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Here's why we aren't seeing many phones with pop-up selfie cameras in 2020

We've seen a ton of brands opt for phones with punch-hole cutouts instead, and a Redmi executive explains why.

Published onMarch 19, 2020

The Redmi K30 Pro with pop-up selfie camera.

It seems like 2019 was the year of the pop-up selfie camera, as OnePlus, Redmi, and Vivo were among the most prominent brands offering this feature. But this has become a rare sight in 2020 as punch-hole selfie cameras gain popularity, with the upcoming Redmi K30 Pro one of the few devices to offer the pop-up.

Now, Redmi general manager Lu Weibing has taken to Weibo to explain why pop-up selfie cameras are falling out of favor. And it looks like technical challenges are to blame.

“The number of 5G mobile phone components has increased significantly. Taking Redmi K30 Pro as an example, the number of components is up to 3885, which is an increase of 268% over the previous generation K20 Pro,” the Redmi executive explained (via machine translation), saying that this made things more difficult.

Redmi K20 Pro pop up selfie camera and light
The Redmi K20 Pro was one of several phones with a pop-up selfie camera in 2019.

The pop-up selfie camera design also made motherboard design a challenge, and Weibing said they originally split the motherboard in two. Unfortunately, doing this resulted in heat dissipation becoming a huge problem. But opting for a single motherboard design means “heat dissipation is very uniform,” so temperatures can be kept under better control.

Finally, the Redmi general manager said battery life was also a concern for 5G devices with a pop-up selfie camera. He didn’t seem to elaborate on this issue, but presumably the extra components compared to a phone with a punch-hole cutout means that there’s less room for the battery.

RIP pop-up selfie cameras. We hardly knew ye.
OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren edition vs Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro pop up camera

Another challenge not mentioned by Weibing is durability, as phones with pop-up selfie cameras are usually more difficult to seal against water and dust. So it isn’t really a surprise to see manufacturers opt for waterdrop notches and punch-hole cutouts.

Nevertheless, I’m glad to see Xiaomi/Redmi offer at least one phone with this option in 2020, making for a refreshing change from the sea of punch-hole phones.