ZTE announces the first smartphone with a camera under the display: the Axon 20 5G

ZTE announces the first smartphone with a camera under the display: the Axon 20 5G

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ZTE has been teasing the Axon 20 5G for a few weeks now. It’s understandable for the company to heavily push this new device because it’s the first commercial smartphone that brings under-display camera technology to consumers. While we already had a fair idea of what to expect from the device, ZTE has finally officially launched the ZTE Axon 20 5G.

ZTE Axon 20 5G

ZTE Axon 20 5G: Specifications

SpecificationZTE Axon 20 5G
Dimensions & Weight
  • 172.1 × 77.9 × 7.9 mm
  • 198g
Display
  • 6.92″ FHD+ OLED display
  • 20.5:9 aspect ratio
  • 10-bit color depth
  • 100% DCI-P3
  • Under-display camera
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G:

  • 1x Kryo 475 (ARM Cortex-A76-based) Prime core @ 2.4GHz
  • 1x Kryo 475 (ARM Cortex-A76-based) Performance core @ 2.2GHz
  • 6x (ARM Cortex-A55-based) Efficiency cores @ 1.8GHz
  • 7nm EUV process

Adreno 620

RAM & Storage
  • 6GB + 64GB
  • 8GB + 128GB
  • 12GB + 256GB
Battery & Charging
  • 4,220 mAh battery
  • 30W Quick Charge
Fingerprint sensorIn-display fingerprint sensor
Rear Camera
  • Primary: 64MP
  • Secondary: 8MP
  • Tertiary: 2MP
  • Quarternary: 2MP
Front Camera32MP
Other Features
  • 5G support
Android VersionMiFavor 10.5 UI based on Android 10

Smartphone OEMs have been inching towards providing consumers with the most immersive experience possible on their smartphones. This quest resulted in eliminating phone bezels to become the thin borders that they currently are, and later even introducing curved displays to slim down borders even further. The next step was to eliminate the sensors that occupy space on the front of the device, and these have either been pushed towards the edge on the top bezel or replaced with software from companies like Elliptic Labs.

The only remaining challenge is the front camera, which remains the only unerasable dot on the front. The closest we can get to a full-screen experience is with a pop-up or flip camera, but these mechanisms take up a lot of space inside the device and are just a stop-gap solution. And so the race was on for an under-display camera solution that pushes the camera right under the display, informing the user that it’s there only when called upon. We’ve seen prototypes from Samsung DisplayOPPO, and Xiaomi in the past, but these all suffered from poor picture quality and issues with glare, brightness, and fogging.

“The challenge in making under display camera and face unlock work is that the cathode layer, a thin layer of metal that covers the entire surface of the display, absorbs a lot of light, particularly in the wavelength range required for the face unlock sensors to function,” explains Michael Helander, Co-Founder and CEO of OTI Lumionics, a Canada-based company developing its ConducTorr Cathode Patterning Material for use in next-generation mobile devices. While the first mobile devices with OTI’s materials won’t ship until 2021, China-based Visionox has already developed its own mass-produced under-display camera solution called “InV See.” Now, the ZTE Axon 20 5G has become the first smartphone that transitions the under-screen camera tech from a prototype to a consumer device.

ZTE states that this under-display camera technology has been made possible through the interplay between five core technologies: a special display material, a dual-control chip, a unique driver circuit, a special pixel matrix, and a self-developed shooting algorithm. The new display material improves light input to the front camera, while the chip and circuit solve the synchronization problems of color and conventional displays when using an under-display camera. The special pixel matrix optimizes the pixels to improve display consistency, while the algorithm optimizes and improves the clarity of photos. The general manager of ZTE’s Axon products shared a sample from the front-facing camera of the Axon 20 5G to demonstrate the kind of picture quality that’s possible.

The rest of the ZTE Axon 20 5G is as expected from a conventional glass-slab smartphone in 2020. You get a fairly large-sized display at 6.92″, and while it is “only” FHD+, that should work for most people. ZTE has chosen to opt for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G instead of a true flagship SoC, but the Snapdragon 765G is pretty decent by itself. Consumers will also have a fair few options for RAM and storage. The rear camera setup also appears to be competent, with a 64MP main camera flanked by three other camera sensors.

Pricing and Availability

The ZTE Axon 20 5G will be available in four colors: Blue, Black, Purple, and Orange. The pricing for different models is as below:

  • 6GB + 128GB: CNY 2198 (~$322/₹23,500)
  • 8GB + 128GB: CNY 2498 (~$366/₹26,750)
  • 8GB + 256GB: CNY 2798 (~$410/₹30,000)

Currently, the device will be limited to the Chinese market as ZTE has not shared any plans to bring it to other markets.