Hole punch cameras seemed to be the compromise when it comes to bezels and selfie cameras, but under-display technology is advancing to replace it. Samsung just launched its first under-display camera on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and, despite the massive price tag, it’s just plain awful.

The quality of the under-display camera on the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is immediately apparent from the moment you turn on the device. Sitting up towards the top right corner of the display, there’s this obvious octagon of pixels that don’t fit in with the rest of the display. That’s to “hide” the 4MP selfie camera contained underneath.

In person, the flaw is obvious and distracting. Honestly, I find it to be much more intrusive than the hole punch that was on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 because it draws attention to itself instead of letting your brain fill in the gap.

Now, I’ve only have the Fold 3 for a couple of hours, so I can’t fully predict how I’ll get used to seeing this on the display. Already I can say with confidence that I don’t feel the trade-off was worthwhile. The only advantage here comes in movies and games. In day-to-day tasks, the look here is the same if not worse than the typical hole punch.

Normally the argument against under-display cameras is the quality of the camera itself. Shots just don’t look as sharp or detailed through the screen, and that’s definitely true here. However, this is also the least important camera on the Fold 3. As someone who’s used a Fold 2 for nearly a year, I can say that I’ve used that camera less than 10 times, and they were all for video calls. If I’m taking a selfie, I’m using the outer display and camera because it’s more comfortable to hold up, and that one isn’t compromised at all on this new device.

What is compromised is the display, which is the entire selling point of the Galaxy Z Fold 3. While the under-display camera on Fold 3 might let the camera blend in a little better in some cases, in others it’s not just a distracting blob of pixels.

Under-display cameras are neat, but they’re not ready yet. And, frankly, the decision to experiment with this technology on a $1,799 ultra-premium smartphone just baffles me. It didn’t stop my pre-order, but it certainly diminished my enthusiasm quite a bit.

Furthermore, Samsung didn’t need to do this. Complaints about the hole punch last year were rare, and often it was only questioned why there was an internal camera there at all. The status quo would have kept the majority happy and prevented the point of contention that now exists. This phone already folds, it doesn’t need another “wow” point.

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Ben Schoon

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