ZTE unveils the Axon 20 5G, the first phone with an under-display camera

But will the pictures be any good?


No notch. No hole punch. No pop-out or flip-over camera, either. Instead, ZTE has achieved what many consider the holy grail of smartphone selfie systems: an under-display camera. It’s shipping on the ZTE Axon 20 5G, a phone with no price or release date. (If the company shares them, we’ll be sure to let you know.) The handset has a 6.92-inch, FHD+ OLED screen with a narrow 20.5:9 aspect ratio — which is just a fraction wider than Sony’s cinematic Xperia 1 ii — and support for 10-bit color depth and all of the DCI-P3 color gamut. There’s no word on high refresh rates, though.

But you don’t care about that. You just want to know about the camera, right? Well, ZTE says it built the selfie snapper with five “core” technologies. The first is a “special material” which, through a combination of organic and inorganic film, allows plenty of light to pour into the camera. The second and third components are a dual-control drive and “unique driver circuit” which work in tandem to “synchronize the display” and avoid interference. The system also uses a “special matrix” that keeps the pixels and, by extension, display performance consistent while switching between photography and regular usage. Finally, ZTE has crafted a special algorithm to improve the under-display camera’s photos.

ZTE Axon 20 5G

At the time of writing, ZTE hasn’t shared any footage of the phone in action (we’re curious to see if you can ‘spot’ the camera from a distance) or example photos for us to scrutinise. It's not the only one working on this particular smartphone trick: we’ve seen Oppo prototypes with a similar offering, and Xiaomi has promised to launch a phone with an under-display camera next year. Oppo's early efforts weren't perfect, however -- my colleague Richard Lai noted that clarity and color accuracy had “room for improvement.” If ZTE can match the image quality of traditional selfie snappers, the Axon 20 5G will be one of 2020’s most memorable phones.

We can say with near-certainty, at least, that the performance won’t be that special. The Axon 20 5G uses Qualcomm’s 5G-ready Snapdragon 765G, which also comes in the OnePlus Nord, Motorola Edge, LG Velvet and Nokia’s 8.3 5G. We’ve used some of these phones and found the chipset to be decent, but a touch slower than the silicon used in high-end flagships.

In a press release, ZTE confirmed that the phone will be 7.98mm thick — almost identical to Samsung’s standard Galaxy S20 — and powered by a 4220mAh battery that supports 30W quick charging. The rear of the phone houses a 64-megapixel primary camera capable of 4K video at 60 frames per second, as well as HDR clips and “super night scenes.” There’s a bunch of other glass on the back but ZTE hasn’t broken them down for us yet. There’s no word on the phone’s RAM, storage, wireless charging or water resistance at the moment, either. When the handset does come out, though, we know it’ll be available in black, blue, purple and orange.