It was a shock in 2017 when the iPhone X arrived with a beautiful, near full-screen display, marred by a weird black notch.
Bezel-free displays are difficult for phone makers to pull off, because the front-facing camera has to be housed somewhere. In Apple’s case, it’s housed in the notch.
Apple audaciously leaned into the notch, telling the public it embraced what was clearly a design compromise and aggressively marketing the iPhone X as a full-screen display.
Such is the luxe power of the iPhone that Android phone makers actually copied the notch into their own full-screen designs. The OnePlus 6 had a notch, as did the Huawei P20 Pro, and the LG G7 ThinQ.
But one massive Chinese phone manufacturer called Oppo has broken away from the pack and come up with its own solution.
Oppo officially launched in the UK last month, finally introducing its high-end Find X flagship to the British market for £799 ($1,000).
Business Insider had about ten minutes with the Find X, and found it fairly obviously inspired by the iPhone X and its successors. The name, the Find X’s OLED display, and software features like Portrait Mode all showed Apple-like touches.
But there was one feature that was distinctly un-Apple, and that was the Find X’s solution to the notch.
Oppo’s solution was to put the front-facing camera in a motorised pop-out section that automatically opens when you press the camera button. The camera isn’t just for photos and selfies, but for 3D facial recognition and O-Moji, Oppo’s take on Apple’s Animoji.
Here’s the pop-out camera in action — watch the top of the phone:
The camera appears on its own shelf, and disappears again as soon as you click away from the camera. The movement is surprisingly subtle and evidently designed to be as smooth and unobtrusive as possible.
Here it is from behind, courtesy of YouTuber Marques Brownlee:
And here’s how it looks as you’re taking a photo:
It’s hard to tell how hardy this motorised gimmick is. The phone isn’t waterproof, so it isn’t clear what would happen if any liquid fell into the slight gap between the camera array and the main smartphone body. Likewise, it’s hard to tell whether the mechanism might break if any dust or particles get caught up in it.
With so little time with the Find X, we couldn’t test the pop-up camera’s durability by, for example, dropping it from a height.
And a final practical consideration: how do you buy a protective smartphone cover if the phone keeps changing size?
In an in-depth review of the phone, TechRadar noted the mechanism takes a full second to unfurl and that might slow over time.
“The sliding drawer also has a tendency to collect pocket lint and dust, which we assume isn’t particularly healthy for the handset when it slides back in,” the reviewers wrote. “When extended, it also feels a little spongey, offering moderate resistance but a little wobble when handled.”
The pop-out camera is certainly eye-catching. At the very least might help Oppo stand out in the crowded UK market, where the iPhone reigns king. While Oppo dominates in Asia, along with its sister companies Vivo and OnePlus, it’s still relatively unknown in the West.
Cute as the pop-out is, we’re struggling to see it ending the reign of the notch in 2019.
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