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Pop-Up Cameras Could Soon Be a Mobile Trend (techcrunch.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: There's an interesting concept making its way around Mobile World Congress. Two gadgets offer cameras hidden until activated, which offer a fresh take on design and additional privacy. Vivo built a camera into a smartphone concept that's on a little sliding tray and Huawei will soon offer a MacBook Pro clone that features a camera hidden under a door above the keyboard. This could be a glimpse of the future of mobile design. Cameras have long been embedded in laptops and smartphones much to the chagrin of privacy experts. Some users cover up these cameras with tape or slim gadgets to ensure nefarious players do not remotely activate the cameras. Others, like HP, have started to build in shutters to give the user more control. Both DIY and built-in options require substantial screen bezels, which the industry is quickly racing to eliminate.

With shrinking bezels, gadget makers have to look for new solutions like the iPhone X notch. Others still, like Vivo and Huawei, are look at more elegant solutions than carving out a bit of the screen. For Huawei, this means using a false key within the keyboard to house a hidden camera. Press the key and it pops up like a trapdoor. We tried it out and though the housing is clever, the placement makes for awkward photos -- just make sure you trim those nose hairs before starting your conference call. Vivo has a similar take to Huawei though the camera is embedded on a sliding tray that pops-up out of the top of the phone.

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Pop-Up Cameras Could Soon Be a Mobile Trend

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  • Moving Parts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nwaack ( 3482871 ) on Monday February 26, 2018 @06:44PM (#56191005)
    I'm all for privacy, but this just sounds like another thing that could break on my phone.
    • Re:Moving Parts (Score:5, Interesting)

      by h4ck7h3p14n37 ( 926070 ) on Monday February 26, 2018 @07:06PM (#56191111) Homepage

      I suspect that's why manufacturers didn't initially include them, that and the additional cost.

      I'd pay extra for a phone with real physical switches that interrupt current flow to things like the camera, microphone, GPS, radios, etc. Software based buttons can't be trusted.

      Even something simple that prevents button presses while the phone is in my pocket would be welcome. Back in the day things like portable CD players had lock switches on the back of the device for exactly that reason.

      • I suspect that's why manufacturers didn't initially include them, that and the additional cost.
        I'd pay extra for a phone with real physical switches ...

        I feel the same way about the growing trend toward key-less (aka wireless) only entry and ignition in cars.

        • I have keyless ignition, and it's really no different from any ignition with a "smart" key or any sort of lockout/disable mechanism. Either the electronic bullshit works and tries to start the engine or it doesn't. A physical key won't help you there. The keyless ignition is just using RFID or similar shit instead of a physical key. If they battery in your key dies you can hold it close to the button to get it to work. I still have a physical key option for physical entry.

          • If my fob gets lost it takes a trip to the dealer and about $250 to get a new one. My other car can get a spare made for a few bucks at the local hardware store.

            On that basis alone I have vowed to either gets cars with no keyless crap, or require a third fob up front as part of the deal.

            • My old 2003 car couldn't get a spare made for a few bucks at a hardware store. The computer checks the physical key electrically and there's a procedure involved for telling the computer to accept a new key. You need either the master key or some secret voodoo to be done by the dealer.

              • Remove the chip from the manufacturer key. Tape it somewhere inside the car. Now you can duplicate the key cheaply to your heart's content. You lose chip security, but who cares?
                • That's not how it works. The physical metal of the key is semi unique. You're not gonna get some brass jockey at Home Depot to cut you a working copy.

            • On the other hand, car theft is almost a non-issue anymore [nytimes.com], thanks in large part to the technology that you decry.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Why not just make a light hard wired inline with the camera ccd so that as soon as it is powered up the light goes on. Should be pretty hard to hack that

      • by Teun ( 17872 )
        Indeed, this galvanic switch would be the way forward.
        Just make sure it also switches off the microphone.
        I know of one manufacturer making such laptops and they are working on a phone, www.puri.sm
      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        the additional cost is the thing.

        the slab design with no buttons is part of this.just cost reduction sold to customer at higher prices and selling them protectors then with extra cost.

        remember n95? the camera protector ring served dual purpose - open it and it opens the camera app. very handy, nothing about privacy as such as the front facing camera was unhindered all time. it was just a handy good feature to have.

        also remember the slide switches on the side to open the keylock? very handy, now almost neve

      • I suspect that's why manufacturers didn't initially include them, that and the additional cost.

        Actually, back in the PDA era, long before the smartphone/selfie craze,
        one of the first PDA to feature a built-in camera - the Sony Clie - had a rotating camera.

        (Of course the main reason back then wasn't as much privacy, as it was about the price of putting 2 cameras vs. one good quality camera that can be rotated either into photo or selfie position).

        Even a few of the aftermarket SDIO camera did have rotating cameras (again, the main reason being that the camera could still be rotated into the desired pos

    • Old School Red LED (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Monday February 26, 2018 @08:09PM (#56191399)

      I'd settle for a hardwired red LED whenever the camera was active. It needs to be truly hardware connected and not software bypass-able. I believe we all deserve to know when any camera is active, so I'd rather it not be bypass-able without a soldering iron.

      • by Hydrian ( 183536 )

        The red light only helps if it is hardware and not firmware or software controlled. If it is software or firmware, it can be hacked.

        The thing is they didn't need to be pop-out either. That's a lot of engineering that can break or knock out the lens out of alignment. How about just a physical sliding door over the lens? You know, a lens cover that we've had for decades. This keeps dirt and grim away as well as unwanted viewings.

  • Nokia 6650 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <web@pineapple.vg> on Monday February 26, 2018 @06:47PM (#56191019) Homepage
    I have a Nokia 6650 still kicking about some place.

    Not the clamshell 6650. The very first 6650 that not many were made of. Nokia's first attempt at making a phone for the brand new UMTS network at the time. It has a lense cover, when you slide down the lense cover the camera app automatically opens. Brilliant feature and much better than the smartphone of today where you have to first get rid of the lock screen then navigate to the camera app .. your opportunity to take a photo could be gone at that stage.

    There probably won't be another phone like that though, because unlike the 8110 it wasn't in any popular film and nobody remembers it to the extent that they saw it fit to reuse the model number for two completely different phones.
    • by Scoth ( 879800 )

      Most phones I've handled for the last ~6 years at least have (or can have) camera app shortcuts right on the lockscreen for taking quick pictures.

      • I can take that convenience a step further... Got an amazon firephone on deep discount when they were discontinued... phone is decent enough, but on the stock firmware, there's a button on the side mapped to the camera software. It is active regardless of if the phone is locked, PINed, whatever... (convenient, huh? After some very long pocket videos and a flat battery, I was finally arsed to throw CM on it.)
    • by Teun ( 17872 )
      To immediately activate the camera of my Oneplus 3 I double press the power button.
      Quite effective and convenient.
    • by Rexdude ( 747457 )

      It has a lense cover, when you slide down the lense cover the camera app automatically opens

      Plenty of Nokias had that feature, including the iconic N73 [wikipedia.org], N82 [wikipedia.org] and N95 [wikipedia.org].

  • And each of them little pop-up cameras will have it's own tiny pop-up flash, aww..
  • How about a sliding cover for the Lightning port? Mine keeps getting clogged with pocket lint, even after periodical blowing out with canned air.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      If it collects lint, that's not a port cover, that's a belly button!

  • Nostril Cam! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@wo[ ]net ['rf.' in gap]> on Monday February 26, 2018 @07:25PM (#56191203)

    One of the biggest complaint about the Dell XPS 13 laptop is the camera is at the bottom of the bezel instead of the top (where it is on most laptops). This results in a camera taking photos at less than flattering angles, notably, your nostrils.

    This camera, being hidden in the keyboard, has the same issue - it points upwards from the computer, leading to everyone seeing your face and being distracted by your nostrils.

    Hope you trimmed your nose hairs, because that's all anyone you're going to be chatting to will be seeing.

  • Some users cover up these cameras with tape or slim gadgets to ensure nefarious players do not remotely activate the cameras.

    Technically, they can still be activated, they just don't send any usable images. The same can not be said for microphones, which record vibration, including the vibration of you typing on a keyboard, and even on your iPhone X surface, which can be used with the other sensor data to infer what you actually typed. Pressure, vibration, gyro, therm, attitude, they're all signals.

    Any microprocessors in your phone can also be used to store data in some way shape or form. Keyboards and mice all have buffers.

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Monday February 26, 2018 @07:56PM (#56191347) Homepage Journal
    That is a pretty cool idea: a camera that slides out on a sliding tray. Another cool idea would be to make a phone where the keypad/keyboard slides out. That way you have the whole screen open, without having to type on an on screen keyboard that is obscuring the bottom part of the display.
  • OOo they're getting features that my first 35mm camera had.
  • Hearkening back to the days of PDAs with a Compact Flash slot on them literally whatever you can support through software, perhaps we should make a move for standardizing camera modules on SDIO? Would be nice to be able to remove/replace the camera at will, as well as to have a full-sized SD slot. The space premium wouldn't be that much worse than any internal camera module i've seen, at least in terms of total volume of the part that must be embedded in the phone... significantly flatter, longer and wider,
  • If you're really worried about your camera being accessed without your knowledge, a small piece of electrical tape over it should take care of the problem, is 100% effective and trustworthy, and doesn't require redesign of your phone, installing any software, upgrading any software, or any technical know-how other than how to operate a pair of scissors and being able to distinguish between the sticky side and the non-sticky side. Also, time-proven, used to work just great on webcams.
  • Just have a bezel wide enough to accommodate those sorts of things. Problem solved.

    Does anyone actually want the entire face to be a display? My hands are not two-dimensional, so I want a bit of space the the left and right. I couldn't care less about space above and below the display. I do, however, care about having a hole cut in to the display. Who actually thinks that's a great idea?

  • Early Nokias (and several other phones) had a small sliding shutter that covered the lens. This isn't new.

  • These camera will be thinner than standard camera. This will make it challenging to create optics. Anything you can do with this camera, you can do better with thicker camera. So unless there is a strong reason to make it popup (which I don't see), it won't fly. Unnecessarily adds a a moving part in otherwise essentially rigid device.

  • For all the hardware I won't put on my network, a Huawei MacBook Pro clone tops the list. Or pretty much anything made by them, for that matter.
  • People couldn't handle a CD/DVD ROM tray without breaking it, so I for one welcome another thing to charge people to fix.

An egghead is one who stands firmly on both feet, in mid-air, on both sides of an issue. -- Homer Ferguson