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Oppo shows off its Under-Screen Camera tech, and it could be the future of phones

Image Credit: Oppo (Image credit: Oppo)

One of the most intriguing distinguishing features between smartphones is how they deal with the problem of front-facing cameras taking up display space.

Do they use a pop-up module, like the Oppo Reno or OnePlus 7 Pro, a 'punch-hole' in the screen like the Samsung Galaxy S10, a traditional notch like the Huawei P30 – or, as Oppo now seems to be doing, do they put the camera literally underneath the screen?

Oppo recently teased its under-screen camera, and shortly after that rival Chinese phone-maker Xiaomi revealed its own version of the tech – and now Oppo has confirmed at MWC Shanghai that it has created a camera-screen combo that lets the snapper take pictures through the display, which it's calling its Under-Screen Camera (USC).

This means you'll have an entirely unbroken screen – and no additional moving parts that need to be deployed before you can snap a selfie, and which could potentially break.

There are various features that make this possible – for one, the camera module can pick up more light to let it 'see through' the screen better, and the screen itself will be designed to allow more light to get through. 

On top of that, Oppo says something called "zoning control" will be used on the display when the camera is in use – Oppo doesn't say exactly what this means, but it sounds like the screen pixels over the camera will turn off when you want to use it.

Oppo says this could have many uses. Beyond the obvious – taking selfies – it could also work for face unlock and video calls, so it's clearly not just a gimmick that you'll use from time to time, but a key feature of the phone.

Image Credit: Oppo

Image Credit: Oppo (Image credit: Oppo)

When will we see USC in a phone? 

The main question surrounding USC is its use in smartphones – Oppo didn't detail which upcoming phones will have the technology, or when they will start to be available to consumers.

We've asked Oppo for clarification on the matter, or to see if it can give us any clues when we'll be able to get our hands on the tech, so stay tuned for any updates in that regard.

For now though, you can buy Oppo's most recent phones: the Oppo Reno and Oppo Reno 10x Zoom, which have 'shark-fin' pop up segments hiding the cameras.

Tom Bedford

Staff Writer, Phones

Tom's role in the TechRadar team is as a staff writer specializing in phones and tablets, but he also takes on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness trackers and more.