Over the past few years smartphone makers have declared war on bezels. The black borders that surround displays have gotten smaller… and phone makers have found new places for the fingerprint sensors and cameras that used to hang out in those borders.

But it looks like one solution is on its way out.

Pop-up selfie cameras seem to have lost the war to notches and hole punches.

OnePlus 7 Pro (with pop-up camera)

In the early days of the war on bezels, Essential released the first phone with a notch in the display. Just about every phone maker eventually followed suit once it became clear that Apple was going to bring a notch-style display to its iPhones.

A few companies experimented with alternatives — including pop-up selfie cameras that only appeared when you were using them, or slider-style phone where the whole screen moved down to reveal a more complex camera system. Asus even introduced a phone with a rear camera that could flip around to point forward, letting you use the same camera for selfies or video calls as you did for snapping any other photo.

Asus Zenfone 6 with flip camera

While most of the early players in this space were Chinese companies like Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Elephone, we eventually saw global brands like Motorola, Huawei, and OnePlus get in on the action.

And now… it looks like the time for pop-up and slider cameras may be passing.

A growing number of phone makers are choosing hole-punch cameras as an alternative. And as Android Authority notes, it looks like some companies that used pop-up cameras for last year’s flagships are moving to hole-punch designs this year.

Samsung Galaxy S20 with “Infinity-O” hole-punch

It’s not entirely clear whether the industry is moving away from pop-up cameras because of supply or demand issues.  here were clearly some items in both the pro and con columns for these phones:

Pro:

  • There’s no obstruction in the display.
  • The camera system can be as large as it needs to be.
  • Privacy-minded users don’t need to cover the camera with a sticker, because it can’t record any visuals when it’s stuffed inside the phone.

Con:

  • Mechanical designs with moving parts could be an additional point of failure for smartphones.
  • Pop-up and slider mechanisms take up space that could be used for other components such as battery capacity.

Notches and hole-punches take up less space room inside a phone… but they also put a hole in the display which can cause problems with apps that aren’t designed to wrap around these obstructions. Some phones let you create virtual bezels to hide the camera when using those apps… which makes me wonder if some folks wouldn’t still just prefer phones with bezels above and below the screen.

Honor Magic 2 with slide-out camera

So what would you rather have? A phone with a bezel, a hole in the display, a slider/pop-up camera, or something else?

Last time I asked this question (about a year and a half ago), more than half of the folks who responded to a poll said they’d rather just have phones with bezels or phones with no cameras at all than phones with sliders/notches/holes.

I wonder if things have changed — so what do you think now?

 

 

 



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23 Comments

  1. I voted for “Just get rid of the selfie camera” but didn’t expect that to be the number one answer! LOL
    Actually, I’d probably vote bezel as having a bezel actually makes it easier to use the phone because it helps prevent unintended screen presses.

    1. Nobody touches their phone’s top bezel accidentally.Unless you hold your phone upside down?
      Pop up or swivel is still king, until through-display becomes viable.

      1. taking a photo of the landscape? that bezel quits being on top, and accidental touches become frustrating

        1. Holding it in landscape you aren’t palming it.
          Think before spilling nonsense please

        2. Depending on size of hand and phone, it will normally require part of your palm, and of there is NO bezel can also result in palm touches.

        3. Who mentioned palms? As you correctly note below, the accidental touch is with fingers. Think before spilling rudeness please.

  2. There’s no way a physical moving part like that would stick around in a world where everything is being removed to cut costs and make phones thinner. No dedicated camera buttons, headphone jacks etc. Just no chance in hell you’ve got a moving camera lens sticking around…

  3. I prefer a completely rectangular screen (no holes, no notches, no round corners).

    Give me a phone with bezels like the Razer 2. Or just get rid of the front facing camera (never use it on my phone). Either way, no round corners for me.

  4. Hole punch is fine until they perfect the under-the-screen camera. There’s almost certainly never been a better time than this to have a front-facing camera on your phone. I just got off a video call with my sister on the other side of the Atlantic, myself. It really makes a difference being able to see each other.

    I really don’t care that much which type of non-mechanical system is used, I would just be leery of anything with moving parts when you’re using the device everyday for several years.

  5. I wonder how often someone went inn with a warranty claim related to the pop up camera, not to mention that those phones never had ingress protection (a feature many expect in a flagship device nowadays). Those could also have been deciding factors.

    1. Hate to break it to you, but the little thing that pops up on top has a camera in it.
      Also, who are these people who don’t videochat on their phones? Don’t they have any friends?

      1. Unnecessarily rude and unimaginative. Personally, I use my desktop for video chat, but I don’t do it often. I haven’t ever used video chat on my current phone, though I have used it on an previous phone. I use voice programs all the time, from Discord to Hangouts.
        Honestly, I don’t use my phone for much, as I’d rather use a computer for pretty much any use. I might do a quick search while I’m out or use maps, but any serious coding, gaming, and communication I do on my desktop.
        And for reference, yes, I have friends, and I’m in my 20s.

        1. Let me guess: The current stay at home order hasn’t had any impact on your daily life?

  6. The main pro of a hole is that it’s cheaper. To make.
    I still maintain that the best front camera concept is the flip up system used by the zenfone 6 due to the on screen slider that lets you look around or do panoramas while holding the phone still.

    1. So true…the Asus phone was pretty tricky, but now it does not look like there will be a successor.

  7. “Some phones let you create virtual bezels to hide the camera when using those apps… which makes me wonder if some folks wouldn’t still just prefer phones with bezels above and below the screen.”
    Bingo. When I moved from a phone that went from on-screen navigation buttons to hardware, that was a step forward. I want the screen for screen space. Anything else can hang out on the bezels. I don’t mind my phone being 2 cm taller, and to be honest I would like it much bigger in all dimensions just for the battery life.

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