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Thanks, Lenovo, for including a camera cover on your Smart Display

Lenovo Smart Display
(Image: © Android Central)

Our Verdict

Price: $249.99Bottom line: Lenovo's Smart Display elegantly transitions the Google Assistant onto screens, but it's the elegant design and great sound that make it a clear recommendation.

For

  • Lovely, elegant design
  • High-quality 10-inch display
  • Great sound overall
  • Assistant + screen can be very useful
  • Camera privacy slider should be everywhere

Against

  • Android Things isn't fully baked just yet
  • Lacks Netflix and other big-name Cast target support
  • Better optimized for voice than touch
  • Speaker lacks bass impact

I ordered the Lenovo Smart Display on day one because a digital assistant with its own display is a thing I'm really interested in. Ever since the first crafty DIY'er built the first smart mirror people have thought of ways visual feedback can be integrated with something that gives you some extra information, and a small(ish) screen that can tap into the power of a virtual assistant would make for the ultimate bedside clock. At least until we see a full-size smart mirror for your dresser or chest of drawers, that is.

I thought I'd be able to have what I wanted when Amazon dropped the Echo Show with its 7-inch display and the power of Alexa to tell me the weather, play me a song, or wake me up when I just want to stay in bed. When we got the information and specs I knew I wasn't going to buy one because of one simple reason — you can't turn off the camera.

There is actually a serach engine for hacked webcam feeds and no I am not linking it for you.

Some of us might be OK with a camera on their bedside table. Some might even want a camera beside the bed for one reason or another. I am neither of those persons, and I'm also not going to spend all that money then slap a piece of duct tape over a lens hole or resort to some other less simple plans and call it a day. Ideally, I wanted a model without a camera, but at least I'd need a way to properly shut it down and block it off. Like most of us, I have a phone and a tablet or laptop if I want to make video calls and don't need some Orwellian eyeball watching me while I sleep.

That's why the thing about the Lenovo Smart Display that made me order one is the thing most people don't care about — you can cover the camera and it shunts it out of the system like it was never there.

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It's a simple addition that probably costs more than I want to know to include. But it's also a smart decision, and not just for people like me who are thinking about their nightstand. It seems odd (to me at least) that people are more than happy to share every detail about their personal life with their cell phone carrier or Google or Facebook but freak out over Google Assistant or Alexa and all the details each gleams from our digital data. I chalk it up to the fact that something like Google Home or an Amazon Echo can talk to you so you can't escape seeing how much it knows about you, even though Google and Amazon already had the data to begin with.

Adding a camera to the mix might sound cool when you think about calling someone up and chatting Star Trek style, but soon talk turns to having a camera attached to a company that feeds on your data right in the middle of your living room or kitchen. Or bedroom. Even if you know and understand how these things work, you'll never be able to be 100% sure the camera isn't on and watching. There will be plenty of times you don't want the camera on and watching you when it's inside your home.

So consider this a shout-out to Lenovo for thinking ahead and spending the money to include a feature a lot of folks will appreciate. We're soon going to see plenty more smart display products and I'm hoping this sets a precedent for others — including Amazon for the Echo Show v2 — to follow.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

7 Comments
  • So...is it an actual physical cover that blocks the lens or is it a switch that turns off the camera?
    Only one of those would truly give me peace of mind.
  • It's a physical cover. It's hard to spot, but there's a secret little clue hidden in the article title that points to this...
  • Not very secret when you can see the red cover in the picture.
  • Kind of my point... The title literally has the word "cover". I was doubt that sarcasm thing...
  • I thought that was a red light indicating on/off.
    And depending on the headline isn't always a good idea.
  • I agree. I didn't understand why this wasn't a thing for the Echo Show.
  • A camera cover would be a requirement for me as well. As it is, my wife keeps forgetting to pull the window blinds down when she's getting dressed, so a camera with no cover would surely reveal more than she wanted. As it is, I have a plastic square I place over my laptop camera when I'm not doing Skype or something.