Forget iPhone 12 — this Android phone has the upgrade you’ve been waiting for

(Image credit: ZTE)

The new iPhone 12 is expected to sport the same size notch as the iPhone 11. And most Android phones now have a punch hole cutout at the top of their displays. But a new phone from ZTE delivers a true full-screen design by introducing a long-anticipated feature.

A Weibo post by ZTE president Ni Fei has effectively announced its upcoming ZTE Axon 20 5G smartphone will be the first handset to have an “under-screen camera,” as reported by Gizmochina

Fei posted a screen that doesn’t show a lot about the camera but does contain a reference to a device called “ZTE A20 5G under-screen camera,” suggesting the phone has an under-display camera.  

Fellow Chinese smartphone maker Oppo had been tipped to be one of the first companies to make a smartphone with an under-display camera, after teasing the tech last year. But it looks like ZTE has stolen Oppo's thunder.  

Ni Fei Weibo post

(Image credit: Weibo)

ZTE hasn’t detailed how it’s made a display with a selfie camera beneath it. But there’s speculation it might have been supplied a display panel by Visionox, which has previously announced it's ready to produce under-screen camera tech on a mass scale. 

Through the use of transparent organic and inorganic materials for the main display, as well as “industry-first drive circuit and pixel structure design,” Visionox managed to create a camera system that can effectively see through an OLED display. Visionox also uses a suite of software algorithms to handle glare and fogging effects.

There’s no word on how well these under-display cameras' performance will compare to more traditional selfie cameras. But the ZTE Axon 20 5G looks ready to lead the charge for the tech when it arrives later this year or in 2021. 

Will Galaxy S30 or iPhone 13 be next?

Even if the results from this early effort are less than impressive, it leaves hope for other phone makers to build upon the tech — including Samsung and Apple.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is an impressive phone with a large 6.9-inch AMOLED display with a 120Hz variable refresh rate. However, that expansive display is still disrupted by a selfie camera cutout. 

Samsung is said to be considering an under-display camera for the Samsung Galaxy S30 (Galaxy S21), according to leaker Ice Universe. But that was back in April, and the leak said Samsung was evaluating "the feasibility of the technology."

The display notch introduced in the iPhone X includes a TrueDepth camera that other companies have not been able to match, but the size of the resulting notch has been a complaint. And based on the latest rumors, it looks like the notch size is staying the same for the iPhone 12

According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple could have an under-display camera system and under-screen Touch ID solution in place by 2021 for the iPhone 13, but that report was a year ago and also predicted that the iPhone 12's TrueDepth notch would be reduced.

The OnePlus 7 Pro showed how a pop-up selfie camera can enable a phone to have an expansive OLED display with a 90Hz refresh rate that’s a joy to behold. The company took a step back with the OnePlus 8 Pro, which makes use of a punch-hole camera, but we’d not be surprised to see it adopt under-display camera tech for the OnePlus 8T Pro.

Regardless of which smartphones makers adopt the under-display camera tech after ZTE, it looks like the death of the notch and punch hole is closer than we think.

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.