The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is likely going to make its debut this summer at Samsung's Unpacked event. Leaked renders have slipped out showing off the handset sporting the rumored under display camera (UDC) which is all very exciting. But it turns out that 'invisible' selfie camera is actually visible, and it's getting Twitter riled up already.
UDC technology has been floating around for a while, with Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, and Vivo all pegged to release smartphones featuring these futuristic cameras this year. At the moment, the ZTE Axon 20 5G is the only commercially available smartphone with an UDC, but it seems to be the next frontier now that foldables are functional enough not to be causing any more serious issues (*cough* the original Galaxy Fold *cough*). But if you're hoping for a flawless, uninterrupted screen paired with high quality photos, you're not going to get it.
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In terms of the technology, it's still very early days for under display cameras. In a nutshell, the lens is placed under the screen with the portion of the panel above it being made as transparent as possible, or utilising the gaps between pixels to allow light to get through.
According to trusted Samsung tipster Ice Universe (opens in new tab), the Galaxy Z Fold 3 will allow for 40% better light transmittance than other brands' UDCs, but given there's only one option available on the market right now, we assume this is a direct comparison to the ZTE Axon 20 5G. But that's going to come at a price, with the selfie camera not blending quite so seamlessly into the screen as you might imagine.
Fellow leaker Evan Blass shared (opens in new tab) leaked official renders of both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3, and sure enough, no hole is visible on the Fold 3's display. But Ice Universe swooped in with the observation (opens in new tab) that "Samsung deliberately rendered the camera, which is interesting." If we lighten the image, you can see the holepunch camera on the right side of the display, as with the Galaxy Z Fold 2 before it.
Of course, as Blass (opens in new tab) and another Twitter user (opens in new tab) note, the UDC is expected to be significantly more visible when the screen is off, with Blass saying, "this looks exactly like my punch hole camera with the screen turned off. I'd be surprised if they'd settle for a sub-display camera that was this visible."
In a tweet (opens in new tab) earlier this month referencing the high light transmittance, Ice Universe added that the UDC's appearance isn't perfect, likening the portion of the display panel sitting above it to a "mosaic," and providing an image giving us an idea of what that might look like:
pic.twitter.com/3YBZkXYkaiJune 6, 2021
When it comes to performance, while they say that it's "close to the experience of ordinary cameras," they later tweeted (opens in new tab) that neither the Galaxy Z Fold 3 or the Galaxy Z Flip 3 can't be considered as true Samsung flagships because "the cameras are too weak."
Photo quality from UDC isn't on par with normal lenses – not right now anyway – so the prospect of paying $1,599.99/ £1,599/ AU$2,114 for a smartphone that doesn't have the best quality cameras, and a distracting square on-screen instead of a holepunch might make some people balk.
One Twitter user commented (opens in new tab) that they'd wait "a few more years for [Samsung] to perfect" under display cameras, and stick with the Galaxy Z Fold 2. Another asked (opens in new tab) why Samsung is using a "not perfected technology", which someone else chimed in (opens in new tab) to say they'd "prefer a decent camera for once instead of this new tech."
There is talk that Samsung's foldables this year will be 20% cheaper compared to last year's devices, but it's still a lot to ask for new tech. But much like VR and gaming, there are early adopters out there who don't mind paying over the odds for new hardware that might not be all it set out to be. The original Galaxy Fold launch was entirely botched by Samsung as the hardware just wasn't up to scratch. It remedied the situation fairly quickly but followed up with the much-improved Galaxy Z Fold 2 last year.
Despite its very public issues, it didn't put off consumers who were likely already invested in the idea of purchasing the new foldable. At the close of 2020, Samsung had a market share of 87 per cent in the foldables category so there's enough interest out there in unproven tech essentially to warrant taking more risks.
Ultimately, the Galaxy Z Fold 3 isn't geared towards Galaxy Z Fold 2 owners looking for an upgrade, or even the average Joe looking for a new phone; the device seems squarely aimed at those tech fiends who want to be at the cutting edge, even if that means incremental changes between generations, that could be sub par at best and a cock-up waiting to happen at worst. But there's no denying that the Samsung's impending foldables are going to look great and tick all the boxes for those of you looking to stay ahead of the curve on the tech front.