As displays consume more and more of the front real estate on a smartphone, the question of where to put the front-facing camera and sensors arises. The primary answer this year has been to slice out a chunk of the display and create a “notch” for the camera, but we’ve also seen a few companies push forward alternate ideas.
Options so far have included a motorized pop-up camera, like on the Oppo Find X, or adding a dash of old-school flare and making a slider smartphone like the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3. But are you so desperate to kill the notch that you would add an entire second display to the of a smartphone? Meet the ZTE Nubia X.
Now that it’s not going to be killed by the US government, ZTE is back at work and is introducing this crazy dual-screen device. The front of this thing has a 6.26-inch, 2280×1080 LCD and, thanks to a lack of front-facing camera and minimal bezels, is sporting a 93.6-percent screen-to-body ratio. When you want to take a selfie, you’re supposed to flip the phone over and use the rear camera, where a 5.1-inch, 1520×720 rear OLED display will act as your viewfinder. Smartphone displays are usually the most expensive components in a smartphone, so adding a whole second display to the back might be the most expensive notch-killing solution ever.
The displays aren’t the only part of the Nubia X that use duplicate components: there are also two fingerprint readers. A side-mounted fingerprint reader lives on the left and right sides of the phone, presumably so you can authenticate with the same motion regardless of whether you are looking at the front or back of the phone. Despite all these extra components, ZTE somehow still couldn’t find room for a headphone jack.
The back screen is designed to blend in with the body of the phone, and since it’s not expected to be used most of the time, you can set it to display a personalized design. ZTE demoed things like a clock, stylized text, or the usual wallpaper fare like a beta fish. The idea is that you use something with a black background so you can’t tell where the rear display stops and starts. Using the rear display for a wallpaper means you’ll burn through your battery, but you’ll look good doing it.
The rear display is also a touchscreen, so in addition to just doing regular phone stuff on the back, you can turn it into extra buttons for games. ZTE’s demo cuts the rear screen in half for “left” and “right” rear buttons that you can hit without looking, sort of like rear-mounted shoulder buttons. Whether any game will actually support this remains to be seen.
The rest of the specs are the standard 2018 flagship loadout: a Snapdragon 845, 6GB or 8GB of RAM, 64GB or 128GB of storage, a 3800mAh battery, and a USB-C port. The phone ships with Android 8.1 and a pretty awful-looking iOS-style skin. Like all cool phones, the Nubia X is destined for China, with the base model starting at CNY 3,299 ($473) and the high-end 8GB/128GB model going for CNY 4,199 ($602).