iPhone 13 beaten to the punch by this notch-free rival from ZTE: here's how it works

The ZTE Axon 20 5G has an under-screen selfie camera, and now we know how it works

ZTE Axon 20 5G
(Image credit: NewsBytes)

Like many manufacturers, Apple is looking to finally scrap the notch with the upcoming iPhone 13, but it's been beaten to the punch. ZTE recently released the Axon 20 5G, the world's first smartphone with an under-screen selfie camera. 

The question is, how did ZTE pull it off? A new teardown video has the answer, and it might be a bit surprising.

The teardown video, uploaded by YouTube channel JerryRigEverything (opens in new tab), gives us a good look at the guts of the ZTE Axon 20 5G – including, most notably, its under-screen selfie camera. The 32-megapixel camera actually sits behind two screens, which you may find surprising. Peering through a single screen from beneath would be impressive, but two?

As JerryRigEverything explains, this is possible due to differing pixel density in the Axon 20's topmost screen, a 1080p OLED. A fingerprint sensor sits behind the bottom of the display, directly pressed up against the screen. As seen in the video, this part of the screen is opaque, letting in just enough light to register a fingerprint for Touch ID unlocking. The top of the screen, however, has a section of far less dense pixels – you can see right through it with the naked eye. The selfie camera sits behind its own low-resolution screen, which in turn peers through the top screen's low-density portion. You can see through the selfie camera yourself in the screenshot below:

ZTE Axon 20 FG under-screen camera

(Image credit: JerryRigEverything)

As pointed out in the video, this is the first generation of the ZTE Axon 20 5G, so future iterations could improve this tech even further. If you want to get your hands on it yourself, you can grab the Axon 20 at its starting price of $449 / £419 / roughly AU$594. 

ZTE may have beat Apple to the punch, but as stated before, the iPhone 12 and 13 manufacturer is still looking to ditch the notch itself. A recent patent reveals plans for an ambient light sensor that would sit beneath the screen, an important step toward a notch-less Apple smartphone.

Samsung has similar plans for an under-screen camera with its Galaxy S21 lineup, if the rumors are to be believed. Same goes for Xiaomi, teasing an under-screen camera for its next futuristic smartphone in a demo video.

ZTE may have been first to market with this technology, but the wave of under-screen camera phones is just beginning. It'll be exciting to see what the likes of Apple, Samsung, and more can do with this innovation.