First camera under the screen: let's not rush innovation on smartphones

At the bend of a little press review around the ZTE Axon 20 5G, we realize that the first smartphone with a camera under the screen is not really developed. The opportunity to remind people that technological innovation should not be rushed to be successful.

ZTE Axon 20 5G

ZTE Axon 20 5G

The first smartphone with a camera placed under the screen was made official in early September. I named the ZTE Axon 20 5G . A few months later, the brand slowly began to open deliveries of its innovative product.

Thus, some English-speaking media were able to get their hands on the product to try it out and give a first opinion. By doing a quick press review, we discover that the invisible camera on board this ZTE Axon 20 5G looks very promising, but that it is not yet fully developed.

In other words, this technology that augurs with screens that fully occupy the front surface of our smartphones seems to deserve a few more weeks, months or years of maturation before it becomes really relevant. Above all, this ZTE Axon 20 5G reminds us that it never makes a lot of sense to rush innovation.

A poorly camouflaged front camera

However, let’s start by looking at the first feedback from the Tech press on the smartphone. While most testers cite decent display quality for the large 6.2-inch screen, all point to a largely perfectible integration of the front photo sensor which remains, despite ZTE’s efforts, clearly visible.

However, once powered on, you can clearly see a difference in the arrangement of the pixels, especially on lighter backgrounds “, writes GSMArena . Same story on the American version of Tom’s Guide which explains that “ if you go to an entirely white web page, it is pretty ugly “.

Caméra sous écran ZTE Axon 20 5G

The camera under the screen of the ZTE Axon 20 5G is poorly hidden on light backgrounds // Source: GSMArena

Emphasizing an unpleasant trembling effect on the part of the slab covering the camera, the journalist from The Verge mince words even less:

I would just say I think it’s worse than a notch.

It shows how young the technology is “, analysis XDA Developers . Beyond that, several media regrets that the chin of the ZTE Axon 20 5G is quite thick, which obviously reduces the advantage of having a sensor under the screen to enlarge the display area.

Poor quality of selfies

Logically, the quality of the selfies is also getting attention. “ The first under-screen selfie camera is not very good “, title The Verge before explaining in the following line that “ the Axon 20 5G of ZTE is a better phone if you don’t care about selfies ”.

With proof, the tester compares photos captured by the 32-megapixel front sensor of the Axon 20 to those of the Pixel 5 under the same conditions. The difference is striking.

By day, the colors are sorely lacking in contrast and enhancement on the ZTE Axon 20 selfie. Exposure is poorly managed and sharpness is poor. The Verge feels compelled to point out that portrait mode and beauty effects are turned off.

The same goes for the night photos: there is too little detail in the image and digital noise is omnipresent.

Tom’s Guide is a bit more nuanced in his review, but makes it very clear that selfies taken with the ZTE Axon 20 suffer when compared to other smartphones.

In the example below taken with portrait mode enabled on both sides, the image offered by ZTE’s device is too smooth, less natural.

Tom’s Guide also reports awkward exposure often creating excess brightness in images. GSMArena , for its part, goes into less detail, but clearly explains that it is not yet convinced by the selfies and speaks of “ strange hazy / shiny texture “.

All the photos are just as bad as each other “, tackle XDA Developers to drive home the point.

The art of balancing compromises

The first feedback on the ZTE Axon 20 5G clearly indicates that the quality of the selfies offered by the phone is not up to what a user is entitled to expect in 2020 and soon 2021. [19459002 ]

ZTE Axon 20 5G

The ZTE Axon 20 5G is the first smartphone with an underscreen camera // Source: ZTE

However, it should be remembered that technological innovations are supposed to improve the daily lives of consumers. Of course, sometimes an innovative product requires a few compromises to be truly appreciated.

We thus think of the notch imposing iPhone. This is indeed unsightly and a little crippling for screen immersion, but in return, Apple provides a very sophisticated and secure 3D facial recognition system.

Apple iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 et iPhone 12 Pro Max

Apple iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Max // Source: Arnaud Gelineau for Frandroid

The Galaxy Z Fold 2 is also a good example. This device weighs heavy and is pretty darn thick when folded up. But it is currently the most successful folding smartphone and it clearly paves the way for new uses, offering as a bonus a pleasant user comfort when unfolded.

Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 // Source: Arnaud Gelineau – Frandroid

In these two cases, the compromises remain very reasonable in view of the innovation brought by the brand. Unfortunately, what emerges from the grip of the ZTE Axon 20 5G is that the technological prowess accomplished here is marred by too many flaws.

The selfie camera is not very well camouflaged under the screen, the panel is not really borderless and the quality of the photos is not good. In conclusion: ZTE’s innovation in the smartphone market brings more concerns than solutions. The scales are not on the right side.

Morals of History

We can bet that the brand will succeed in rectifying the situation on a future iteration and that other players will soon offer well-rounded camera solutions under the screen. Oppo in particular is actively working on and Xiaomi also appreciates this innovation .

Let’s just take this ZTE Axon 20 5G as a reminder that history does not remember the first manufacturer to introduce a new technology to a market so much as the first manufacturer to really master or democratize this same technology. After all, Jean de la Fontaine said it well in Le Lièvre et la Tortue : “ there is no point in running; we must leave on time ”.

Sources for this press review:

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