Would you go for Samsung’s under-screen selfie camera or the iPhone’s notch? Here’s what the T3 team thinks

Smartphone manufacturers are turning their attention to under-display cameras, but is it just a gimmick?

(Image credit: Cristina Zaragoza via Unsplash)

The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 is rumored to be launching next month with an under display camera (UDC), but reports suggest it's not going to be as invisible as we'd hoped. Meanwhile Xiaomi is expected to launch its upcoming flagships with its own version of this technology, which has been in the works for a while now; and is apparently not visible on the display at all.

One of our favorite tipsters, Ice Universe, threw up a side-by-side of what the two companies' final products are possibly going to look like, based on everything they've heard so far and polled their followers to ask which handset they'd opt for. 

Samsung's barely-there UDC will allow for "high light transmittance" and offer better selfie pics than Xiaomi's solution. Ice Universe notes that the portion of the display above Samsung's UDC will be "obviously grainy" compared to Xiaomi's which has "almost no graininess" by comparison. The poll tipped in favor of Samsung by 53.7% with the most common consensus for the vote being the better picture quality. Conversely, those who voted in favor of Xiaomi were happy to sacrifice picture quality for an uninterrupted display. 

Samsung under display camera vs Xiaomi

(Image credit: Ice Universe)

That got me thinking about what the T3 team would have to say on the topic, so I sprang the question on them in Slack to see which solution they would vote for. Unsurprisingly, the answers included dismissing the question out of hand completely and opting for different options that were never on the table to begin with; but not wanting to quash their rebellious spirits or revise this article completely, I've included everyone's feedback below.

OnePlus 9 Pro

(Image credit: OnePlus)

Paul Douglas, Content Director: Paul's a busy man, so I've been entrusted to summarise his thoughts on his behalf, which was his first mistake. For context, Paul owns a OnePlus 9 Pro and says he doesn't find the holepunch selfie camera to be obstructive as it's tucked away in the top left corner of the display. On the topic of UDC, his ethos is "why not try to get rid of the bezels and notches?" saying "it's about striving for design perfection." He adds the caveat that "there is a good solution yet, but that's no reason not to look for one."

But that quest should be undertaken in R&D, away from consumers, as Paul is staunchly against "any solution that compromises the quality of the front facing camera". Not willing to sacrifice himself as a guinea pig for the cause, but happy to reap the rewards, Paul is sitting this one out and observing from the side lines with his OnePlus 9 Pro and its holepunch camera. He does make an extremely valid point about Apple iPhones and their giant notches being far too big, but that's a story for another day.  

iPhone 12 Pro review

(Image credit: Future)

Duncan Bell, Lifestyle Editor: I’m an iPhone user. I’d not only prefer to have a notch – until the technology exists to remove it without compromising camera quality. I’d actually also rather have the button/ fingerprint sensor back as well.

Best iPhone VPN

(Image credit: Stanislav Kogiku/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Ruth Hamilton, Outdoors and Wellness Editor: While I can definitely see the aesthetic appeal of one big uninterrupted screen, for me it's not worth the sacrifice of front-facing camera quality. And I say that as someone who does not take many selfies. The slightly visible UDC of the Samsung doesn't especially bother me, but if I was going to sully my screen with visible cameras, I'd  pick one with a notch or holepunch, and no sacrifice in selfie image quality.

iPhone 12 lineup

(Image credit: Apple)

Matt Bolton, AV & Smart Home Editor: Not one to learn from Paul's mistakes, Matt has also allowed me to paraphrase for him. Matt came straight out of the gate with another vote for a notch, suggesting he's an iPhone user and hates largely uninterrupted displays with refresh rates above 60Hz for some reason. I've fact checked the first part of that assumption and can confirm he does, in fact, wield an iPhone. There's just no helping some people.

"If the Samsung one affects the actual image quality, then yeah, I'd happily just stick with a notch. It's not like phones are struggling for screen space as is," he said, clarifying that the grainy blotch of Samsung's UDC might be unsightly for some. But once again, we circled back to the flaw in Samsung's approach:  

"I don't think you'd actually notice the grainy hole that much because it's at the edge… but that applies equally to a cut-out. So you might as well just have the better camera quality."  

Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders

(Image credit: Qualcomm)

Shabana Arif, News Editor: As someone who uses my front facing camera with some regularity, if only to check for stray spinach leaves sprouting from my teeth, the picture quality is obviously important. That being said, I do think you need to pick a lane with under screen cameras; is it invisible or not? Because if not, what is even the point?

But it's understandable that Samsung is hesitant to go full bore with its UDC after its Galaxy Fold debacle. New technology is always tricky and rolling it out to test en masse on consumers can blow up in your face – another situation Samsung is familiar with (RIP Galaxy Note 7). Xiaomi is going all in with its third-gen UDC, picture quality be damned, and while I respect that in theory, practically speaking, Samsung's approach bridges the gap while it advances its tech. Its Galaxy Z Fold series likely resonates with early adopters and they just love half-bak- I mean, cutting edge features, so I doubt the grainy circle on-screen will put fans off.

Upon further reflection, and ignoring my own prompts to pick one of the two, I think the answer lies in an in-bezel camera. You get a full screen with no pinprick or laughably huge notches, and the camera quality remains uncompromised. Qualcomm has the right idea with its newly announced smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders, and it's just as insanely expensive as Samsung's foldable – if not more so. So you can feel equally as special touting this handset as you would the Galaxy Z Fold 3.  

iPhone 13 concept - smaller notch

(Image credit: EverythingApplePro)

Ian Morris, Editor: It probably won’t come as a surprise that, as an iPhone user, I don’t care about having a notch. The human brain is remarkable about ignoring things that don’t matter, watching a video or just using the phone isn’t compromised because of the notch because my brain just ignores it. And while I don’t take selfies, and don’t care about them, the quality of the front camera is far more important that pretending it isn’t there.

So there you have it. When presented with the choice between Samsung's and Xiaomi's solution for an under display camera, the T3 team has unanimously decided that we'll have neither, thank you very much. 

Of course, there are a few outliers who are trying to justify ancient, oversized iPhone notches, but it's been a long week, so we'll let them off. Let us know where you stand on the under display camera debate! 

Shabana Arif

Shabana worked at T3.com as News Editor covering tech and gaming, and has been writing about video games for almost a decade (and playing them since forever). She's had bylines at major gaming sites during her freelance career before settling down here at T3, and has podcasts, streaming, and video content under her belt to boot. Outside of work, she also plays video games and should really think about expanding her hobbies. If you have any tech or gaming tips, shoot over an email or DM her on social media.