Opinion, Smartphone

Slide-Out Cameras May Be the Future

An all-screen smartphone has always been the dream for many, many years; it’s something you see in drawings of concept smartphones. In a quest to maximise screen real estate, plenty of phone makers resort to notched displays. Some, on the other hand, simply minimise the bezels as much as they can, like Samsung with the Galaxy Note 9 and Galaxy S9 series.

But more recently, Chinese manufacturers like Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi have come up with a rather interesting solution to the notch problem: slide-out cameras. By hiding the front-facing camera with a sliding mechanism, the top bezel of the display can finally be shrunk, bringing us closer to the all-screen dream.

Chances are, more phone makers will implement a similar solution in the future – that’s right, slider phones are making a comeback. But not all of them are made equal, so let’s take a look at the different sliding mechanisms available on smartphones today.

So far, there are three modern smartphones that have slide-out cameras: the Oppo Find X, Vivo Nex, and Xiaomi Mi Mix 3. While all of them have the same feature, their mechanisms are not the same. The Find X and Nex, for example, use a small motor to move the camera module up and down. As for the Mi Mix 3, it relies on manual activation and magnets.

Chances are, the Mi Mix 3’s implementation will be the most reliable of the bunch. After all, it doesn’t rely on any motor to move the camera, reducing the risk of the mechanism failing. On top of that, Xiaomi also claims that the “magnetic slider design” can be activated over 300,000 times without any issue, but Oppo also said the same thing about the Find X motorised camera system.

Personally, I find the Mi Mix 3’s slider mechanism the most appealing. Not only is it less prone to failing (in my opinion), it’s also much more satisfying to activate than the Find X and Nex’s motorised slider.

Besides these three phones, there’s another upcoming phone that will sport a slide-out camera too: the Honor Magic 2. Based on leaked footage and images of the phone, it seems like the Magic 2 will feature a similar sliding mechanism as the one found on the Mi Mix 3. The video teaser above shows the unannounced phone’s sliding mechanism very well.

Nonetheless, we’ll learn more about the Honor Magic 2 once the Chinese company officially unveils the new device on 31 October. it’ll be interesting to see how its slider system will differ from other phones with a similar feature.

That’s not the only upcoming phone that will sport a slide-out camera either; Lenovo will be releasing its own device with this feature on 1 November. Believed to be the Lenovo Z5 Pro, the phone will also sport a manual slider design. Aside from that, it’s likely that the Z5 Pro will come with an in-screen fingerprint sensor too, if the leaked video below is to be believed.

It’s interesting how the Honor Magic 2 and Lenovo Z5 Pro launch dates are so close to the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3, which was made official just days ago. It’s even more curious when we consider the fact that these three phones will likely sport the same slider design. Moving forward, we won’t be surprised if other phone makers follow suit and introduce their own take of a slider phone in the future.

Looking at these two phones that will be introduced this week alone, slide-out cameras will very likely be the next big thing after notched displays. It’s a step closer to an all-screen smartphone, and although the reliability of these sliding mechanisms in the long run will be questioned, only time will tell how robust they are.

Now all that’s left is for phone makers to figure out how to completely eliminate the bottom screen bezel – almost all smartphones still have a “chin” of sorts under the display, with the notable exception of the iPhone XS and XS Max. Hopefully, we’ll see such smartphones next year in 2019.