Smartphone makers are all struggling to find ways to deliver as much screen real estate as possible while still making room for front-facing cameras and sensors. Samsung’s solution with the newly launched Galaxy S10 is the hole-punch or “Infinity-O” design. That might just be a stepping stone to Samsung’s ultimate goal, though. A new report from Korea’s Yonhap News Agency says that Samsung is aiming to have phones with full, uninterrupted displays and cameras hidden underneath the screen.
So, how did we get here? In years past, it was considered normal for phones to have bezels on the front with room for cameras and other sensors. However, the trend toward larger screens was not matched by an increase in human hand size. Thus, bezels have shrunk as screens have grown to keep phones manageable.
This trend has led to increasingly wacky workarounds to get selfie cameras pointed at your face. Most phones simply have notches, but Samsung is among the first to do a cutout. Some Chinese OEMs are going wild with sliders, motorized pop-up cameras, and even secondary screens on the back of the phone. No one knows what’s going to stick yet, but Samsung seems to think it can get by without any of them.
Samsung previously speculated at a display technology conference that it would be possible to design OLED panels that have cameras hidden under them. It also talked about in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensors, haptic displays, and in-display speakers. Some of those already exist just a few months later. The Galaxy S10 has an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor, and the LG G8 will sport a display that doubles as a speaker.
Great news! Samsung established the direction of mobile phone design in 2019!
On October 18th, Samsung Display invited about 20 customers to hold the “2018 Samsung OLED Forum” at the Shenzhen Marriott Hotel in China. At the meeting, Samsung showed a PPT pic.twitter.com/sYu0ORTd6V
— Ice universe (@UniverseIce) October 19, 2018
Yonhap notes that Samsung’s vice president display R&D now thinks it will take a year or two before it’s possible to make screens with hidden cameras. That seems plausible — there are already ambient light sensors and optical fingerprint readers under display panels.
Just because the technology exists to make a “perfect full screen” in a couple of years doesn’t mean we’ll see one right away. The technology might be too expensive for a mainstream smartphone, or there may be drawbacks when it comes to sensor resolution or panel brightness. You don’t need to predicate any impending buying decisions on the future availability of truly full-screen phones.