ZTE’s latest under-display selfie camera looks slightly better

Last year’s Axon 20 5G from ZTE was the world’s first commercially available phone with a front-facing camera under the display. It was an impressive step forward for phone technology, but there was one big problem: the camera sucked. Bad pictures were taken and the module distorted the display in certain settings. Now ZTE tries again with the renewed Axon 30, which seems to offer some improvements over its predecessor.

First a small spec dump. The Axon 30 has a 6.92-inch AMOLED display with 120Hz refresh rate and FHD+ resolution, all powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 870 5G chipset. There is a four-camera array on the back of the device, with a 64-megapixel main, 8-megapixel 120-degree wide-angle, 5-megapixel macro lens and an additional depth-of-field lens. The battery has a capacity of 4200 mAh and fast charging of 55 W, and according to GSMArena, you have the choice of 6 GB / 8 GB / 12 GB RAM and 128 GB / 256 GB UFS 3.1 storage.

But the most interesting updates to the Axon 30 are the under-display camera. In order for these under-display modules to work, you have to use transparent materials in that part of the screen, which is a fairly recent development and thus of lower quality compared to regular display technology. For the Axon 30, ZTE says it has doubled the pixel density in this area from 200 PPI to 400 PPI, which should allow for more seamless integration with the display.

A comparison of the Axon 20 (left) and Axon 30 (right) bottom screens.
Image: ZTE via GSM Arena

ZTE says it has also improved the camera below the display itself. You can see in our hands-on with the Axon 20 last year that photos from this camera were blurry and soft in good lighting and introduced a lot of noise in bad lightning. The camera was a great technical achievement, sure, but not comparable to ordinary front-facing lenses. Based on the shot below of popular telephone informant Ice Universe (aka @UniverseIce), there may be some improvements with the Axon 30.

We’ll of course have to wait to try the phone itself to give you a full evaluation, but don’t hold your breath for any miracles. As Ice Universe points out, the above photo was taken outside with lots of light, and in response to a Twitter user suggesting they try out the camera in worse conditions, Ice Universe responds: “What a poor performance.”

Another photo of Ice suggests that the camera below the screen is visible even when the screen is turned off, but that’s hardly an issue.

The ZTE Axon 30 is the first to be launched in China, with GSMArena report that the sale will start on August 3. Price starts at CNY 2,198 ($338) for the 6GB / 128GB model and CNY 3,098 ($476) for the 12GB / 256GB version. Worldwide availability and pricing will follow later.