We tried the Vivo X Fold, the foldable smartphone that makes Samsung almost old-fashioned

Marketed only in China, the Vivo X Fold has the distinction of sporting a much more modern design than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3. It is also the first foldable smartphone with under-screen fingerprint sensors.

A shy moment, Chinese brands are gradually getting into foldable smartphones. After leaving Samsung almost alone on the market (Huawei was also among the first, but its ambitions were hampered by American sanctions), Oppo, Xiaomi, Motorola, Honor and Vivo are gradually embarking on this adventure, which has the aim 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 strangely successful proposition.

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 only a simple copy of the Samsung model, we finally came across a very promising proposal.

A slightly less experimental design

Why is Vivo X Fold so addicting? Its first quality is that it doesn’t look much like a foldable smartphone. Forget the huge left edge of the Samsung smartphone, the Vivo X Fold, when in smartphone mode, looks like a regular phone. Sure, its thickness (1.46cm) and weight (311g) reveal its true nature, but its screen is perfectly symmetrical. This is enough to eliminate the “prototype” aspect of other foldable phones, which is necessarily pleasant to use.

In smartphone mode, the Vivo X Fold sports a large 6.53-inch screen. It is thick, but its screen looks normal. // Source: numerama

By the way, like Oppo, Vivo has chosen to use a slightly peculiar hinge, with a fold in two places instead of just one. This allows it to have a perfectly flat device when closed, while the Samsung Fold is>, with one side thicker than the other. Again, this reinforces the impression of using a better finished product.

Opened, the Vivo X Fold transforms into a small 8.03-inch tablet, with an ultra-thin glass screen, like in Samsung. The creases are invisible when the screen is in front of the eyes, but they are still too invisible when the light is a bit low. However, we do not change our mind about the contributions of this format. A small tablet of this size is super handy for watching videos or reading an article. Vivo may not have invented anything about the competition in this respect, but it manages to line up perfectly with its best rivals. It must be said that its supplier is Samsung Display, which is therefore perfectly logical.

Vivo took place
The creases in the center of the screen are clearly visible when the screen is off, luckily we forget them when it is on. // Source: numerama

Finally, since Chinese markets love to make boxes, Vivo had the good idea of ​​having their smartphone approved by the Guinness Book of Records. For 11 days, a machine folded and unfolded it, until it reached 300,000 openings. This makes it the strongest folding device in the world, designed to last 10 years based on 80 openings per day. We are always wary of this type of data, but it has the merit of making people smile.

Two ultrasonic screen sensors, the nice surprise

As proof that the Vivo X Fold is a slightly more sophisticated version of what the competition is doing, it is the first foldable smartphone with under-screen fingerprint sensors. All of its rivals hide one in their side button for technical problems (it’s difficult to place 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 do you manage to achieve this? It simply uses a slightly different technology: ultrasound, while most brands use optics (the screen glows brightly, which allows a small camera to see through). Only Samsung uses ultrasound today with its high-end Galaxy S, Vivo is the second manufacturer to try it.

There are two ultrasonic fingerprint sensors on the Vivo X Fold (one on the small screen, one on the large one). They unlock the device with a light touch, no matter how you use it. Ultrasound has another advantage: it works with wet fingers. Obviously it also costs more. It’s because Vivo won’t be producing as many X Folds it can afford.

Vivo X Fold sensor
The Vivo X Fold has an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor under the screen, a first for a device of its kind. // Source: numerama

High-end cameras

Still in the “Vivo makes no sacrifices” category, the camera module on the back of the X Fold is unprecedented for a foldable 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 are four cameras, a 50 Mpix main sensor, an ultra wide angle, an x2 optical zoom and a x5 periscope zoom. A score worthy of the ultra-high-end, which no folding screen device has ever had.

Vivo X Fold camera
The Vivo X Fold’s camera module isn’t discreet, but it meets all needs. // Source: numerama

Admittedly, this makes the back of the Vivo X Fold not very discreet. But for the absolute geek who wants a foldable smartphone and does not want to make concessions, only Vivo ticks all the boxes (or almost, certain functions like the gimbal of his other smartphones are not there).

The software, the only weak point

You understood 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 folding smartphone of the Chinese brand undoubtedly has the most complete data sheet on the market. This makes us even more eager to check out Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 4, which will be announced on August 10th. When will the Korean be eaten by the Chinese, when will he be their supplier?

However, on a software level, it is clear that Samsung is still far ahead of the competition today. If Vivo France advances the argument that the device uses a Chinese version of the OS, we did not find any settings dedicated to the foldable screen on the device, while Samsung offers numerous experimental features to make the experience better (for example, to put a application only on half of the screen, so you can use your Z Fold as a small laptop).

Only a few native apps, such as the camera, make clever use of the foldable appearance of the Vivo X Fold. // Source: numerama

In the absence of these features, the Vivo X Fold is just a big smartphone (or a small tablet, a matter of perspective), not a new category in its own right. This is undoubtedly what justifies its international unavailability for the moment. Only Samsung knows how to make practical foldable smartphones every day.

However, it seems obvious to us that 2023 will be a crucial year for this category, with the launch of several products, this time internationally. Hopefully prices will go down, which started off badly given inflation. Next appointment on August 10, with the 2022 generation of Samsung’s Galaxy Z.

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