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December 21, 2020

✨ Good morning! It’s the Winter Solstice today, it’s the Great Occultation of Jupiter and Saturn tonight (the Google Doodle is cute today), and as Leonard Nimoy might say, the cosmic ballet goes on.

🎄 Some newsletter housekeeping: just one more Daily Authority newsletter to come after today! A short break is planned to freshen up over the Christmas-New Year period. If some kind of big tech news does happen before Jan 4th, I’ll work on getting a short newsletter out. Now, on with today...

Finally, ZTE’s world-first smartphone with an under-display selfie camera is here! ZTE’s Axon 20 5G has come out of hiding and it’s worth a look today.

  • Our friend David Imel has a great short video on the phone, the tech, and of course, some selfie samples.
  • The selfie photos are pretty bad. 
  • It may be a world first, but it comes in a distant second to the quality of selfies you’d expect from a new phone today.

Here’s where we’re at

The phone looks pretty solid:

ZTE Axon 20 5G front display cutout macro
David Imel / Android Authority

Here’s an ultra close-up of the module area itself hiding under the OLED display:

zte axon 20 5g

(Take note: the module is less visible in real-life — here we can see it through the camera due to the Moiré effect of the pattern. David says it looks much better in person: “ZTE tries to hide this area by using default wallpapers that are dark near the top. In practice, this works very well. When viewing the phone with darker colors near the top of the screen, you probably won’t notice the camera at all. if you’re using a white background, it’s a bit more obvious.”)

The details:

  • ZTE’s Axon 20 5G is now on sale for $449, complete with a full-screen display, no notch, punch-hole, no flip, pop-up, or oversized bezel hiding a camera.
  • It’s a milestone in tech, with the selfie camera a 32MP shooter. 
  • But the selfie camera isn’t very good. Images in good light have a smear to them, or a certain glow, akin to a bad beauty filter some phones insist on using out of the box.
  • Images in lower light look closer to unusable:
david selfies
Tristan Rayner / Android Authority
  • The fogging we see here is about expected: In order to let enough light through the display and into the selfie camera sensor, something has to be done. 
  • In January this year, Xiaomi executive Lu Weibing talked about the tech issues, and noted that higher-quality screens with >400 pixels per square inch (ppi), used in most smartphones, reduce the amount of light getting to the sensor, meaning lower quality selfie camera quality. 
  • The solution is to drop the pixel density in just the region used for the camera, which ZTE has done here, rather than downgrade the overall screen resolution, together with “a combination of organic and inorganic film for a small part of the display.”
  • The results are enough for a first-gen mass-produced product — the first in-display fingerprint sensors were pretty bad, too. 
  • The results are not enough for anyone who likes snapping a sharp, crisp selfie. Like, um, you’d expect in almost-2021.

💰 Here’s how much the Samsung Galaxy S21, S21 Plus, and S21 Ultra might cost: EU pricing shows the family for about €50 less than the S20, which is good news. Same in the US, you’d guess? (Android Authority).

📸 2020 smartphone mega shootout: The best camera phones tested (Android Authority).

🍎 A report says “Apple Car” is years ahead of schedule, will debut in 2021. This, if it refers to an actual car, seems super unlikely for a variety of car industry related reasons, but so you know what’s happening out there… (MacRumors).

🍏 An iPhone iMessage zero-day exploit was used to hack as many as 36 Al Jazeera reporters, unearthed by Citizen Lab (TechCrunch).

😬 China-based Zoom employee charged for secretly censoring Tiananmen Square anniversary events (The Verge).

🛹 See an unreleased game based on The Simpsons that never made it to Dreamcast (Engadget).

🔴 A NASA study proposes sending robotic dogs to Mars: A Mars Dog, similar to the Boston Dynamics four-legged varieties, would be ~12 times lighter than current rovers, and capable of traveling much faster: reaching normal walking speeds of 3 mph (5 km/h) during tests, vs the Curiosity rover rolling along the Martian surface at about 0.09 mph (0.14 km/h) (LiveScience).

🧔 Facial hair is biologically useless. So why do humans have it? (Wired).

📺 Ryan Kaji, 9, earns $29.5m as this year’s highest-paid YouTuber (The Guardian). The second-place earner, Mr Beast, has some kind of new chain restaurant for burgers that are coming out of dark kitchens? Dropshipping, but burgers? Fascinating (Dexerto).

🌠 Here’s how the sky looks across different light pollution levels (r/interestingasfk)

🤔 “What’s something that’s “not a cult” but feels like a cult?” (r/askreddit).

Meme Monday
rise and shine
Tristan Rayner / Android Authority

Stay bright,

Tristan Rayner, Senior Editor

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