Will pop-up cameras be the next big thing in smartphones? After the announcement of the Vivo Nex, we’ve got another mostly screen device with a hidden front camera: the Oppo Find X. The good news is that this one is coming to North America, so some day we might have a chance to try out this crazy idea in person.
As smartphones dedicate more and more of the front of the device to screen pixels, the normal front-of-phone components like the camera, earpiece, and brightness sensors are starting to feel the squeeze. The big trend for 2018 is to copy Apple and go with a notched design, which pushes the display all the way up to the corners of the device, but then cuts out a chunk out of the display for the components. It’s hard to see these non-rectangular screens as anything other than a temporary solution, and OEMs are already coming up with ways to work around a notch design.
While Vivo just had a simple pop-up camera box, Oppo is taking things to the next level and has the entire top of the phone extend upward via a motorized contraption. It’s kind of like an old slider phone, but instead of a slide-out keyboard, we now have a slide-out top. It shouldn’t be too surprising that Oppo and Vivo have a similar “hide the camera” strategy—both are owned by the Chinese firm BBK, which also owns OnePlus.
The slide-out top houses a ton of components. On the front there’s a 25MP front camera and earpiece, but there’s also a whole Face ID system in there. A dot projector, ranging sensor, flood illuminator, and infrared camera combine to copy Apple’s 3D face-unlock tech, and there’s even Oppo’s version of Animojis. Oppo has given its face-unlock system the unfortunate name of “O-Face.” The back of the slider also pulls camera duty, housing a dual camera system with 16MP and 20MP camera sensors and an LED flash.
The top slider stays closed most of the time, which has the fun side effect of protecting the front and back camera lenses from smudges or scratches. The top opens whenever you open the camera app or whenever you need to authenticate yourself via the O-Face system. There’s no fingerprint sensor, so you’re relying on face unlock for everything. This means just turning on the phone will make the top open, scan your face, and then close. The good news is that this happens relatively quickly—in about a half-second, according to hands-on reports.
Exactly how durable something like this will be is a major question. Oppo says the motorized slider has stood up to 300,000 actuations in a durability test. Some of the old keyboard slider phones of antiquity held up pretty well after years of usage, so this isn’t an impossible task, but those phones didn’t have a motor to deal with.
Thanks to the hidden camera and some seriously slim bezels, Oppo claims a 93.8 screen-to-bezel ratio, which would be one of the highest ever on a smartphone. The display is a 6.42-inch OLED with a 2340×1080 resolution. The display has curved sides, just like a Samsung phone.
Remember, this isn’t a silly concept; this is a real phone that is really going to be for sale. Oppo is greatly expanding its distribution with this device, and it will launch in Asia, Europe, and North America. For specs, you’re looking at a high-end device with a Snapdragon 845, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, and a 3730mAh battery. It comes with Android 8.1 and Oppo’s “ColorOS” skin, plus the phone will participate in the Android P beta. The price is high-end too: €999, or about $1,157.
The first release will happen some time in August, but Oppo hasn’t said if that’s for all territories or just its home country of China.