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Oppo’s striking waterfall screen cascades over the side of the phone

What do you call a smartphone screen that, instead of a subtly curved edge, has an almost 90-degree drop? If you’re Oppo, then you name it a waterfall screen, and the company’s CEO Brian Chen has shown off a working version of it, ahead of any future commercial launch. The name is fitting, as the screen cascades almost vertically off the side of the phone, giving an unusual wraparound, all-screen visual effect.

Oppo says the screen has an 88-degree curved edge for an almost 100% screen-to-body ratio. The striking all-screen design is emphasized by the lack of a selfie camera, no visible speaker, and no obvious physical power or volume buttons. Chen showed off the waterfall screen on Chinese social network Weibo, but did not name the phone or show the back of the device. It’s speculated the phone could be a sequel to the Oppo Find X, which is shown alongside the mystery waterfall screen phone in several images.

The waterfall screen’s debut raises more questions than it answers, and not only regarding the phone Oppo will eventually release that features the technology. However, a few answers come from previous announcements and news. For example, Oppo has been working on an under-display selfie camera, which may be used on any final version of the waterfall display, so a complicated pop-up camera doesn’t have to be added, as it did with the Find X. This could mean the phone will have water and dust resistance, which isn’t usually possible on those equipped with pop-up cameras.

We also don’t know how Oppo will deal with the lack of physical buttons on the side. Will it opt to use only software controls for the volume, and a power button on the top of bottom of the phone? Additionally, how will it avoid endless accidental screen activations due to the screen running down each side of the phone? Potentially, it could solve both the button and accidental activation problems together. The sides of the screen could be customizable and made to provide software-based volume and power keys only. In the past, some Nubia phones have used an edge-less screen for gestures to adjust volume and screen brightness in this manner.

Oppo has not provided any information on when the waterfall screen will be used on a smartphone we can buy. Recently, a leak showed Vivo — which is part of the same family as Oppo, and OnePlus — may also be working on a similar type of smartphone screen and body.

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