A new teardown has given us our best look yet at the internals of the Vivo Nex, including its signature ‘pop-up’ selfie camera, its under-screen fingerprint scanner… and a construction that’s very hostile to user repairs.
So far, 2018 has all been about the display notch, the small black bar at the top of a smartphone screen that’s necessary if you want to pack in the kinds of cameras and sensors that can’t work through a screen.
But in the race to maximise their phones’ screen-to-body ratio, manufacturers are starting to get creative. Nothing shows this off more than the Vivo Nex, a phone that has its selfie camera extend on a little pole from the top of the handset. Doing this removes the need for a screen notch, and means that over 90% of the front of the device is covered by screen.
But the re-emergence of a mechanical mechanism in a handset is interesting. After flip phones fell out of fashion over a decade ago, and then smartphones removed the need for physical keyboards, the number of moving parts in your average smartphone has plummeted.
So it’s interesting to see what exactly is behind this moving camera. The teardown, which was conducted by MyFixGuide, shows that in essence it’s a motor that spins a spiral-shaped gear, which then moves the selfie tower. A small spring attached to the tower then cushions it against any external forces.
The teardown also reveals that the under-screen fingerprint scanner utilises a tiny camera (under the screen) to photograph your finger and establish that the correct person is trying to access the phone.
Even getting audio into your ear during a phone call has been made more difficult by the amount of screen, forcing Vivo to physically vibrate the screen itself in order to turn it into a speaker.
The final interesting note to take away from this teardown is just how difficult the Nex is to take apart. We’ve grown used to handsets becoming increasingly hostile to user-repair as their complexity has increased, but even then it’s crazy to hear how MyFixGuide had to insert a knife into the back cover in order to pry it off.
There’s a reason why manufacturers have moved away from moving parts in their phones (even Apple removed the central home button from the iPhone with the iPhone 7). These parts introduce some pretty vulnerable points of failure, and it will be interesting to see how many Nexes are unable to take selfies after a couple of years of use.
The Vivo Nex might not be the perfect solution to the challenge of the all-screen phone, but this teardown has revealed just how much ingenuity has gone into this attempt.
Do you think a pop-up selfie camera is an acceptable compromise to achieve an ‘all screen’ phone? Let us know @TrustedReviews.