Xiaomi Mi 9 prototype with under-display front camera (left)

Front cameras are an essential component in mobile devices and used for a range of tasks, including selfie captures, video calls and face-unlocking. However, they can stand in the way of clean device design, taking up space on the front of the phone and requiring bulky top-bezels, display holes or a front camera 'notch'.

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Recently several manufacturers have come up with creative design solutions that ensure an uninterrupted almost bezel-less display. Pop-up and rotating cameras are mechanical solutions, however, that are subject to wear and tear. Now it looks like Chinese manufacturer OPPO has found a solution that does not require any moving parts: a camera that is hidden under the display.

OPPO VP Brian Shen shared a video clip on the social network Weibo, showing what appears to be a smartphone without any visible front camera holes or notches on a desk. When the camera app is launched a live preview of the room's ceiling is displayed. The demonstrator also moves their finger over the area where the camera appears to hidden.

Rival Xiaomi did not take long to respond to the OPPO video, posting its own under-display camera demo. Company's president Lin Bin shared a video clip in which an under-display camera was added to a Xiaomi Mi 9 prototype.

In contrast to mechanical solutions users of an under-display camera would not have to worry about wear and tear but in a follow-up post to the demo, Shen says that the technology is still in an early development phase. 'At this stage, it's difficult for under-display cameras to match the same results as normal cameras, there's bound to be some loss in optical quality,' Shen writes. 'But, no new technology jumps to perfection right away.' Neither OPPO nor Xiaomi have said when the new technology will be released.