I might actually be excited about under-display cameras, thanks to Oppo

oppo under display selfie cam prototype
(Image credit: Oppo)

As we've grown accustomed to notches and hole-punch cutouts for selfie cameras, some Android phone manufacturers have been trying to rid their phones of visible front-facing cameras altogether. We saw this first with the ZTE Axon 20 5G, which wasn't a stellar example of the technology.

But now Oppo has announced its latest tech, claiming that its new under-display camera solves the problems that previous iterations created. While the company only has a prototype — one that no media outlet that we know of has seen — it says that its newest advancements obviate the display and picture quality issues that we've seen thus far.

Oppo's new approach doesn't reduce the pixel density around the camera — the point of which would be to allow more light to reach the lens. The prototype instead uses smaller pixels, maintaining a 400 ppi density. Oppo has also figured out transparent wiring with a 50% reduction in width, with both advancements ultimately allowing more light to hit the camera and should therefore reduce blur. It also means the screen stays sharp even around the camera.

One example of this technology in action is the photo of the prototype running an e-reader app. You want high pixel density in such an application to keep the text as sharp as possible, especially with the white background. If you'd notice an under-display camera anywhere, it'd be in an e-reader app.

oppo under display camera ereader

(Image credit: Oppo)

But for us as the end users, this new technology could mean the true realization of an all-display phone without pop-up cameras. While devices like the Zenfone 8 Flip or OnePlus 7 Pro tried to give us that all-screen experience, they introduced more points of failure with the motors needed to drive the flip/pop-up cameras.

Furthermore, if Oppo is correct, this new prototype could address the issues that we've seen on attempts at under-display cameras thus far. If Oppo's efforts mean a solution to the display clarity and picture quality problems, I'm all for it.

oppo under display selfie cam camera sample

A sample image from Oppo's under-display camera prototype. (Image credit: Oppo)

Just imagine a true edge-to-edge display on a future Galaxy S or OnePlus phone — or even on a far-future iPhone, given Apple's near-perfectionism — without a front camera cutout. Sounds far-fetched, but if Oppo and ZTE figure the tech out, it's distinctly possible.

For now, Oppo's announcement relates to a prototype only, so I doubt we'll see it on the Find X4 Pro or any time soon. But Oppo also typically moves pretty quickly when it comes to pushing new boundaries, so I could be wrong.

Of course, we have the ZTE Axon 30 to consider, which claims to have improved the underwhelming under-display camera tech that we saw in the Axon 20 5G (the Axon 30 Ultra we reviewed had a camera cutout). It's a battle that I don't think many people asked for, but the technology, and its prospects, are interesting all the same.

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.