Promises, promises, promises. ZTE has lived up to their promise by releasing the first smartphone with a selfie camera under the display, coming out ahead of Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi and Oppo who seemed to be ahead of the game.
The ZTE Axon 20 5G, which we are unlikely to see in Europe, is available for pre-order in China from 2198 yuan, or nearly €240 ($285). This would mean it is yet another mid-range smartphone, despite its "killer feature" which is a 32MP front-facing camera that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
The specifications sheet for the ZTE Axon 20 5G is rather interesting at this price point though. You get a 6.92-inch OLED display in Full HD+ definition (20.5:9 ratio), a 4,220 mAh battery with 30W fast charge capability. The smartphone also sports a zippy Snapdragon 765G chipset coupled with 6 or 8 GB of RAM, and expandable storage from 128 all the way to 256 GB.
As for the cameras, the ZTE Axon 20 5G boasts of a quadruple module with a 64-megapixel main sensor, an 8-megapixel ultra-wide-angle sensor, a 2-megapixel depth sensor (bokeh), and a 2-megapixel macro lens to boot. But it is indeed the selfie camera that is the real star of the lot.
Is first to market the key to success?
According to ZTE, this 32-megapixel under-display camera is based on the use of "high transparency material" and software algorithms that have been optimized to compensate for the potential impact on image quality. It is impossible to say whether this promise will be kept in view of such laconic explanations, and especially without having tested the smartphone out.
What is certain is this: a layer of material overlying the photosensor, regardless of how transparent it is, will have an impact on image quality. It will then be up to consumers to choose the best compromise between photo quality and screen quality.
But ZTE really seemed to have worked hard to get back to the front of the pack with their Axon 20 5G handset. The manufacturer said in its launch press release that the smartphone "marks the beginning of ZTE's new product strategy."
According to the president of ZTE Mobile Ni Fei, "Smartphones will be our main area of product innovation." Despite this assurance, the question of the maturity of such technology still remains.
The fact that even Xiaomi, which has been teasing an "under-display" camera since 2019, will wait until 2021 to mass-produce this technology and market it on its Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra is something to take note of. It is certain that ZTE has understood the advantage of being first to the market when it comes to selling a new product or feature.
In marketing jargon, we talk about TTM or "Time To Market", which is the time required by a manufacturer between the design and the marketing of a product. In general, the longer the TTM period, the lower the chances of commercial success.
Let's just hope that ZTE didn't end up with a false start in this race for innovation.
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