Smartphones with a pop-up camera – a failed way to get holes in the screen

iPhone X is a smartphone that became famous primarily for changing Apple’s approach to designing these devices. Two wide ones were abandoned runways above and below the screen for frameless and a characteristic indentation in the screen, commonly called a notch. It didn’t take long for the indentations and holes in the displays to be used by other manufacturers. Nowadays, we will meet them in the vast majority of new smartphones, which not everyone likes. Smartphones with a retractable camera were created precisely to reconcile fire with water. On the one hand, the frames around the display remain minimal, on the other hand, there is no hole or indentation for the front camera. The perfect solution? Unfortunately, no, that’s why these types of smartphones no longer exist.

What made the producers give up on this idea? Why so few devices could boast of this type of solution? I decided to look for answers to these questions when I was once again annoyed by the notch on the iPhone screen. If there was a solution to the problem, why did it disappear? Is it because Apple, which still dictates market trends, did not reach for them? The answer will not be simple and unambiguous, so first let’s recall the most popular smartphones with a retractable camera. Perhaps it is in their specification or appearance that the answer to the question of their market failure lies.

Smartphones with a pop-up camera – the shark fin made a great impression

One of the first manufacturers who boldly bet on smartphones with a retractable camera were companies from the BBK Electronics concern. A real explosion of interest was caused by the Oppo Reno smartphone presented in April 2019. Although in terms of technical specifications it did not stand out from the market competition, the impression was something completely different. The manufacturer decided to put a retractable camera in the phone. Importantly, a triangular mechanism was used for this purpose, which was given the colloquial name of a shark fin. Oppo Reno looked spectacular, and the very moment of extending the front camera caused surprise even among those who are not interested in mobile electronics at all.

In the same year, the successor of this interesting smartphone – Oppo Reno 2 – was presented. It also boasted a retractable camera, but it was the last model in the series that used this solution. The successors, Oppo Reno 3 and Oppo Reno 3 Pro, used a notch and a hole in the display, respectively. Why has the Reno series lost its distinctive feature? One can only speculate that it was about financial matters. We perfectly remember what difficulties the technology industry faced in 2020, which is why the manufacturer’s decision, although accepted with great disappointment, could not be surprising.

Pop-up camera in a full-fledged flagship

Also in 2019, another device from one of the brands belonging to BBK Electronics appeared on sale, which could boast of a retractable camera. This time, however, it was a full-fledged flagship with a very strong technical specification. It was the equipment that instantly became the trademark of the brand. The mentioned smartphone, as is well known, is the OnePlus 7 Pro. In my opinion, that too one of the best devices in the history of the OnePlus brand, if not the best. The 7 Pro model boasted, above all, a beautiful display that was devoid of holes and indentations precisely because the smartphone used a retractable camera.

Unfortunately, this manufacturer also decided not to continue using retractable cameras. This solution appeared in the refreshed OnePlus 7T Pro model to disappear with the premiere of the successor. OnePlus 8 Pro had a standard hole in the screen.

Smartphones with a retractable camera were the domain of Xiaomi

As you can easily see, all the manufacturers mentioned so far are companies from China. It is no different in the case of Xiaomi. The offer of this corporation also includes several interesting models with a retractable camera. Interestingly, this company did not limit itself to presenting this type of construction only in 2019. A year later, a very interesting model went on sale, which found a large group of recipients.

Smartphones with a retractable camera in the Xiaomi offer include, among others, quite popular Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro. At one time, this device was a real sales hit in Poland, because thanks to numerous promotional offers, you could buy it really cheap, considering the possibilities offered. In addition to the retractable camera, the Mi 9T Pro had a flagship SoC system – Qualcomm Snapdragon 855.

When writing about Xiaomi phones that could boast of a sliding screen, one cannot forget about another very popular model. That’s of course POCO F2 Pro, which went on sale a year later. He also had a top specification, although it was not a typical flagship. It was distinguished from the top-shelf devices by a noticeably lower price, but not without consequences. The photographic capabilities of this device certainly could not be called flagship. Similarly, this title did not belong to the display, which refreshed at the standard 60 Hz frequency. In 2020, Android flagships were distinguished by much better screens, with a refresh rate of 90 Hz or 120 Hz.

Why did this manufacturer also abandon smartphones with a retractable camera? Probably the reasons were similar to those of the competition. It is worth remembering that phones with this design were not slim, which made them not particularly secure and stable in the hand. I myself used OnePlus 7 Pro or POCO F2 Pro for a short time and I do not mention them as particularly ergonomic devices.

Huawei tried in the lower price range

Another Chinese manufacturer that decided to experiment with retractable front cameras was Huawei. Interestingly, in the case of this company, such a device was not a phone from the highest or almost the highest price range, but a fairly basic device. Perhaps few people remember about this smartphone, but at one time it was among the willingly recommended models. Which one is it? Huawei P Smart Z, which, apart from the retractable camera, did not stand out with anything special.

Huawei P Smart Z had a very typical technical specification for this manufacturer. It was distinguished, among other things, by the most popular SoC system produced for Huawei smartphones – HiSilicon Kirin 710F.

As you can easily guess, this manufacturer also did not continue the line of smartphones with a retractable camera. The reasons for such a decision can probably be found where other players do. Since these types of phones could not earn a living, there was no point in designing them any longer.

Smartphones with a retractable camera – a hit or a kit?

Given the above examples, it’s time to consider why smartphones with a retractable camera disappeared from the market. Were they not as good as expected? Or maybe other considerations were decisive, led by the habit of customers? There were probably several reasons. What is certain, however, is that the principle of the golden mean has not been confirmed here. Smartphones with a retractable camera meant that the screen did not have indentations or holes, but at a rather high cost. First of all, they were quite bulky constructions that did not necessarily fit well in the hand, especially for smaller people. Secondly, this solution was quite expensive to produce, so in some cases it would have been necessary to save on the rest of the specification.

What’s more? Consumers were simply afraid of this solution. The moving element in the design of the smartphone is another part that can break. When we add to this the risk of damage during a fall (despite the protection), we get way to effectively discourage the customer. Let’s also remember what was the fashion on the smartphone market at the time. Since top manufacturers, led by Apple and Samsung, used indentations and holes, customers were looking for smartphones of this type.

To sum up, smartphones with a retractable camera had a lot of shortcomings, so I’m not surprised that they disappeared from the market really quickly. In fact, only in 2019 we watched their flood, and then we watched them withdraw in favor of cheaper solutions. Was there, then, a Solomonic solution that could reconcile frameless with no defects in the screen design? Let’s look at what the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 smartphone looked like. Although it had a camera and sensors placed in traditional place, could boast of really thin frames above and below the screen. I think that such a thickness of frames is fully acceptable to customers.

Smartphones with a retractable camera – regret or not regret that they have disappeared? Let me know what you think about them.

Source: AntyWeb by

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