Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo has demonstrated new technology that allows a front-facing camera to be placed underneath a phone’s screen for the first time.

The issue of how to integrate these cameras has been much-debated among smartphone makers in recent years, as efforts to maximise the amount of space available for the display grow.

Apple pioneered the ‘notch’ design, which cut out a section of an otherwise edge-to-edge display with a space for the camera array, while other manufacturers have opted for a smaller ‘hole-punch’ design or even a mechanical device that pops the camera up from behind the screen when needed.

However, Oppo’s latest innovation could offer the prospect of a fully bezel-less display without any breaks in the screen or complex pop-up solutions.

It had first teased the technology in a video released earlier this month, but has now offered further details at the MWC Shanghai event this week.

The device uses a custom transparent material with a redesigned pixel structure to ensure light can get through the screen to the camera. The sensor itself is said to be larger than other front-facing cameras, with a wider aperture lens to gather as much light as possible.

While the screen in front of the camera maintains touch functionality, and Oppo claims display quality isn’t compromised, close-up photos of the screen do reveal it to be more pixelated in certain conditions.

There are also some compromises to be made on the camera itself. The larger aperture means a lower resolution than some other cameras, while putting the lens behind the screen does create issues such as haze, glare, and colour cast. However, the manufacturer has developed algorithms to compensate for this and claims final quality will be on par with other mainstream devices.

There is no word yet as to when the technology will make its way to consumer devices, with Oppo saying only that it will be looking to add under-screen cameras “in the near future”.

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