If you are a soccer fan, you should have heard of Vivo, the official smartphone sponsor for FIFA World Cup 2018. Globally, it’s the fifth largest smartphone maker in 2017, trailing behind OPPO. This year, Vivo has announced a lot of innovative design that could further increase the market share. The latest midrange V9 is another affordable smartphone that offers good value and great functions. Its specs are a lot better than the V7+ (minus the Hi-Fi DAC) yet maintaining the similar retail price of S$369.
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The new V9 is updated with the latest mobile features – slim bezels, AI camera, facial unlock, and the controversial notch. The dated but rugged aluminium curved-back runs on the latest Android 8.1, and the Funtouch OS 4.0 is heavily based on Apple iOS, with separate sliding action for control center icons and notification dropdown drawer, and a single home screen. The 19:9 6.3-inch FHD+ screen has a display-to-body ratio of 90%. Like the V7+, the V9 supports 2 nano SIM and 1 microSD card all at once. USB charging port is still using micro USB.
The updated Game Mode keeps users more immersed in their games, allowing the ability to block background notifications, automatically reject calls, or allow whitelisted contacts (like your family). The new picture-in-picture for games feature allow you to respond to messages without leaving the game via pop-up floating windows. The V9 GPU is not powerful enough to deliver smooth frame rates for the more demanding games.
Like other Vivo smartphones, the V9 comes with several smart gesture features that people take for granted, until they find one phone without it. For instance, during an incoming call, you can wave your hands over the top of the phone to answer the call hands-free. Or, when there is incoming call or alarms or timers, the volume will be lowered when a face is detected.
The Snapdragon 626 processor and 3260 mAh battery capacity keeps the phone running efficiently and gets through the workday with a third remaining. However, its aggressive power management results in some essential background apps getting disrupted, for instance, Samsung Gear smartwatches. The simple workaround is to enable the apps for “High Background Power Consumption”. I do encounter instances of touch screen not so responsive at times. In general, the phone does not feel as snappy.
Fitted with AI photography features, the V9’s 24MP front camera and 16MP + 5MP dual rear camera uses AI to improve brightness, colour vibrancy, clarity and dynamic range for scenery. For selfie fanatics, the AI program can apply the ideal algorithm based on the age, sex, skin tone, lighting environment, saving time for post-edits.
White balance is aggressive, correcting indoor lights to clean white tone, but at times turning portrait faces a little too pale rather than glowing warm. But for the target consumer, the V9 camera offers excellent results. AR Stickers appear as one of the shortcut modes on the camera app, allowing convenient application.
Shooting in Portrait bokeh mode blurs the background, but during post-editing, it is possible to adjust the focus area and the blur intensity (simulated aperture), a much-favoured function that Huawei smartphone famously offer. It’s good that V9 does not require the detection of a face before applying the bokeh effect, as some other phones – like Nokia and Oppo – do.
For expert users, the camera supports ultra HD high-res capture, and professional mode to allow manual adjustment of up to 1/2000s and ISO 3200, live histogram display.
The Vivo smartphones have established a certain style in their UI (which is iOS-based) and the camera (which is portrait and selfie-centric). For the selfie-generation, the Vivo offers extraordinary outcomes without the need for laborious editing. For expert users, the camera offers a few functions for greater photoshooting controls. On top of that, the V9 is a slim smartphone with metal rear that offers durability, and a power management system that gets through the day with more than enough battery.
Despite a late-comer in the Singapore market, Vivo is relentless in gaining market share here, and from what I see, there is no lacking in consumer demand. Vivo V9 sells in Singapore at a retail price of S$369 (price updated as of 24 Aug 2018).