How can the front-facing photo phenomenon possibly get any smaller? Here’s what selfie camera designs have in store...

Head down, pouty lips, and upward glance; that’s the typical selfie in three easy steps. But what kind of poses and styles will the selfie camera itself be pulling off in future smartphones?

We think there’s plenty of growing room for the popular front-facing cam, from changing the way phones are designed, to breakthroughs in screen technology. Let’s take a more in-depth look at how the selfie cam will evolve in 2019 and beyond…

The ‘notch’

Front-facing cameras have been hitting the headlines recently, thanks mostly to the way they’re being built into today’s cutting-edge smartphones – but it’s all in the aim of one thing: phone manufacturers are trying to shift around the hardware on the front of your phone so you have more screen at your fingertips.

Last year’s iPhone X (alongside this year’s iPhone XS and XR) is a fantastic example of this. While almost all of the screen goes edge to edge, Apple’s now distinctive ‘notch’ dips in at the top, allowing just enough space for the selfie cam and Face ID array – a lot of tech squeezed into a tiny space.

It’s a design choice that paved the way for a raft of other manufacturers in 2018, since it offers oodles of screen estate with the bare minimum conceded for that all-important front-facing camera. You needn’t look far these days to see other flagships adorned with a notch of their own – whether that’s Huawei with its P20 Pro, or Google with its Pixel 3 XL.

But the now-ubiquitous notch is far from the only selfie cam solution around…

Slide-up designs

What if you could hide the front cam all together? It’d undoubtedly free-up those final few millimetres of screen space. Sure enough, this is a route that both Oppo and Vivo – two heavyweights in the Chinese smartphone space – have gone down with their newest devices.

The front and back cameras on Oppo’s flagship Find X are sneakily hidden on a mechanical slider that glides open and shut at the top of the handset. The Nex from Vivo uses similar tech, but there’s only a front-facing cam.

It’s a novel approach to the problem, but it does come at a cost: the more moving parts a device has, the less durable it is. Which is one issue the next possible solution doesn’t have to worry about.

The ‘hole-punch’

Huawei’s popular sub-brand Honor recently announced the Honor View 20 for the Chinese market, which boasts the world’s first in-screen camera. That means there’s no notch at the top of the screen; the camera simply peeps out from what’s being dubbed a ‘hole-punch’ design.

As you can see, the front is pretty much all display minus a tiny, 4.5mm black hole at the top. To make this marvel happen, part of the Honor View 20’s display is transparent, while Honor also created a seal around the transparent area that they’re calling a ‘5-axis ring dispersion’, to stop any light from the display leaking into the camera and spoiling your shots,

Samsung also revealed something similar with its Galaxy A8s, although that hole measures 6.5mm and is actually cut into the display. Oh, and speaking of Samsung…

Behind-the-screen selfie camera

If a bezel-less, full-screen handset is what we all want, then surely there’s a way? If recent rumours are to be believed, Samsung is currently working on a behind-the-screen camera that won’t even need a hole to look through.

Instead, it’ll sit under the display, and be able to sift out the non-useful light to focus only on the light bouncing off your subject. Exactly how this’ll happen is a mystery, but it sounds impressive.

However they do it, manufacturers will need to move some essential pieces of hardware around to make the front of the phone all-screen. Putting everything behind the display seems like a great shout; after all, the fingerprint sensor and earpiece and already making their way behind the glass on some devices.

Multiple selfie cams

Aside from minimising their impact on screen estate, another natural progression for smartphone manufacturers will be to add more cameras to the front, much like they’re doing on the back. We’ve already seen it with the gorgeous Google Pixel 3 XL, Google Pixel 3, and Huawei Mate 20 lite, and all of these handsets feature a duo of front-facing snappers.

Could you get more than two cameras on the front of a phone? You bet! A recent filing (translate) to China’s TENAA website shows that one is already in the works from Chinese smartphone company Meitu. What this camera arrangement will offer is anyone’s guess, but it shows that manufacturers are at least experimenting with multiple front-facing cams. Who knows, maybe there’s a quad-cam selfie cam already under development somewhere.

So that’s the future of selfie cam design pretty much mapped out. One thing’s for sure: 2019’s going to produce some awesome new trends when it comes to phone design. We can’t wait.

Want to know how multiple camera setups work? We’ve got the lowdown.