OnePlus 7 Pro Pop-Up Camera: Gimmicky or Good?

The first thing you’ll notice about the OnePlus 7 Pro, on sale May 17, is its massive, nearly bezel-free display. The second: That display doesn’t have a front-facing camera. That’s because OnePlus put the lens in a mechanical enclosure at the top of the device, and it extends and retracts only when you need it to.

It’s extremely cool. But it also seems like a gimmick — at least at first. Is the 7 Pro’s retractable selfie lens useful, or just plain dumb? Mostly the former — with a caveat.

It’s fast

You can’t press on the camera to pop it out like you would a microSD tray. You also can’t pry it out with your fingernail or a SIM card tool. Instead, you have to activate the camera by either setting up Face Unlock or opening the Camera app to take a selfie.

Once you do either of those things, the OnePlus 7 Pro camera takes just 0.53 seconds to pop up. To unlock takes another 0.65 seconds. It’s so quick that you will actually be amazed — I know I was.

It’s sturdy

OnePlus didn’t want the 7 Pro camera to feel flimsy, and it doesn’t. The elevator mechanism that extends the lens is rated to open and close 300,000 times. OnePlus estimate that it would take a person five years to wear out the lens. The company built a protective seal around the mechanism to keep out dust and debris when it’s extended.

During the OnePlus 7 Pro launch event Tuesday (May 14), the company showed off a video of 49 pounds of concrete hanging from the extended lens to prove its strength and durability. That was probably overkill, but it did wow the crowd.

The 7 Pro also protects itself: The phone’s accelerometer and gyroscope can detect when it’s falling and automatically retract the camera to prevent it from shattering on impact. We haven’t put that to the test — yet.

It takes solid photos

The 7 Pro’s cameras are much improved from last year’s 6T, and that includes images from the 16-megapixel front-facing lens. Portrait selfies in particular were more color accurate than those from Google’s Pixel 3, and the 7 Pro managed to differentiate the curls around my face from the background. Those are finer details that other premium flagships often mess up.

Facial recognition wows — but it’s not secure

My biggest issue with the 7 Pro’s retractable lens isn’t its speed. I wish its facial recognition were secure enough to authenticate payments. The Face Unlock feature is so quick that it dazzled my coworkers, but it feels more like a party trick than a secure form of biometric authentication. Apple’s Face ID scan takes longer to unlock an iPhone XS, but at least I know no one can spoof it.

OnePlus didn’t invent the retractable front-facing camera, but with impressive speeds, sturdy construction and solid selfies, the 7 Pro gives us plenty of reasons to embrace the pop-up cam.

Credit: Tom's Guide