, so perhaps the under-display camera system could debut on Google’s first foldable phone. This could help Google compete with the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, which is also rumored to include an under-display camera. 

It’s also worth mentioning that companies file patents regularly, often for products and systems that don’t ultimately end up making their way into consumer tech. While this proposed under-display camera system is fascinating, there is no guarantee it will ever actually make its way into a Pixel smartphone.  

Rory is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics including tech news, deals, gaming, streaming and more. When he’s not writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found watching a borderline unhealthy amount of movies and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.