Phone manufacturers have waged war on bezels over the, and the result is that even budget phones these days have ultra-thin bezels on all sides. Thin bezels mean a larger screen-to-body ratio, allowing brands to cram a larger dimensions. For some context, the had a 6.2-inch panel, and the offers the same screen size even though it is 6.4mm shorter.
Retractkicked offered the most elegant solution yet for an all-screen display. Xiaomi kicked off this trend in 2016 with the Mi Mix, which offered a 91.3% screen-to-body ratio. Xiaomi achieved this bythe location of the front camera module to the bottom bezels, leading to an all-screen design. Brands have iterated on this formula; the Galaxy S8 and S9 series featured thin bezels at the top that hid the camera module, and the and went the iPhone route and added a large notch upfront. Google killed this particular trend by overdoing it on the .
Then came the smaller waterdrop cutout and the eventual shift to the hole-punch cutout that is now ubiquitous, but in between, we got one of the best implementations yet: pop-up. Vivo led the charge for this feature with the back in 2018, and the phone showcased that creating an all-screen front without any cutouts was possible.
OPPO wasn’t far behind either, with the brand’sfeaturing a motorized module for the selfie and rear camera modules. These retractable modules all through 2019. We got a lot of exciting phones as a result: Xiaomi’s Mi Mix 3 was a particular standout as you had to pull down the .
Thehad a shark fin-styled wedge module, ASUS’ ZenFone 6 had a retractable motor that would flip over to the front so you could take selfies with the rear camera, and Xiaomi took the feature mainstream with the series — which launched globally as the Mi 9T and 9T Pro. Even OnePlus joined the action with the and 7T Pro.
But just as this trend emerged, it seemed to fade away. Theall come with a hole-punch cutout, and although the has a pop-up camera with three sensors, the phone is limited to select markets. Vivo does the same on its NEX series, with the and 3S offering pop-up selfie cameras with dual cameras, but like ASUS, these phones are very limited in availability.
So why don’t we see more? The primary reason is likely to be weight. These modules feature many intricate parts and require a motor to work, adding weight and thickness to a phone. I reached out to Xiaomi to test my hypothesis, and sure enough, the brand confirmed that size was a deciding factor in the feature’s omission:
Retractable camera modules are usually much more prominent in size. Thus, the finalis slightly thicker when retractable camera modules are used compared to other camera approaches. In the future, phones are expected to get thinner and more ergonomic, which means retractable cameras.
Xiaomi’s reasoning bears out when you look at the Mi 9T next to the. The latter is 26g heavier but has a larger , with the Mi 9T featuring a 4000mAh unit. Also, retractable modules cannot be protected from .
That said, there are reasons to be excited if you’re interested in all-screen designs. Under-screen, and these negate the need for a retractable module while offering an all-screen front that isn’t marred by any cutouts. The ZTE Axon 5G is the first this tech, and while the module itself isn’t great, brands like OPPO and Xiaomi are working on fine-tuning under-screen cameras.
Under-display tech is the eventual successor to pop-up selfie cameras. Xiaomi has already introduced the third-gen variation of its under-display camera technology, and the module will make its way. Still, it could be a few before this implementation is as good as the standard selfie cameras on phones today. And if you want a phone with a pop-up selfie camera today, the best option is the ZenFone 7 series.