Chinese smartphone manufacturer Vivo seems to have taken a lead in the smartphone industry by coming up with innovations to address the legacy issues faced by devices of the current generation, including the premium phones. After launching in India the first in-display fingerprint sensor-based smartphone, the Vivo X21, the company has now brought another technologically farsighted device, the Vivo Nex.
With screen becoming the centre for innovation in smartphones, it is about time most of the hardware traditionally kept on phones’ front – ambient light sensor, earpiece, front camera and notification LED, for instance – were moved elsewhere. Xiaomi, another Chinese smartphone manufacturer, has been striving to beat the puzzle: Its latest iteration of bezel-less smartphone, the Mi Mix 2S, relocates most of the front components to new places, but they remain on the front and somewhat obstruct the phone’s all-screen outlook.
The Vivo Nex is a step further in the all-screen smartphone game. The phone boasts a bezel-less design on the front, with no visible obstructions like notch or front camera on the lower chin. Instead, the phone brings a mechanical motorised module with the front camera that pops up from the top, and the fingerprint sensor is placed under the screen. It is the second Vivo smartphone in India to boast this technology. The company claims the Nex will be the next wave of innovation in the smartphone industry. But, how innovative is it really? Let’s find out:
Vivo Nex. Photo: Vivo official websiteThe Nex features a classic Vivo design, but in a bigger and taller form factor. The phone’s front gets a major redesign in terms of looks. But the back looks bland with a reflective glass prone to fingerprints. Speaking of the front, it is covered by a 6.59-inch screen that stretches from edge to edge, thereby allowing a bezel-less design; there are negligible bezels on the top and sides, and a thin one at the bottom. The front looks neat, thanks to the all-screen visage, with no notch, camera or any other visible hardware component.
Holding the glass build is a metallic chassis, which houses the motorised camera module on the top, along with a 3.5mm audio port and secondary microphone. The bottom side of the chassis covers the charging-cum-data transfer USB type-C port, along with a dualSIM tray, speaker and primary microphone. The power key and volume rocker keys are placed on the right side, whereas the left side sports a dedicated key for Google lens.
Overall, it is just the pop-up front camera module that looks interesting and adds to the phone’s design quotient. Otherwise, the phone has a bland look with a big stature, which some might find difficult to hold and operate.
The phone’s display is a feature that has seen major reforms, with innovations based on users’ understanding of the term. The Nex sports a mammoth 6.59-inch screen of fullHD+ resolution stretching from edge to edge on three sides, making it one of the nearly bezel-less phones.
The screen uses a super AMOLED panel sourced from Samsung. It looks vivid and has ample brightness to stay legible under direct sunlight. However, the screen looks pixelated due to its fullHD+ resolution covering the 6.59-inch screen estate. The screen-touch calibration is also not up to the mark and the phone at times shows inconsistencies with the touch input.
Otherwise, the screen is an eye-candy if you mean to watch multimedia content, such as videos and photo galleries. Playing games on such a large screen format is fun, too, but holding the phone without accidentally touching the screen, especially the top area, is a task. The screen also is home to the phone’s fingerprint sensor, which sits right at the bottom. The screen shows an illuminated fingerprint sensor area as part of always-on display. It glows at maximum brightness as you put finger on it to unlock the screen. However, the process of setting up the sensor and registering the fingerprint to unlock the screen is sluggish and tiresome at times.
Vivo Nex. Photo: Vivo official websiteThe Nex sports a 12-megapixel primary camera of an f/1.8 aperture, coupled with a 5MP secondary depth sensing lens of an f/2.4 on the back. The front camera, in the pop-up module, features an 8MP f/2.0 lens. The primary 12+5MP camera on the Nex is good, but not of the flagship breed. It takes detailed shots in daylight conditions and has ample built-in modes to explore and experiment. However, the low-light imaging is the camera’s weak area and it struggles to fix focus, identify colours and capture object details.
The 8MP selfie camera is a classic Vivo offering that takes bright shots with an overexposed background. It also softens skin tones and suppresses details, which might not be liked by many selfie enthusiasts. However, turning on the selfie camera and taking a shot is a fresh new experience, thanks to the motorised module. The module pops-up with a sci-fi tone in background and goes inside the chassis with a similar sound effect. Playing around the selfie camera is fun and the motorised module gets more attention than the photos it captures.
The Nex is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 system-on-chip, paired with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal memory. The phone boots Android Oreo 8.1 covered under the company’s Funtouch OS 4 user interface. The phone’s performance is smooth, with no visible signs of lag or stutter. Processor-intensive tasks like multitasking work seamlessly. The RAM optimisation is moderate and the phone manages to keep apps active in the background most of the times. The apps’ launch time and reopen time from recent apps list is also satisfactory.
While the phone’s overall performance is good, it gets subdued by Vivo’s Funtouch 4 user interface, which takes inspiration from the iOS interface, except in the ease of use. The user interface is crammed with bloatware and features redesigned notification and quick settings area. While most Android-based smartphones use swipe-down gesture to open notification-cum-quick settings, the Vivo Nex uses swipe down just for notifications and swipe up from bottom to access quick settings menu. The UI is confusing and looks like a cheap iteration of the iOS.
The Vivo Nex is a premium flagship smartphone with industry-first pop-up selfie camera and under-the-screen fingerprint sensor. Priced at Rs 44,990, it may not be out-of-the-world innovation but sets the tone for future devices with all-screen bezel-less front. The phone’s performance is good, but the native user interface and cameras subdue to an extent its overall flagship appeal.