While Apple is working on ways to eliminate the iPhone's camera notch, Samsung delivered a clever solution on their new Galaxy Z Fold3
Earlier this month, Patently Apple posted a granted patent report on a possible method of hiding the iPhone's camera notch that explored an expandable display methodology. The expandable display is designed to cover the camera notch area when the camera is not in use.
More specifically, Apple's engineers noted: "It may be desirable to hide cameras and other input-output devices from view when not in use. Accordingly, the electronic device may be provided with one or more adjustable windows. The windows may be formed in display window regions that overlap input-output devices in the electronic device. For example, a window may overlap a camera or other optical component." The graphic below is from images in that granted patent.
Hiding or reducing a camera notch or punch hole has been rolling out by different smartphone vendors shortly after Apple set the notch design for iPhone X. On August 4, Counterpoint Research posted a report titled "Smartphone Brands Bet on Under-display Camera for Full-screen Display."
The report noted that "Smartphone makers have introduced a variety of screen innovations since the implementation of notch design in the iPhone X in 2017. The aim is to increase the screen-to-body ratio and enable a more immersive display experience. With the pursuit of full-screen display being at the core of smartphone evolution, this trend is expected to pick up pace in the near term."
Below is a chart from that report illustrating the various methodologies smartphone vendors have been experimenting with to get away from a large notch.
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Research Analyst Alicia Gong on the commercialization of under-display cameras: "Together with Visionox, ZTE has released its second-generation under-display camera solution for the Axon 30 5G, which is expected to deliver more consistent display performance through algorithm and hardware optimization (the resolution of display area above the camera has doubled from 200ppi to 400ppi). Besides Visionox, solutions from other leading panel makers like Samsung Display, BOE and CSOT are close to commercialization. CSOT can also hide the front camera under an LCD screen. Therefore, a solid foundation is being laid for the increasing adoption of such solutions by smartphone OEMs like Xiaomi, Samsung and OPPO."
The report concluded by noting that shipments of smartphones featuring under-display cameras will reach around 15 million and 110 million in 2022 and 2025, respectively.
The race is on to find a methodology to hide the iPhone's notch when the camera isn't required, like when watching content. This week Samsung introduced a clever under display camera on their new Galaxy Z Fold3 worth noting.
On August 11, Samsung introduced an under display camera for their new Galaxy Z Fold3 smartphone and the video below presents that portion of the keynote.
As presented in the video above Samsung explained that they changed the pixel array so that in content mode, the pixel array hides the camera hole. When in active mode, like when video conferencing or using the camera to take a photo, the pixel array disappears around the camera so that it's visible to the user and able to take unobstructed photos and videos.
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At the moment, and without seeing it to test this feature out, the Samsung solution appears to be one of the smartest methodologies that doesn't require any mechanical requirements like gears.
The pressure is now on Apple to go beyond patents and deliver a way to hide the iPhone's notch while allowing Face ID to still be fully functional. That sets a high bar, but one we fully expect Apple to meet in the not-too-distant future.