Xiaomi has been granted a patent to develop an under-screen smartphone camera that can rotate and therefore act both as a selfie and traditional rear-facing camera.
Only founded in 2010, Xiaomi is a Chinese manufacturer whose smartphone line might be its most well-known in the west, but it that has developed many other innovative products from smart clocks to electric scooters. But, most recently, as first reported by Android Authority and rendered by Let’s Go Digital — a mobile device publication that monitors patents and designs mockups to visualize that intellectual property– the tech company has been granted a patent by the World Intellectual Property Organization to develop its idea for a “Terminal device” that is a new take on the smartphone camera.
This patent, filed in February 2020, details a smartphone that features an under-display selfie camera, and although under-display cameras are not a completely new technology, Xiami’s patent is for a camera that can rotate with a so-called flip camera module.
In the video below, Xiaomi showcases its progress on its under-screen camera technology, which has been developed irrespective of the patent filed but provides some background on the company’s history in the space. Similarly, an under-display camera has already been showcased by another Chinese tech company, Oppo, which demonstrated its prototype first in 2019, as did ZTE, which won the race as the first company to launch a commercially available smartphone with an under-display camera with its ZTE Axon 20 5G.
Let’s Go Digital explains that by default, the smartphone “camera faces the rear and is part of a larger camera system, which consists of several lenses,” but in the visual demonstration for Xiaomi’s idea, below, only the top lens, shown in orange, rotates, while the other two remain as they were. Visually, the triple camera arrangement is similar to that of the more familiar iPhone 12.
Using a magnetic or motorized drive module and a processor makes the internal camera rotation possible, and when the user activates the selfie camera option, the internal camera would flip and a part of the display would be disabled in order for the ambient light to pass through it.
Let’s Go Digital explains that the benefits of such technology would allow for greater dust and dirt prevention and therefore help stop foreign materials from coming into contact with any internal parts, which is an issue with cameras like the patent Oppo filed for its double-sided pop-up system or even the Asus ZenFone 8.
Further, a rotating camera reduces the number of cameras required in the design, and there is no necessity to install a separate front camera. For example, for users, a benefit could be the ability to dual record on both front and rear cameras at the same time.
Xiaomi has yet to publicly confirm the development of the issued patent.