This week was one of many firsts. My first trip to India and my first formal introduction to smartphone brand Vivo, whose V3 and V3 Max smartphones marked their global debut here this week.
It’s by no mistake that these phones are unveiled in Mumbai, not New York, or London, or Beijing.
Packed with a pretty impressive feature set, specs to match, not-too-shabby looks, and sub-$300 and $400 price tags, respectively, the V3 and V3 Max are perfectly positioned for the price-sensitive but fiercely demanding Indian market. And for the rest of Southeast Asia where the phones are also slated to go on sale later this month.
The idea of a budget-friendly, premium smartphone isn’t necessarily a novel idea. Other manufacturers have built one before, but in the space, only a few have found success. To be fair, in a world where you get what you pay for, it isn’t easy to deliver a premium experience for less. But if that’s what these phones are intended to do, the Vivo V3 and V3 Max are solid efforts.
IN THIS CORNER
Like many high-end phones this year, both phones are fashioned from aluminum. The V3 Max is phablet-sized, 5.5 inches, and available in gold. Its little brother, the V3, is 5 inches, also available in gold. And because pink is the new black, rose gold also.
Apart from the size difference, everything else is aesthetically similar: white backside antenna bands; sides that are flat and angular; and a scratch-proof Gorilla Glass display that tapers off nicely on all corners. They’re not the best-looking phones we’ve seen this year, but they’re good enough to hold their own against the best of them.
The same can be said of their spec sheet. The V3 and V3 Max don’t come with the most high-end of specs, but you won’t feel like you’ve compromised either. The V3 Max, in particular, has the latest Snapdragon 652 processor and should have enough power to make even serious smartphone gamers happy. In the day I used it around Mumbai, it got the job done, and kept this demanding user satisfied.
Vivo claims its new phones are, “faster than faster.” And while someone should be fired over that silly slogan, the phones are indeed fast.
Camera startup time is under a second (0.7 seconds), and so is autofocus (0.2).
Battery charging times are fast, too. In our tests, it took just 80 minutes to get the V3 Max’s 3000mAh battery from 0 to 90 percent using the bundled charger.
But the most impressive speed stat is clocked by the fingerprint scanner, probably the fastest we’ve seen on a smartphone to date. You tap on the sensor on the back of the phone and the screen instantly lights up in an unlocked state.
Vivo differentiates both phones from each other by making the bigger model better. The V3 Max has a more powerful processor, more memory, a higher-resolution display, and a bigger battery. It’s a shame actually, because the 5-inch rose gold V3 Max is a beauty. But unless you have a distaste for phablets, I’d spend extra for the V3 Max.
Both phones come with only 32GB storage, but if that’s not enough, there’s also a hybrid card slot where you can pop in a microSD card for up to 128GB more storage. That storage slot also doubles as a nano SIM slot, so if you don’t need the extra memory, you can have a dual-SIM phone.
I like that the other SIM slot takes micro SIMs, that way when I’m traveling I have a little more flexibility when choosing a local prepaid SIM card.
Apart from giving the V3 and V3 Max snappy cameras, Vivo’s also made sure both phones have cameras that punch above their weight. I was pleasantly surprised with shots taken using the phone’s 13-megapixel main camera; HDR mode worked great, and if you want a little more control, there’s also full manual mode. Browse through our slideshow for sample photos.
The 8-megapixel selfie camera wasn’t overlooked either. Focal length is wide enough to fit up to 4 people in a shot, but not too wide to cause any distortion. There’s also a host of beautification modes, including a set of makeup filters. Yep! One tap blush and/or gloss.
Both phones run Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box. A bit disappointing considering the latest version of Android called Marshmallow has been available for months now.
Vivo’s custom take on Android is called FunTouch OS, a highly customizable, but toned down version of Android. The interface is clean and elegant, and in may ways closer to iOS. There is no app drawer, and like on the iPhone, you summon the tools menu (on iOS its called Command Center) by swiping up from the bottom of the screen.
One tool of note is called S-Capture, that apart from screen recordings also allows you to capture extra long screenshots of web pages or chat transcripts. A similar feature is also available on the high-end Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
Indian pricing for the Vivo V3 and V3 Max is Rs 17,980 (P12,500 or $270) and Rs 23,980 (P16,700 or $360), respectively.
For the price of the V3 Max, you could get the Xiaomi Mi 5, which offers top-of-the-line specs and superior design. But that phone is only officially available in India and China via limited online channels. Also in that price range is the slightly older One Plus 2, if you can somehow manage to secure the invite needed to be eligible to purchase the phone. Crazy, I know!
When both phones hit retail stores in India and China on April 15th, and Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines Thailand, and Vietnam before the end of the month, Vivo will have a leg up over its competitors because you’ll be able to walk into a store and buy one, when you want one. If only the company adjusted pricing by $100 US, they’d make an even stronger case as one of the best mid-range phones today.