Google's under-display camera patent could radically transform future Pixel phones
The smartphone space is home to an ongoing technological arms race, where manufacturers are compelled to outdo one another. Google's latest patent is a shot in the arm for the ever-increasing screen-to-body ratio of modern smartphones. The Pixel smartphone maker has filed a patent moving the front camera under the display. This technology could allow future smartphones to have even greater screen real estate.
The patent does away with notches, punch holes, and other design measures to integrate the selfie camera and assorted sensor arrays under the display itself. The nifty implementation has the sensors, camera, and another tiny screen underneath a transparent window on the display. It works by using a movable prism to either allow light into the camera, or project the display onto the window.
Traditional under-display implementations rely on a semi-transparent display cutout with a hidden camera underneath. While this allows the front camera to capture images, the overall photo quality suffers due to the low Visible Light Transmission (VLT) value of the setup. Google's patent proposes using a fully transparent window. This should significantly improve the VLT, which will have a direct impact on selfie quality.
The patent was filed with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) last September. The process takes quite some time to materialize, so you can't realistically expect this in the next Pixel smartphone. Since leaked renders of the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro already reveal a punch-hole camera, the patented display seems unlikely to appear anytime before 2022 through either the 7-series or later Pixel versions.
Tucking the selfie camera under the display isn't a new concept. The partially state-owned Chinese smartphone maker ZTE already has a production-ready Axon 20 smartphone available with the feature. While it isn't uncommon for Chinese and Japanese companies to push prototype technologies into production units quicker, mainstream smartphone manufacturers tend to take their time perfecting such technologies.