Chinese smartphone maker ZTE announced the launch of Axon 40 Ultra on Monday, the third generation of a smartphone that features an under-display camera.

Why it matters: ZTE has adapted an under-display camera design, rather than traditional options like notch display or hole-punch display,  to create an all-screen design. 

Details: Axon 40 Ultra is equipped with an all-screen 6.8-inch display. The phone maker touts improved screen image quality compared with previous generations.

  • The new phone has a 93.1% screen-to-body ratio. For context, Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro Max has a screen-to-body ratio of 87.4%.
  • In previous generations, ZTE had to compromise other qualities to achieve the under-display camera design, like decreasing pixel density, leading to less ideal display quality. The Axon 40 Ultra has solved such issues by increasing the screen’s pixel density while reducing the size of pixels around the camera area.
  • ZTE has also used new tech that separately controls every single pixel and decentralizes transparent circuits to create clearer image quality. The camera area is barely noticeable in a comparison video in the latest generation.
  • Another important spec of the phone is its triple 64 million pixel cameras. Axon 40 Ultra is the first to adopt a dual Sony IMX787 sensor for all back cameras. Other brands like Xiaomi, Huawei, and Apple have used high spec sensors on only one primary back camera.
  • The Axon 40 Ultra will be available from Friday in China and launched in June for overseas markets, with prices ranging from RMB 4,998 to RMB 7,298 ($747 to $1,087).

Context: ZTE also revealed its 2021 overall performance during the product launch, recording 100 million unit shipments, with 50% of chips used in these shipments developed by the firm.

  • ZTE released Axon 20, the world’s first all-screen phone with an under-display camera, in September 2020, which sparked critical reviews due to poor image quality.
  • Since then, Xiaomi and Samsung have launched phones that have adopted an under-display camera option. They are Mix 4 and Galaxy Z Fold 3 phones. 
  • In 2018, ZTE paid $1 billion fines to settle with the US government after being banned for working with American supplies. The US accused the company of violating a 2017 deal by evading sanctions on Iran and North Korea. In November 2021, the Federal Communications Commission stopped issuing new licenses to ZTE, cutting off the firm’s last hope to sell phones in the US.

Ward Zhou is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. He covers stories about industry of digital content, hardware, and anything geek. Reach him via ward.zhou[a] or Twitter @zhounanyu.