India

Vivo U20 review: The most powerful budget phone right now

More capable than its Xiaomi and Realme counterparts

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In late September of 2019, vivo announced a new budget smartphone called the vivo U10. It was powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 — the same processor found on two of the most popular budget phones at that time: the Redmi Note 8 and the Realme 5.

Vivo’s entry into that very competitive price segment was a pretty good success. Just right after, competition came up with newer models at a slightly higher price segment and so did vivo with the slightly more premium U20.

With Snapdragon 675 running under the hood, the vivo U20 has a slight edge over its competition. But is there more to this phone? Here’s our full review.

Ordinary but solid design

With a 6.53-inch display, the Vivo U20 is a big phone that doesn’t feel bulky. It’s worth noting that vivo went with a full HD+ panel on the U20 instead of the HD+ panel found on the U10. The bump in resolution is much appreciated, as well as the wide viewing angles. The display is bright enough for outdoors or sunny days.

The front of the phone has an odd ridge against the curved frame, making it feel a little uncomfortable when you’re holding it, but it shouldn’t be an issue if you use the bundled case.

Its glossy back catches fingerprints quite easily. You’ll have to keep wiping it clean if you’re particular about smudges and grime, so the case definitely comes in handy.

You’ll find the vivo branding in landscape orientation, with the triple camera module and LED flash along the same line. There’s also the rear mounted fingerprint scanner. It’s smaller than what I’m used to and is placed a bit too high for comfortable use, but it works well and works fast.

On the right side of the phone are the power and volume buttons, and on the left is the hybrid SIM card tray for two nano SIM cards or one SIM card and one microSD card. At the bottom a 3.5mm headphone jack, loudspeaker grille, microphone, and sadly, a microUSB port.

The Vivo U20 is available in two colors: Racing Black and and Blaze Blue. The unit we have is Racing Black.

Capable gaming phone at such a good price

The vivo U20’s internals are actually pretty impressive. The Snapdragon 675 is a pretty powerful processor, especially at this price point. It’s able to handle multi-tasking and gaming with no lag or issues at all. It’s interesting to see vivo come out with it at the same price point as the Redmi Note 8 and Realme 5, which are powered by the much less capable Snapdragon 665.

Coupled with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, gaming with the U20 is a good experience. I played PUBG Mobile on the high preset with graphics set to HD, and frame rate set to high; and hey, I had zero issues — no lag, no stutters.

Just like other phones running on Snapdragon 675, it does get a little warm when you’re playing games after about 20 or so minutes.

Ultra Game mode lets you block incoming notifications and automatically answer phone calls in hands-free mode when you’re playing games. There’s also an off-screen Autoplay feature which lets you run a game even with the display switched off.

Nifty software features you’ll either love or hate

The vivo U20 runs Funtouch OS 9.2 on top of Android 9 Pie out of the box. There a little bit of bloatware pre-installed like Gaana, Amazon, Opera, and a couple more, but you can easily uninstall most of them.

FunTouch OS is something you’ll either love or hate depending on your preference. If you’ve used it before you’ll be familiar with the slight oddities. Otherwise there are a few things you’ll need to get used to that’s not found on other Android smartphones.

For example, you’ll need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the quick toggles which is the exact opposite of the action on every other Android smartphone. If that’s not to your liking, you change it to a swipe down from the upper right corner of the phone — similar to how it is on iOS.

There’s also vivo’s smart assistant Jovi which can recognize products you point the camera at. It can also remind you to drink water every day so you don’t have to install a third party app. Overall, it’s not really much more useful than Google Assistant.

A few features I like are raise-to-wake, the ability to launch apps by drawing alphabets on the lockscreen, and a Motorbike mode. There’s also dark mode and gesture navigation.

Average camera performance

The vivo U20 has a triple camera setup: a 16MP primary camera with a Sony IMX499 sensor, 8MP ultra wide angle lens and a 2MP macro lens. Up front, there’s a 16MP selfie camera.

Vivo’s camera app is hasn’t changed much recently. It has a variety of modes, including night mode, portrait mode, live photo, AR stickers, along with the usual timelapse and panorama. There’s also a pro mode for those who like to tweak their camera settings.

 

The vivo U20 is quick to focus and handles exposure well. Daytime images look pretty good in the gallery app. You’ll notice that they do suffer in terms of details when you zoom into them. There’s a tiny bit of grain that sweeps into each photo as well.

Portrait photos has pretty good edge detection. Photos come out with a good amount of detail and a natural level of bokeh. There’s also a separate bokeh mode where you can adjust the level of blur. The results are pretty good, too.

The ultra wide angle camera suffers from the same distortion at the edges and lack of details that we see on other phones at this price range.

Low light photos aren’t great unfortunately. There’s a real lack of details and a lot of grain. The dedicated night mode does help get brighter images, but they aren’t that much better. There’s also no image stabilization so you’ll want to stay really still if you’re using the night mode to take photos.

Great battery life

The vivo U20 is powered by a massive 5,000 mAh battery, and that translates to great battery life. You can use this phone for a day and a half on a single charge before you’ll need to reach for the charger.

On a day of heavy usage, with a bit of gaming, a couple shots on the camera, and the usual bits of social media and Whatsapp, I still had plenty of battery life percentage left when I got home at the end of the day.

Despite the gigantic battery, charging the U20 doesn’t take too long either. The bundled 18W Dual-Engine fast charger got the phone up from zero to over 30 percent in half an hour, reaching about 60 to 70 percent in one hour. A charge to 100 percent takes about an hour and 45 minutes.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

No one expected vivo to come out of nowhere and suddenly be this strong of a contender in this aggressive entry-level price segment. This is a company that lately have been pumping out more expensive smartphones, and what we have here is an entry level smartphone that is pretty premium for its price.

Its powerful processor and great battery life are great; if only the camera were better. And if we are to nitpick, we would have loved to not have seen a microUSB port on this phone.

If you’re on a budget and are looking for the most powerful phone in the INR 10,990 price range (US$ 155), the Vivo U20 is your best option right now.

India

Phone makers want India to declare smartphones as ‘essential’ services

India’s smartphone market has come to a grinding halt

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India is on a 21-day lockdown until 15 April due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the government is allowing movement of only “essential” commodities. The complete closure means there are no smartphone retail stores open for business and online marketplaces too can’t ship smartphones.

In response, an apex industry body of the mobile and electronics industry in the country called India Cellular and Electronics Association (ICEA) has written to the government. It’s urging the authorities to allow online sales of mobile phones, laptops, computers and tablet PCs. Furthermore, it wants servicing and maintenance of these products to also be categorized as “essential”.

The letter has been addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to relax the definition of essential. It’s evident that smartphone makers have taken a huge hit since they’re unable to sell a single phone for a period of at least 21 days.

According to CounterPoint research’s latest Q4 2019 report, the country saw shipments of 158 million smartphone units. India is the world’s second-largest smartphone market. So it’s natural that a 21-day lockdown would drastically affect brands who are now used to launching a new phone every other month.

India’s appetite for smartphones is unmatchable. Even supply-chain masters like Xiaomi struggle to keep up with the demand and their now-independent brand POCO had to rely on a flash sale model to ship the POCO X2. The demand is unprecedented. Backed by the cheapest data availability in the world.

ICEA, however, clarified that it does support the lockdown to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Moreover, it’s asking for permission to start online sales in Tier 1 and 2 cities, while allowing the opening of stores, with safety measures, in Tier 3 and 4 cities.

What’s the current definition of “essential”?

Considering the government notification, essential services include goods like groceries, vegetables, and medicines. These commodities can continue moving around like they used to. The lockdown means citizens are expected to stay indoors all the time, companies have been told to vacate offices and completely shift to “work from home” model.

Only a few personnel are allowed to leave and venture outside. This includes law enforcement personnel, municipal workers, healthcare professionals, and banking or financial services staff to ensure the backbone of the country isn’t shut down.

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India

Xiaomi to donate N95 masks, protective suits to fight Coronavirus

We’re all in this together

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Smartphone maker Xiaomi has announced it’ll donate N95 masks and protective suits to state governments, hospitals, and police forces this week in India. Coronavirus has spread like wildfire across the globe and institutions are rushing to counter the fatal virus.

The N95 masks will be distributed with Karnataka, Punjab and Delhi governments, respectively. While hazardous materials suits will be given to a few government hospitals like AIIMS and St. Johns in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Manu Kumar Jain, the Global Vice President of Xiaomi and Managing Director of Xiaomi India said they’re closing working with authorities to distribute these resources. The smartphone and television maker has become a household brand in the country and has been at the forefront of fighting the crisis.

Further, the company has also canceled business travels, external meetings, and even asked their office employees to work from home and maintain social distancing. I’ve personally been to the Xiaomi HQ in Bengaluru recently and can confirm that their standards of precaution are extremely high. Instead of shaking hands, we now do a traditional Indian “namaste” to great each other.

All Xiaomi authorized service centers are ensuring that there are not more than 4 customers at any given time through an online token system. Additionally, all Mi Home staff also wears masks at all times and keeps their hands sanitized for walk-in customers.

A couple of weeks ago, Jain urged India’s corporates to divert advertising and marketing funds to fight the crisis. India’s popular cricket tournament IPL (Indian Premier League) has been canceled and companies are known for spending hundreds of millions on sponsorships. He urged companies to do the right thing.

Xiaomi has a 28 percent market share in India’s smartphone market and has been leading the segment for almost two years now. They’ve canceled all launch events to avoid social gathering and even the Redmi Note 9 Pro series was launched via a live stream.

SEE ALSO: How to disinfect your tech from the coronavirus


As general rules, the CDC or The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed these to help with preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stay home when sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces

Coronavirus: Where to donate

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Explainers

Here’s how India is trying to be China in the smartphone game

The world’s second-largest smartphone market has more to offer

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China is practically the world’s production powerhouse. And India wants to follow the same path. India’s Central government has approved three schemes to enable large scale electronics manufacturing and attract fresh investments worth almost INR 50,000 crore (US$ 6.3 billion) in the sector.

The government aims to provide companies a production-linked incentive of 4 percent to 6 percent on incremental sales for locally made goods over a period of five years. This not only includes mobile phone manufacturing but also assembly, testing, marking and packaging.

The other policy offers a 25 percent financial incentive for capital expenditure that goes towards “the manufacturing of goods that constitute the supply chain of an electronic product”. With these incentives, the government is optimistic that companies will come to India, contribute to progressing infrastructure, and make export-quality goods.

Inauguration of Samsung’s Noida Factory in India

According to their estimates, domestic value addition for mobile phones is expected to witness 35 to 40 percent jump by 2025, from the current 20-25 percent.

So far, companies have focused on assembling equipment like smartphones in India. A huge chunk of the components are still imported. These policy changes could act as a stimulant to locally source electrical components, semiconductors, as well as develop production clusters.

Bangalore and Hyderabad are infamous for their IT Tech Parks that house thousands of employees from IT service firms like TCS, Infosys, Accenture, and many more. Similarly, the government wants to create production clusters that can develop an eco-system of their own. These clusters can create a seamless supply chain when paired with proper land, air, and shipment infrastructure.

The timing of the announcement is what matters the most. China is embroiled in a trade war with the US for quite some time and we’ve seen how a giant like Huawei got caught in the cross-fire. Companies are skeptical about depending too much on China for production and sourcing. Hence, countries like Vietnam have witnessed a huge inflow of foreign investment from the likes of Nintendo, Foxconn, and even Samsung.

India is very much like Vietnam. A developing economy that’s on the look-out for foreign investment and enhances local production capabilities. This not only helps the government increase its tax revenue via taxation, but also provides employment. Considering the current Coronavirus crisis, it’s obvious that these plans may not materialize soon. But, as soon as the storm is gone, companies would want to find an alternative to China.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi with Apple CEO, Time Cook

It’s reported that the alleged low-cost iPhone from Apple has been delayed due to the pandemic. Irrespective of the current health crisis, Apple has been trying to ramp up its local production in India and has done so, cautiously. India is the world’s second-largest smartphone market and every brand wants a piece of the cake. Realme and Xiaomi have been intensely fighting for supremacy, Samsung continues to lead via the offline market, and OPPO and Vivo have flooded all commercial banners with their products.

Xiaomi currently has seven plants in India, major ones being at Sri City and Sriperumbedur. It also makes its televisions in Tirupathi. Manu Kumar Jain, Vice President, Xiaomi, and Managing Director, Xiaomi India said that 95 percent of Xiaomi’s phones are made in India with 65 percent of a phone’s value being sourced locally. The government has been successful in compelling companies to make in India because it consistently kept on raising import duty on smartphones.

Samsung already has the world’s largest mobile phone factory in India that assembles top-tier variants, ready for export. We don’t know the volume it churns out right now, but their long-term investment is a precedent for other brands to take the market seriously. OnePlus has a research facility in Hyderabad where it makes software products intended for the Indian market.

Samsung’s factory in Noida, India

According to industry ICEA, the NOIDA region (a part of Delhi NCR) has close to 80 mobile manufacturing factories that provide employment to approximately 50,000 people. It’s normal today to see companies release press notes announcing new facilities across the country that’ll employ thousands of people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the “Make in India” campaign five years ago to encourage foreign companies to invest and build in India. While its effects are debatable in a few industries, there’s no doubt that the mobile industry has picked up exponentially. State governments of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu have played a major role in establishing these clusters that symbolize progress.

Engineers are widely available in India, the country has developed multiple ports under the private-public model, and numerous airports are under construction. India is already the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, but the gap is huge. It’s about briding this. Obviously, the scale at which China produces is unmatchable. But that cannot undermine India’s efforts to be more relevant on the global stage. From a purely consumption-based economy, it’s slowly trying to turning into a production backed state.

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