We tried the Vivo X Fold, the foldable smartphone that makes Samsung almost dated
Marketed only in China, the Vivo X Fold has the particularity of having a much more modern design than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3. It is also the first foldable smartphone with fingerprint sensors under the screen.
A timid time, Chinese brands are gradually getting into foldable smartphones. After leaving Samsung almost alone in the market (Huawei was also among the first but its ambitions were hampered by American sanctions), Oppo, Xiaomi, Motorola, Honor and Vivo little by little embark on this adventure aimed at one to create a new category in a somewhat dormant market. We recently tried the Oppo Find N on Numerama, a miniature version of Samsung’s oddly successful offering.
On July 26, Vivo France offered us to play with the Vivo X Fold, a folding smartphone reserved for China. We were afraid to see just a simple copy of the Samsung model and finally came across a very promising proposal.
A slightly less experimental design
Why is the Vivo X Fold so compelling? Its first feature is that it doesn’t look so much like a foldable smartphone. Forget the massive left edge of Samsung’s smartphone, the Vivo X Fold looks like a regular phone in smartphone mode. Of course, its thickness (1.46 cm) and weight (311 g) show its true nature, but its screen is perfectly symmetrical. This is enough to remove the “prototype” aspect of other folding mobiles, which is inevitably pleasant to use.
By the way, like Oppo, Vivo has opted for a somewhat special hinge, with a crease in two places and not just one. This makes it possible to have a perfectly flat device when closed, while the Samsung Fold > is with one side thicker than the other. This also reinforces the impression of using a better end product.
When unfolded, the Vivo X Fold transforms into a small 8.03-inch tablet with an ultra-thin glass screen, just like Samsung. The creases are invisible when the screen is in front of your eyes, but still far too much once the brightness is a bit low. In any case, we do not change our opinion on the contributions of such a format. A small tablet of this size is super handy for watching videos or reading an article. Vivo may not have invented anything in this aspect compared to the competition, but it manages to adapt perfectly to its best rivals. It must be said that its supplier is Samsung Display, which is therefore perfectly logical.
Finally, since the Chinese markets love to make boxes, Vivo had the bright idea to get its smartphone approved by the Guinness Book of World Records. For 11 days, a machine folded and unfolded it until it reached 300,000 openings. This makes it the most robust folding device in the world, designed for a service life of 10 years with 80 openings per day. We’re always wary of this type of dates, but they have the benefit of making people smile.
Two ultrasonic screen sensors, the good surprise
Further proof that the Vivo X Fold is a slightly more refined version of what the competition is doing is that it’s the first foldable smartphone to feature under-screen fingerprint sensors. All competitors hide one in their side button for technical reasons (it’s difficult to fit a sensor under a screen like that of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, which is protected by thin layers of metal). Vivo is the first manufacturer to find a solution.
How does he achieve that? It just uses a slightly different technology: ultrasonic, while most brands use optics (the screen glows brightly, which allows a small camera to see through). Today, only Samsung uses ultrasound in its high-end Galaxy S, and Vivo is the second manufacturer to try it.
The Vivo X Fold has two ultrasonic fingerprint sensors (one on the small screen, one on the large). You unlock the device with a light tap, no matter how you use it. Ultrasound has another advantage: it works with wet fingers. Of course it also costs more. That’s because Vivo won’t be producing many X-Folds that it can afford.
Still in the “Vivo makes no compromises” category, the camera module on the back of the X Fold is unprecedented for a folding smartphone. Forget the sensors of previous generations, chosen to save as much space as possible, Vivo makes no concessions. On the back of his smartphone there are four cameras, a main sensor of 50 Mpix, an ultra wide angle, an optical zoom x2 and a periscopic zoom x5. A score worthy of the ultra-high-end that no folding screen device has yet had.
Admittedly, that doesn’t make the back of the Vivo X Fold very understated. But for the absolute geek who wants a foldable smartphone and doesn’t want to make any compromises, only Vivo ticks all the boxes (or almost, certain features like the gimbal found on its other smartphones are absent).
The software, the only weak point
You got it, at the hardware level, the Vivo X Fold crushes everyone. Despite its relatively compressed price of 8,999 yuan (or 1,300 euros, but taxes must be added), the Chinese brand’s folding smartphone undoubtedly has the most complete technical sheet on the market. That makes us even more excited for Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 4, which will be announced on August 10th. Will the Korean let the Chinese eat him if he’s their supplier?
At the software level, however, it’s clear that Samsung is still way ahead of the competition even today. If Vivo France makes the argument that the device uses a Chinese version of the operating system, we did not find any settings for the folding screen on the device, while Samsung offers many experimental features to improve the experience (e.g. place an application only on the Half of the screen to use your Z Fold like a small laptop).
Without those features, the Vivo X Fold is just a big smartphone (or small tablet, depending on your perspective), not a new category unto itself. This undoubtedly justifies its current international unavailability. Only Samsung knows how to make practical folding smartphones every day.
Anyhow, it seems obvious to us that 2023 will be a pivotal year for this category, with the launch of several products, this time internationally. Let’s hope prices fall, which is a bad start given inflation. Next meeting on August 10th with the 2022 generation of Samsung’s Galaxy Z.