Technophile

The pop-up camera makes it to a sub-₹30,000 phone

Mala Bhargava | Updated on March 07, 2019 Published on March 06, 2019

The Vivo V15 Pro brings flagship features into mid-range territory but includes compromises that make it an over-priced mix

Features that were until recently considered flagship level are now popping up — literally — on smartphones that cost twice as less. But there’s a catch. You win some and you lose some. Vivo’s V15 Pro has a lot going for it, but in the end it’s a mixed bag of extremes

The recently launched device is a good looking phone. On the back is a gradient, in keeping with phone-fashion these days, which starts with a shade of indigo, flowing on to a blue-green and going back to indigo from one corner to the other. The ‘Topaz Blue’ variant we have for review reminds me of the colours on a peacock’s tail, in a way. There’s a Ruby Red version, which I’m told some find a bit garish. The back of the phone gives it an eye-catching premium look, all glossy and shiny. When you get past the brilliant colour of the back, you see a big Vivo logo sitting in the center and an even bigger camera array to one side. So you know right off that the camera looks promising.

This is all in order until you touch the phone and tap around and figure out it’s made of polycarbonate and not glass. You may not have a philosophical quarrel with this fact, except that the device is priced at a point where you do get glass-backed phones and that’s tricky. If you’re okay with plastic, you should be paying for plastic. No one seeing the phone is likely to tell the difference, and the device’s back will survive falls, but you know what you know and if not the back, the front could suffer damage on a fall, especially as no Gorilla Glass protection is mentioned in the specs.

The V15 Pro is quite comfortable to hold. The edges on the back have enough curve to them and the phone is narrow enough to make it easy to grip. It’s still slippery but not as much as some others and there’s a case provided in the box.

 

Smile please

It’s when you turn on the phone and look at its screen, that you meet some of the best highlights of this device. It’s mercifully notch-less and doesn’t even use a punch hole for the front camera. Instead, what the V15 has is a pop-up front camera, used previously on Vivo’s Nex. It’s a 32 MP shooter that slides out from the top with a nice Star Trek sound when you trigger the front camera.

Initially, with the Nex, there was worry all around that the motor and moving parts would be vulnerable to wear-and-tear and would get easily damaged. But subsequently, one didn’t hear of instances of this happening. Vivo tests the mechanism for 3,00,000 instances of popping up, which should be enough selfies for anyone for a while — not that this is a cut-off after which the pop-up will definitely go bad. The company says they have also tested the mechanism for the ability to bear weight, so that they could build it strong enough not to snap off if something falls on it when the pop-up is in its enabled mode. The camera slides back in when you exit the camera or the selfie mode.

The front camera is much like many others, 32 MP or not. You don’t really get 32 MP worth of detail in each shot. The pop-up camera works hard to make you fairer, slimmer, smoother, etc, even when the Beauty enhancement is turned down to zero. If you don’t have a philosophical dispute with being made to look artificially improved, but if you prefer sharp selfies that show every detail on your face, this isn’t the camera for you.

Fine display

It’s the pop-up camera that makes it possible for the 6.3-inch screen to be free of elements including bezels, notches, and camera cut-outs. And it’s nice that there are no distractions because it’s a rather fine display — crisp and colour-rich because it’s a 2340 x 1080 Super AMOLED. Not for you if you are particular about your displays being entirely realistic, but if you like popping colours, you’ll love this phone’s display. It’s very nice to watch video or movies on it because of the edge-less feel, but you won’t be able to view HD movies from sources like Netflix.

The V15 Pro runs on a new processor, the Snapdragon 675, which it turns out is rather a winner, supporting features that other mid-range processors don’t. This is also the processor that Xiaomi’s recently launched Redmi Note 7 Pro works with. The V15 has 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage including a memory card slot that’s separate from the dual-SIM slots. It performs very well and is quite lag-free except that there’s more or less no one who finds its customised interface, FunTouch, any fun at all. There are, as usual, too many preloaded apps and the phone navigation is just plain annoying in its desperation to be distinctive.

The primary camera, while able to shoot in 48 MP and much touted to do so, will rarely be useful or work well in most conditions. Instead it really works in 12 MP and 8 MP. The device uses Samsung sensors and has the usual portrait, panorama and other modes. Its Night mode does light up a scene somewhat but looks quite unnatural. Happily, it also includes a wide-angle lens, always fun to work with.

When we sum up overall, we find more than the usual mix of great features like the pop-up camera, a pretty design and the new 675 processor rubbing shoulders with total turn-offs like a plastic build and an un-loveable custom skin and a micro-USB port. The V15 Pro ends up getting into the same territory as the Poco F1, Redmi Note 7 Pro and even cheaper versions of the OnePlus 6T, which doesn’t help it one bit.

 

Price: ₹28,990

Pros: Good looking and well-designed, good screen, efficient and cool pop-up camera, fast in-display sensor, good battery life, powerful new mid-range processor, Android 9 Pie

Cons: Too expensive for a plastic build, inexplicable micro-USB charging port, FunTouch OS is no fun

Published on March 06, 2019
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor