Is the hole-punch camera here to stay? We look at the pros and cons of the front camera design
Since its inception, the notch – that black-out area to the top of many flagship phones where the front-facing camera and sensors hide – has been a divisive smartphone design.
Many want an uninterrupted full-screen experience, yet won’t forego that selfie camera. And the hole-punch camera is changing all that – most recently on the Samsung Galaxy S20 series which features a central hole-punch camera.
Last year’s Galaxy S10+ even featured dual front cameras punched into the display, but that has been superseded.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen brands experimenting with all kinds of solutions. From the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3’s and Honor Magic 2’s slider phone mechanism – we take a closer look at that here – to Vivo’s full dual-screen approach in the NEX Dual Display. All have their merits and downsides.
Then there’s the hole-punch camera, as first seen outside of China in the Honor View 20, which wraps the front-facing camera into a small circular area within the screen itself. No big notch, no big distraction? That’s the theory.
And now with Honor, Samsung, Motorola and many others with this setup available on the market, what are the good, the bad and the ugly truths about this design?
There’s no unsightly notch
The most obvious benefit of a hole-punch solution is that it’s far smaller than a notch, thus doesn’t get in the way of your viewing experience overall.
In the Honor V20 the camera is placed in an area where the default software-derived blackout strip occurs, so for many apps and much of the software experience, it’s hidden from view by default.
Full-screen really means full-screen
Many apps can be designated as full-screen – and in the V20 that really does mean full screen. Apps can extend beyond the hole-punch to the outer edge of the display, for full immersion, especially on 6.4-inch screen size.
It puts the camera in a good place – no slider/second screen required
With a slider phone, such as the Honor Magic 2, the camera pops-up by pulling the upper screen portion down. While that sounds great, it means various dust and debris can get into the area where the camera is hidden. With the hole-punch solution that’s no such issue.
It’s a potential distraction
One of the most obvious downsides is how suddenly apparent the hole-punch can be when an app goes full-screen. After all, it’s a totally black area, which really shows up on a bright screen. Sometimes that’ll see your eyes dart towards it.
It can get in the way of operation
The other potential issue is that the hole-punch area can hide specifics within an app. One example we’ve found is video adverts that have the close ‘x’ positioned almost exactly where the front camera is – which makes hitting it to close the ad a little trickier than it could be. It’s not a common issue though.
Furthermore not all apps have to run in full-screen mode – in the Honor V20 it’s possible to designate per-app whether you want a black-out strip (notch style, we suppose) to contain the app within a given space.