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Oppo thinks retracting phone cameras are the next big thing

Oppo is planning to end the year on a high note by serving up a generous dash of smartphone innovation. Aside from the rumored foldable, the company just took to Twitter and shared a video of an unreleased phone sporting a retracting rear camera.

To give you some context, over the past couple of years the smartphone industry has given us selfie cameras that pop up from the top edge, and brands were quick to adopt a marketing name for it — pop-up camera. However, Oppo appears to have taken the fundamental concept of a pop-up selfie camera module, turned it 90-degrees, and slapped it on the back of a phone.

Most pop-ups are annoying…

But not our self-developed retractable camera! 😉

Explore more in INNO WORLD on 14/12.#OPPOINNODAY2021

— OPPO (@oppo) December 7, 2021

Will this ever come out?

The Oppo phone in question doesn’t have a name yet. And surprisingly, it has evaded the overly sharp eyes of leak enthusiasts as well. That means it’s most likely a concept phone, but all will be revealed at the company’s Inno Day event on December 14. The retracting camera definitely grabs eyeballs, but it is far from being a novel creation. The idea of moving lens elements has been borrowed from point-and-shoot cameras that were all the rage back in the day, but have since lost their appeal as smartphone cameras got better. However, Samsung copied the formula for its Galaxy S4 Zoom in 2013 when it looked more like a camera than a phone due to the thick profile.

Oppo’s phone, on the other hand, looks as sleek as any other modern premium phone out there, and the moving camera element is quite small. It is unclear if the motorized module houses the primary snapper, or if it plays host to the telephoto camera system. The latter appears to be the case here, and it very much looks like a replacement for folded-lens periscope zoom cameras that one gets on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and other camera-centric phones out there. Oppo’s retracting camera also appears to have some fall detection tech in place. The gyro and accelerometer will identify if the phone is in free fall, automatically pulling the camera module inside to avoid any damage.

The time for retractable cameras may have already passed

The idea is definitely a breath of fresh air, but it is unlikely to catch on. Pop-up cameras were all the rage not too long ago, with almost every brand embracing them except Apple. But they were fragile, definitely not easy on wallets when it came to repairs, and are now a vanishing fad. They did achieve the smartphone industry’s holy grail of a true full-screen experience, but practicality eventually reigned supreme over aesthetics.

Will Oppo’s retracting camera be a hit, or will meet the same fate as its pop-up camera sibling? Only time will tell. Will it make it to a commercially available smartphone? There is no certainty about that either. After all, Oppo made big promises about its rollable phone, but it got stuck in quality assurance hell and never made it into the hands of eager buyers ready to spend a few thousand dollars. And oh, now that everyone is building some metaverse-related thingmajig, Oppo is also showing off a virtual avatar technology at its event next week. Let’s hope it doesn’t meet the same fate as Samsung’s a-little-too-good-looking Sam virtual assistant.

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Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
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