For three years now, Vivo has been trying to hide the selfie camera. 

It first tried concealing it with a pop-up module inside the body. Then it got rid of the selfie camera altogether. Now it’s bringing back the front lens… even though you can’t see it. 

The Apex 2020 is the Chinese phonemaker’s latest concept device that was supposed to debut at the now-canceled Mobile World Congress. The phone’s 16-megapixel selfie camera lives underneath the screen, unlike on most phones where you’ll usually find a special place for it cut out in a notch or punch hole. But with the Apex 2020, the screen completely covers it. 

The Apex 2020 has no bezels, power port or volume rocker. (Picture: Vivo)

Under-display cameras aren’t a new concept: Samsung, Xiaomi and Vivo’s sister company Oppo are all working on it. But in 2020, we still can’t buy a phone with this feature. The reason? It’s really hard to make it work.

Cameras need light to take a good photo, but a screen naturally blocks light. Vivo the area of the screen above the Apex 2020’s selfie camera lets in six times more light than the rest of the screen. The photo is then optimized with software -- the same way that Oppo handled its concept under-display camera last year.  

With this new concept phone, Vivo is also bringing back some old ideas and expanding on them. 

Just like last year’s Apex, the new phone has no ports or physical buttons. But this time around, Vivo has decided to take advantage of that by spreading the screen around the sides, resulting in what it calls a “120° FullView Edgeless Display.” 

And while last year’s device replaces the charging port with a magnetic charging wire that sticks to the back of the phone, the Apex 2020 is equipped with 60W wireless charging -- much faster than what’s offered by most existing phones. Vivo says it can juice up an empty 2,000 mAh battery in 20 minutes.

The back has a 16-megapixel main camera with 5x-7.5x continuous optical zoom, as well as a 48-megapixel gimbal-stabilized camera. (Picture: Vivo)

Another new feature on the Apex 2020 is a 6.2mm-thick continuous optical zoom system. According to Vivo, two of the phone’s four groups of lenses can move so that you can zoom at a continuous range between 5x and 7.5x with real-time autofocus. The main camera is also attached to a gimbal-like structure that Vivo says will help you take more stable videos. 

If you’re interested, though, know that the Apex 2020 is still a concept device. But Vivo product general manager Harry Hong did promise that the company “will continue to put Apex’s innovative technologies into practice.” 

The company does have a track record of turning at least some experimental ideas into actual products. The pop-up camera and under-screen fingerprint sensor from 2018, for instance, eventually made it into the consumer-facing NEX.