Vivo was one of the most head-turning companies in the smartphone space last year, delivering a series of devices with wild, experimental hardware. Now for Vivo’s first major launch of 2019 we have the V15 Pro, a new phone that sees high-end features trickle down to the mid-range mainstream from the company’s Nex flagships. It’s an unusual device without any direct competitors and a spec sheet that’s all over the place.
Lately Vivo’s V series has been a harbinger of screen design trends, with the V9 being one of the first Android phones with a notch and the V11 carrying what might still be the smallest notch yet. The V15, in turn, goes even further with a notchless 6.4-inch OLED display achieved by the reappearance of one of Vivo’s best tricks: the pop-up selfie camera from the original Nex.
This time around, though, that front-facing camera is a lot more formidable. It has a 32-megapixel sensor, which even at its pixel-binning 8-megapixel default setting marks a big improvement over the pokey 5-megapixel unit in the Nex. Around the back, meanwhile, there’s a three-camera array including a 48-megapixel main sensor (shooting 12-megapixel photos by default), an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor.
The three rear cameras are arranged side by side in a section of the phone that also houses the pop-up selfie camera, and the result is one heck of a camera bump. I actually think it looks kind of cool to have so many cameras next to each other, though, and it doesn’t really break up the phone’s design.
The bump does draw attention to the words AI TRIPLE CAMERA, however, and Vivo hasn’t held itself back when it comes to applying the AI branding to camera features. There’s an AI Super Night Scene, AI Super Wide-Angle Camera, and AI Body Shaping; the last one is like Vivo’s AI Face Beauty but for “creating a slimmer waistline, enhanced bustline, or longer legs.” I haven’t tried that yet.
The V15 Pro is the first phone we’ve seen to be built around Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 675 processor, which was announced shortly after the 710 and, confusingly, outperforms it on paper despite being in a lower tier. We’re not a hardcore benchmarking site for various reasons, but I ran a couple of quick tests just out of personal curiosity, and the results were impressive — often trading blows with flagships from a year or two ago. While I wouldn’t necessarily use stats like this as part of a buying decision, as benchmarks don’t give much indication of real-world use, it does seem clear that the 675’s newer Cortex-A76 cores are going to offer extremely solid performance for the mid-range segment. That said, the first flagship Snapdragon 855 phones will be announced this week, which should put the 675’s performance into perspective.
Vivo pioneered in-display fingerprint sensors, and they’re continuing to get better. The V15 Pro has a fifth-generation component that has worked very quickly and reliably for me, though not vastly more so than the already-great implementation on the Nex Dual Display. You can also use the selfie camera for face unlock, which sees it pop up and down quickly in a single motion, but it won’t be as secure as fingerprint authentication.
Elsewhere the V15 Pro has a 3,700mAh battery, 6 or 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, Android 9 Pie, and a headphone jack, all of which helps make for a solid upper-midrange phone. Except for one thing: the inexplicable use of Micro USB. There is a dual-engine fast charger included in the box, but in a world where Xiaomi is shipping $150 phones with USB-C ports, I really can’t see why Vivo insists on continuing to deprive its customers of the joys of reversible cables — especially as the company continues to ignore wireless charging altogether.
(If I’m missing something here, and you’re a potential customer of this phone who is actually glad it has Micro USB, please do get in touch! I’m sure Vivo has its reasons.)
Aside from its unfortunate choice of charging port, the V15 Pro is looking like a very strong device for its segment and a typically quirky way to start the year for Vivo. Who’d have thought that mid-range smartphones would kill bezels and notches before Micro USB? What a time to be alive.
The V15 Pro will launch in India and other key markets for Vivo, with pricing to be announced by region. It starts at Rs 28,990 in India, or about $400.