Pop-up Smartphone Cameras, Did We Need Them?

Samsung Galaxy A90 pop-up camera
Vivo Nex Pop-Up Camera

It all started with the screen- No need for popup cameras, let it just be the screen!

“Let us have larger displays on smaller frames they said. Let’s find a way to allow 100% use of the front for nothing else but display”. Sounds reasonable. So, manufacturers got together, and most of them did away with phone bezels, home buttons and hid fingerprints under the display.

Did We Really Need Pop-up Cameras?

We love big screens, so we got them. Phones got more screen space, leaving only a tiny allowance for the selfie camera at the top. How do we squeeze more out of that space the selfie camera holds? New experimentations began here.

They cut out the uppermost edge to make way for a notched display popularized by Apple’s iPhone X, However, this also evolved to the less intrusive and more preferred hole-punch. (Hello Apple, you are getting late to this).

In 2018/2019 however, amid these transitions, pop-up selfies cameras started to pop. Tecno, Infinix and Redmi are among some of the first brands to bring these new cool-looking cameras to the Kenyan market. The screens looked neat alright. There were no ugly huge bezels, no notch and no hole-punch. It was the young people’s dream design.

Other brands went a step further. Namely, Oppo’s Find X that not only hid selfie camera components with the pop-up but also added the rear cameras as well.

The pop-up cameras would do exactly what their name suggests. Mechanisms are employed that use coils to pop the camera out when required and then retract back in when everything was done. Sweet, useful and cool.

But where are they now? Who switched off the pop? Why aren’t they more popular?

Less Is More 

Once you take something you still use out of one location, you have to create more room elsewhere for its future use. Losing the camera to the internals of the phone in the name of a pop-up option means more space is used for the screen. However, less space is available internally to accommodate the moving parts of this very mechanical camera.

You need a bigger battery to serve you longer. Not to mention more camera chipsets, and other such essential components (including new 5G components). However, if there is a whole moving camera within the motherboard, there is little provision for expansion. 


The future of devices is lighter and efficient. The addition of moving mechanical camera modules seems to be counter-intuitive to this goal. Xiaomi confirmed this to be true.

“Retractable camera modules are usually much bigger in size. Thus, the final design on smartphones is slightly thicker. Especially when retractable camera modules are used as compared to other camera approaches.” 

Affinity to Damage 

Inevitably, every smartphone and its lenses would accumulate dust after a certain period of use. We have a guide on how you can cleanse your phone’s camera lens here.

The probability of dirt getting stuck within the moving parts? Very high if you consider how dusty our roads and towns can get. (It’s January, you could get out and see if this is true)These particles could impair the mechanics that push the camera out. I would rather have an available external camera with a scratch, rather than one stuck inside till possible repair. Wouldn’t you?

So it seems smartphone companies are done with pop-up cameras and we are stuck with the hole-punch option for now. Nevertheless, I expect better innovation in this journey to having a 100% screen display.

Because in a world where we can send cars to the abyss of space, I deserve more.

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