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What the Tech: Oppo’s under-screen selfie camera is the best smartphone innovation in years

Oppo has given us a view to a world without screen notches, and it could be the most significant leap forward in smartphone design we’ve seen in a long time.

As with many irritating tech trends, I blame it all on Apple. Ever since the launch of the iconic iPhone X in 2017, Android smartphone manufacturers fell over themselves to add screen notches to their own devices, meaning that selfie cameras and speakers jutted into just about every smartphone screen you could get your hands on.

Even today, while these unwelcome intrusions have mostly died down to just a hole-punch camera, with the exception of Apple’s iPhone 12 range, the Sony Xperia 1 III remains only of the only current flagships to deliver a real full-screen experience.

Thankfully that could finally all change now that Oppo has unveiled it’s ground-breaking under-display selfie camera technology, which packs a selfie camera underneath the screen that is completely hidden while the display is on, becoming near-undetectable thanks to a clever pixel-shifting effect.

The tech is still in its early stages, having just been applied to a prototype, but I can’t wait for the days when smartphones will offer the full-screen, edge-to-edge experience that will make watching videos so much more immersive than ever before, without unsightly bars and black dots ruining the view. Even Apple can’t compete with this change, according to the latest iPhone 13 rumours, instead just settling for a slightly smaller notch.

In terms of looks, smartphones have remained more or less the same for years now, with one black slab nigh-on indistinguishable from another, and generational upgrades to smartphones mostly consist of encouraging but incremental improvements to the processor or camera, without delivering a transformation to form or function.

Yes, the foldable screen trend has arrived – and is here to stay if Samsung has any say on the matter – but I’ve found its implementation to date to have been rather clumsy and indelicate, and the concept is still is yet to truly break into the mainstream.

In fact, some recent and widely adopted changes have actually reduced the functionality, including the retirement of the 3.5mm headphone jack and MicroSD tray for one (though the Sony Xperia 1 III once again confounds these trends).

While the introduction of under-display selfie cameras will not do anything for design diversity in the industry (quite the contrary), it is an innovation that adds utility whilst improving on appearance, and it’s hard to ask for more than that.

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