- Google has just been granted a design patent indicating that the Pixel phone of the future may include a design unseen on iPhone or Galaxy S handsets.
- Google may be working with under-display camera technology, like many other players in the industry. It should be an exciting prospect for iPhone users waiting for a similar design from Apple.
- What sets Google apart from others is the computational photography algorithms that made the Pixel one of the best camera phones on the market.
I have often explained why it is unlikely that I will move from iPhone to Android. I’m rooted in the Apple ecosystem, and everything just works *. Yes, there are hiccups here and there, but the iPhone-Mac combination is unbeatable. It̵
With this in mind, the iPhone, iOS, Mac and macOS cannot evolve and remain competitive without pressure from Google and Microsoft. The better Android and Windows hardware, and the more polished and reliable Android and Windows 10 become, the better the Apple experience. Therefore, I absolutely love this Pixel innovation and hope Google will find a way to do it with Pixel 6 or 7.
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Google’s Pixel has never been the iPhone variant of the Android ecosystem. Google has in most cases been a quick follower, looking for inspiration from Cupertino. IPhone designs and features were customized year after year, although Google would first criticize them. Removing the headphone jack and multi-lens rear cameras are some examples. Unfortunately, the result was not a phone as good as the iPhone. Google experienced either hardware or software issues with each or every Pixel generation. Some were fixable. Some led to class action lawsuits.
Pixel 5 is a culmination of disappointments. Many praise the affordable price tag and advanced features, but the Pixel 5 is not the type of phone it could have been. It is not a flagship that can put any real pressure on Apple.
This brings us to the following images of a Pixel of Christmas future. They come from a design patent that Google filed in mid-March 2019 with the USPTO. The agency just granted the patent to the Pixel manufacturer in early December.
What the pictures show is a device that looks a lot like the current Pixel 5. It has a full screen display, a much better choice of screen design than the awful Pixel 4. On the back we have a dual lens camera, but it is not the back panel that interests me.
From the screen there is a hole camera. It’s the design Google used for Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a this year. The implication seems to be that Google is already working on selfie camera technology under the screen. The design shows the top speaker and button placement, so it should definitely include the hole camera.
“Not a surprise,” smartphone fans would say, given that all the major players in the business are developing one. In fact, ZTE is the first handset provider to launch a device with a camera under the screen. It is not widely available, and it is not a flagship, but it is the world’s first.
The problem with under-screen cameras is the quality of selfie photos and videos. Smartphone manufacturers need to find a way for enough light to travel to the sensor through the screen that covers the camera. They need algorithms that can compensate for the problems they encounter and ensure that the selfie experience is not under-par. After all, selfies are still a thing.
You must have understood by now why this Pixel patent is exciting. If Google wants to launch a Pixel phone with a camera under the screen, Google will also develop its own algorithms for this technology. And Google knows how to make computational photography work. The Pixel phones may have had various issues, but Google turned them into amazing cameras, which compete with and surpass other Androids and iPhones. Night Sight mode fell silent and forced everyone else to come up with an answer.
Google can do the same with under-display camera algorithms and force everyone to adapt quickly. It is not the case that companies, including Apple and Samsung, do not look at the same technology. But it’s one thing to just have a ZTE phone and Xiaomi and Oppo concepts with the technology. It’s a whole different thing to have Google launch a Pixel 6 or 7 with a camera under the screen.
That said, there is no guarantee that Google will actually be more successful than its competitors, or that it will launch a Pixel phone with a perfect screen design this year. The fact that the filed patent last year still shows that it studies the technology.
Apple is expected to keep the iPhone hacked in place for at least a year. Placing the camera under the screen is one thing. Doing the same with Face ID is a whole other thing. But Apple definitely wants to offer buyers the same perfect full-screen iPhone. We have seen many Apple patents and rumors over the years to support it.