Various smartphone manufacturers seem to want to place a camera behind the screen

Several smartphone manufacturers seem to be planning to place the front camera and any other sensors behind the screen. That makes ‘full screen smartphones’ possible with a small hole instead of a notch in the screen.

The latest clue is LG patents, which were spotted by LetsGoDigital. In it, the manufacturer describes phones with screens with an oval hole at the top. Behind this hole, which is covered with a transparent layer, a front camera and perhaps another sensor could be placed.

At the beginning of this month, a patent from Oppo appeared that describes a smartphone with cameras below the display. The top part of the screen, which hides cameras and sensors, is made of a different material and has a lower refresh rate. Perhaps that will enable Oppo to place more elements behind the screen. If Oppo will use the technology, it is likely that sister companies Vivo and OnePlus will also do so. For example, the OLED display with drop-notch of the OnePlus 6T first appeared in the Oppo R17.

Samsung ‘under-panel sensor’

Samsung Display showed a screen with an ‘under panel sensor’. This would involve a sensor that is behind the screen and for which no hole is needed.

It is unlikely that manufacturers will be able to place a camera sensor behind the screen without making a hole in the panel. It is possible to collect light that falls between the pixels of an OLED screen, but that will not be enough for good quality photos. Perhaps other sensors can be processed in this invisible way, just like the fingerprint scanner behind the screen.

Financial news agency Bloomberg previously claimed that the Samsung Galaxy S10 will have a screen that has virtually no visible edges. The front camera would be behind the screen, but it would be visible. Based on that information, among other things, Ben Geskin made various ‘concept renders’, which show what the device can look like.

In July this year, it was rumored that Huawei was planning to release a phone with a hole in the screen for the front camera by the end of this year. That would be a device with a 6″ LCD. No concrete information about such a device has yet come out.

Manufacturers are trying to make the screen on their phones bigger and bigger. To make a so-called full-screen smartphone where the front consists almost entirely of screen, elements such as the fingerprint scanner, the front camera, sensors and speakers have to be moved.

Fingerprint scanners were initially moved to the back of phones or replaced by face detection, but more and more manufacturers are now integrating the fingerprint scanner behind the screen. For the time being, this only works with OLED panels with a relatively low pixel density, so that the optical fingerprint scanner can look between the pixels. This is not possible with LCDs, because the pixels do not emit light themselves, but a backlight is used.

Several Chinese manufacturers have already released devices without a notch in the screen this year. The Vivo Nex, the Oppo Find X, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, Honor Magic 2 and Lenovo Z5 Pro appeared. Those phones all have a sliding mechanism for the cameras. Nubia introduced a device without a front camera, but with an extra screen at the back.