As consumers demand increasingly sleeker smaller smartphones, manufacturers have been grappling with how to convincingly hide front-facing cameras. Solutions have included Apple’s now-ubiquitous notch design, a punch hole design and even cameras hidden underneath the phone’s display. Xiaomi hopes its newly announced third-generation under-display camera will be the best version of the lattermost approach yet.

Xiaomi’s first two generations of under-display camera tech never made their way into mass-produced devices. The latest generation, on the other hand, will be widely available in 2021.

Underpinning the new tech is a revised pixel arrangement solution. The screen allows light to pass through the gap between the sub pixels in the display. This allows each individual pixel to retain a complete red, green and blue (RGB) pixel layout. By utilizing the gap between sub pixels, the display doesn’t need to compromise with respect to pixel density.

The design of Xiaomi's third generation under-display camera (left) shown against a typical display area (top right) and 'normal' under-display camera (bottom right). Image credit: Xiaomi

Xiaomi states that ‘Compared with other common solutions on the market, Xiaomi has doubled the number of horizontal and vertical pixels, achieving the same pixel density above the camera as on the rest of the display area.’ Xiaomi continues, promising that the area above the camera will match the rest of the display in terms of brightness, color accuracy and color gamut.

There’s no question that the more seamless a front display, the better. However, it’s a considerable engineering challenge to produce a display with a hidden camera without sacrificing the quality of either the display or the camera it conceals. Thus far, hidden camera technology has not completely convinced discerning viewers, as discussed by Engadget with respect to similar tech from Oppo.

To showcase its latest generation, Xiaomi released an overview video, which you can view below.

As first pointed out by The Verge, if you look closely at the 0'29" mark of the above video, there appears to be a slight square shadow. In earlier portions of the video, you can see a very faint circle where the camera is located. Xiaomi assures that the camera will be invisible, so it’ll be interesting to see the final product when it ships next year.

While we must wait until 2021 to see Xiaomi’s third-gen camera out in the wild, we won’t have to wait long for a new smartphone with an under-display camera. ZTE will launch its ZTE Axon 20 smartphone next month. It’s unclear if this device will be available outside of China. Nonetheless, as is often the case, a race between firms to develop better technology will benefit end-users.