If last year's lift camera is still alive, it can be said to be almost extinct this year.
▲ vivo NEX 3S
A year ago, the Redmi K30 Pro, which adhered to the full screen, was replaced with a center-mounted digging hole in line with the market, and the vivo NEX series, which opened the first of the lifting structure, has not been able to usher in the update.
However, the enthusiasm of mobile phone manufacturers to chase 100% full screens has not been cold. For the last 1% of the screens, manufacturers are spending 200% of their efforts to eliminate them.
Successive technological breakthroughs
Two years ago, the under-screen camera technology had already appeared at electronic exhibitions such as CES.
At the time, it seemed that the "perfect" full screen obtained by hiding the front camera under the screen was not perfect, and you could see a screen-like frame in the camera area from the side of your head.
Putting the camera under the screen needs to solve two problems. The first is to make the camera "invisible".
It sounds not difficult to solve, as long as you put a display on the camera, you can hide the camera like Harry Potter's invisibility cloak.
The second problem is to let this "invisibility cloak" transmit light. After all, the camera is used to take pictures. It must be captured and beautifully captured. This has high requirements for the amount of light that the camera enters.
The technical core of the under-screen camera is actually to create a light-transmitting "invisibility cloak" for the front camera. This is indeed a contradictory requirement for a screen with a complicated circuit arrangement.
The Axon 20, launched by ZTE last year, was the first mobile phone to use under-screen camera technology. It was amazing at first glance, but there are still many imperfections in the actual experience.
Some evaluation agencies have found that the color and white balance performance of the Axon 20 front camera is not ideal. When using a third-party app to take selfies, the photos may even have serious fogging and color cast problems due to the light on the screen.
To make the camera “clear” and “invisible” to the human eye at the same time, manufacturers need to optimize the display materials and camera algorithms. In the past month, both ZTE and OPPO have handed over their own " Operation".
Compared with the Axon 20, the under-screen camera of the Axon 30 is much more natural in appearance, and there is almost no ugly "screen pattern" between the camera area and the screen.
This is because the pixel density of the Axon 30 camera area has doubled from 200PPI to 400PPI.
▲ The picture of the screen arrangement of the camera area under the Axon screen comes from: B station UP Master@钟文泽
Judging from the photomicrographs, the pixel arrangement is also closer to the mobile phone's OLED screen, and a special display chip is also added to ensure the overall brightness and chromaticity are consistent.
The increase in pixel density poses a higher challenge to the light transmittance of the screen.
ZTE said that the new generation of under-screen camera technology has selected special OLEDs, more transparent cathode materials, and high-transmittance arrays. It has also redesigned the screen circuit to make the circuit more concise and ensure that the camera has sufficient light input.
Unlike ZTE, OPPO chose another way to solve the problem of poor imaging of the under-screen camera.
▲ Picture from: IT House
OPPO has also achieved a fine display pixel density of 400PPI in the under-screen area by adjusting the display pixel volume, and the camera area and the screen are almost integrated in the look and feel.
By customizing the dedicated screen, OPPO can accurately control the full-screen chromaticity difference and brightness difference within 2%, better retain texture details and color information, and solve the problem of consistent display of the two screens.
▲ Picture from: IT House
In imaging, OPPO intends to use algorithms to make up for the shortcomings of low light input, use AI learning to control light source diffraction problems, and use HDR, AWB and other algorithms to improve imaging quality.
Of course, it is still too early for the two currently announced under-screen camera solutions to reach or exceed the imaging level of ordinary front cameras.
▲ Self-portrait proofs of the camera under the OPPO screen, the color reproduction of clothes and hair ends is not natural
Although a lot of light transmission methods are used, the current light transmittance of the camera under the screen is only 15%, which is much worse than the 90% light transmittance of the normal camera. It is very dependent on the later algorithm to make up for the lack of light input. .
▲ The picture of the screen arrangement of the camera area under the OPPO screen comes from: Weibo user @冯伟文
OPPO said that the new under-screen camera technology still has a lot of room for improvement, and its goal is to increase the light transmittance to more than 40% and improve the front-facing shooting effect.
However, judging from the almost invisible demonstration effect, we are indeed a big step closer to an invisible camera. Now we have achieved one of the requirements of "invisible" and "capable of shooting".
The "camera anxiety" of mobile phone manufacturers
Bigger ratio is the most obvious development trend of smart phones in recent years.
The large-screen mobile phones represented by the Samsung Note series have raised the consumer's tolerance threshold for the size of the mobile phone. After reaching the size limit for one-handed holding, mobile phone manufacturers began to compete for the screen-to-body ratio.
Nubia Z9's exploration of the 0 frame, Sharp AQUOS Crystal and Xiaomi MIX pushed the forehead of mobile phones to the limit, and Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge's curved screen attempts are all efforts made by manufacturers to get the first place in this screen-to-body war. .
And when mobile phones entered the era of full screens, the humble front camera has become a new "place of contention."
The use of a lifting structure curve to achieve a full screen, and after entering the era of digging screens, and pursuing the "minimum" digging size, the determination of mobile phone manufacturers to unplug the front camera is no less than the visual elimination of fingerprint recognition two years ago.
An integrated, flawless screen is undoubtedly beautiful, and Apple, which insists on notch, seems to agree with this principle.
▲ Combined with Mac's consistent preference for hacking Windows, it’s hard to believe that Apple didn’t do it on purpose
In the demonstration of FaceTime landing on Android and other platforms, Apple was spit on an ugly Android phone with a water drop screen as a functional demonstration, and his bangs were "smartly" integrated into the black background, which looked more integrated. , And more beautiful.
This persistent pursuit of 100% perfection has caused mobile phone manufacturers to fall into "camera anxiety". The full screen is regarded as the key to triggering a new wave of phone replacement, and the under-screen camera has become the leader in this wave of replacement. The last key to the tide.
However, from the perspective of market performance, models with big bangs like the iPhone 12 series and vivo S series are still the best-selling models on the market. The rhetoric about various shaped front cameras seems to stay only on the Internet.
In the huge mobile phone market, there are too many factors that influence people to buy a mobile phone.
"A full-screen mobile phone is a better mobile phone." At present, it seems that it is only the result of the wishful thinking of mobile phone manufacturers.
Full screen is not necessarily the future of mobile phones, but it can be the future of display
The under-screen camera has entered the usable stage, which is something to celebrate, but now this is not a reason for users to choose a truly full-screen mobile phone.
3D structured light and more beautiful front camera shooting effects. For many users, these functions are more important than a 100% full screen. To impress more users with a full screen, it also needs to be based on the "flawless beauty". Achieve more functional breakthroughs.
Does this mean that manufacturers are wrong in their extreme pursuit of full-screen displays?
In fact, the inward competition of mobile phone manufacturers may be a good thing.
Compared with laptops and TVs, the competition in the smartphone market is undoubtedly the fiercest. At the same time, it is also the fastest to educate users and manufacturers.
The pursuit of full screens by mobile phones has made users pay attention to the beauty of narrow bezels, and this concern has also spread to notebook computers, and many notebook manufacturers have also narrowed the bezels.
The lifting camera design abandoned by mobile phones is now appearing on more and more smart TVs, and large-screen video calls have become a standard feature of smart TVs.
In addition to design, functions such as high color gamut screen, Type-C interface, and PD fast charging are all known to more users through mobile phones, and notebook manufacturers have become more active in following up these functions.
Mobile phone manufacturers with high-speed technological iterations are like catfish, and the relatively slow-reacting notebooks, TVs and other markets are also stirred.
The under-screen camera is currently not a good solution to the mobile phone front camera needs, but for laptops that are only used for video calls, it is a suitable choice to replace the traditional camera.
In order to achieve a full screen, notebook manufacturers have tried to place the camera in various corners such as the lower frame and the keyboard, causing users to endure the suffocating viewing angle brought by the chin and nostril cameras while enjoying the borderless.
At the beginning of this year, Samsung announced an OLED screen notebook with an under-screen camera. From the perspective of the concept video, the invisible camera used in this notebook with an ultra-narrow bezel creates a very strong visual impact. It is a kind of technology. Simplicity and beauty.
On Samsung's upcoming new generation Galaxy Fold, there are rumors that Samsung will be equipped with under-screen camera technology to solve the problem of "beauty moles" criticized by the previous generation.
The development of under-screen camera technology is worth looking forward to, but before that, we still need to accommodate many imperfect products.
These terminal products can play a key role in the innovation of the entire industry chain. Manufacturers such as ZTE, OPPO, Xiaomi and other manufacturers are paying attention to under-screen cameras, which is also forcing the progress of suppliers in the industry chain such as Visionox and BOE.
In one year, we have waited for a camera that is almost invisible. Will the next iteration of the under-screen technology be far behind?
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