We’re living in a golden era of smartphones. Practically all new phones have screens that stretch edge-to-edge with very thin bezels surrounding them.
But phone screens can still get better. Even the best mobile screens like the OLED display on the iPhone XS and the Dynamic AMOLED display on Samsung’s Galaxy S10 are imperfect, either with a notch or a hole punch.
The holy grail is a true all-screen phone without any cutouts and without any movable parts to hide the selfie camera. Which company will be the first to deliver this dream phone? Maybe Samsung. Like in-display fingerprint sensors, Samsung says it’s working to embed the selfie camera underneath the screen for future phones.
Speaking to Yonhap News Agency, Samsung’s vice president for R&D, Yang Byung-duk, said the company’s Infinity-O Dynamic AMOLED screen used in the S10 is “a noteworthy achievement” for smartphone displays, but the company’s exploring full-screen displays without any cutouts.
“Though it wouldn’t be possible to make (a full-screen smartphone) in the next 1-2 years, the technology can move forward to the point where the camera hole will be invisible, while not affecting the camera’s function in any way,” Yang said.
If Samsung is able to figure a way to put a camera underneath a display, it would be a big step forward for smartphones and would be one way to distinctly differentiate its phones from other premium phones such as the iPhone or Huawei Mate 20 Pro.
Currently, there are phones with cutout-free screens such as the Oppo Find X, Vivo Nex S, and Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, but their cameras aren’t hidden inside of the display. As a workaround, the Find X and Vivo Nex S use motorized systems to raise and lower the camera systems; it’s an interesting but imperfect solution since the motorized mechanisms are more prone to breaking. The Mi Mix 3 uses a sliding design, which is slightly better than the motorized selfie cameras, but the gap between the front and back is prone to water and debris to getting in and damaging the whole device.
A true all-screen display with integrated selfie cameras wouldn’t have any of these issues. To be clear: Yang’s not promising a hole-free phone screen anytime soon. However, given Samsung’s aggressive pursuit of advanced mobile displays, Yang’s tease could be a good indicator the company might have solutions to put a selfie camera underneath the screen. If Samsung doesn’t do it first, Huawei or Oppo or Vivo will probably beat it—like they have with hole punch screens and in-display fingerprint readers.
And speaking of screen-related tech… the Yonhap News Agency says Samsung’s also considering ways to turn the display into a speaker with tech that’s similar to the Crystal Sound OLED speaker LG has in its upcoming G8 ThinQ.
These features are unlikely to make their way to the Galaxy S11 or S12 if Yang’s timeline for a full-screen phone is any indicator. But maybe the Galaxy S13? It could happen.