We tested the Vivo X Fold, the folding smartphone that almost made Samsung obsolete

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

A shy time, Chinese brands are gradually entering the foldable smartphones. After leaving Samsung almost alone in the market (Huawei was also one of the first, but its ambitions were blocked by the American sanctions), Oppo, Xiaomi, Motorola, Honor and Vivo gradually started in this adventure, with the goal of creating a new one. category in a relatively dormant market. We recently tested the Oppo Find N at Numerama, a smaller version of Samsung’s surprisingly successful proposition.

On July 26, Vivo France offered us to play with the Vivo X Fold, a folding smartphone destined for China. We were afraid to see only a simple copy of the Samsung model, finally we found a very good proposal.

A slightly less experimental design

Why is the Vivo X Fold so compelling? Its first quality is that it doesn’t look like a foldable smartphone. Forget the large left border of the Samsung smartphone, the Vivo X Fold, when in smartphone mode, looks like a regular phone. Of course, its thickness (1.46 cm) and its weight (311 g) reveal its true nature, but its screen is perfectly symmetrical. This is enough to get the “prototype” aspect of other folding mobiles, which should be pleasant to use.

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

By the way, like Oppo, Vivo chose to use a rather special hinge, with a fold in two places instead of just one. It allows you to have a completely flat device when closed, while Samsung’s Fold is >, with one side thicker than the other. Again, this reinforces the impression of using a better finished product.

Unfolded, the Vivo X Fold becomes a small 8.03-inch tablet, with an ultra-thin glass screen, just like Samsung. The folds are not visible when the screen is in front of the eyes, but everything is still very similar when the light is low. However, we do not change our mind on contributions in such form. A small tablet of this size is very practical for watching videos or reading an article. Vivo may not have invented anything compared to the competition in this aspect, but it has managed to adapt itself perfectly to the best of its rivals. It should be said that its supplier is Samsung Display, which is therefore completely logical.

Vivo opened
The creases in the middle of the screen are clearly visible when the screen is on, we forget them well when it is there. // Source: Numeroma

Finally, since the Chinese market loves to make boxes, Vivo had the good idea to approve its smartphone in the Guinness Book of Records. For 11 days, a machine folded and unfolded it, until it reached 300,000 pieces. This makes it the toughest folding device in the world, designed to last 10 years based on 80 openings per day. We are always wary of this kind of data, but it has the merit of making people smile.

Two ultrasonic screen sensors, the good surprise

Further 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 fingerprint sensors under the screen. All its rivals hide one of their side buttons due to technical concerns (it is difficult to place a sensor under a screen like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold, which is protected by thin layers of metal) , Vivo is the first manufacturer of search solutions.

How did he achieve this? It simply uses a slightly different technology: ultrasound, while most brands use optics (the screen shines brightly, which allows a small camera to be seen). Samsung is the only one using ultrasonic with the high-end Galaxy S now, 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 big one). They open 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. This is because Vivo cannot produce as many X Folds as it can afford.

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

High-end cameras

Still in the “Vivo makes no sacrifices” category, the camera module on the back of the X Fold is unprecedented in a folding smartphone. Forget the sensors of previous generations, chosen to save as much space as possible, Vivo does not allow. There are four cameras on the back of his smartphone, a main sensor of 50 Mpix, an ultra wide-angle, an optical zoom x2 and a periscopic zoom x5. A mark worthy of an ultra high-end, non-folding screen device.

Vivo X Fold camera
The Vivo X Fold’s camera module isn’t brilliant, but it ticks all the boxes. // Source: Numeroma

Admittedly, this makes the back of the Vivo X Fold less smart. But for the absolute geek who wants a foldable smartphone and doesn’t want to make concessions, only Vivo checks all the boxes (or almost, some functions like the gimbal on other smartphones don’t there).

The software, the only weak point

You got it, on the hardware level, the Vivo X Fold crushes everything. Despite its relatively compressed price of 8,999 yuan (or 1,300 euros, but tax must be added), the folding smartphone of the Chinese brand has undoubtedly the most complete technical data sheet on the market. This makes us all the more excited to check out Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 4, which will be announced on August 10. Will the Korean let himself be eaten by the Chinese, being their supplier?

However, on the software level, it is clear that Samsung is still ahead of the competition today. If Vivo France puts forward the argument that the device uses a Chinese version of the OS, we have not found any settings dedicated to the folding screen of the device, while Samsung offers several experimental functions to can make the experience better (for example, to put an application on only half of the screen, to use your Z Fold like a small laptop).

Only a few native apps, like the camera, make smart use of the folding aspect of the Vivo X Fold. // Source: Numeroma

Without these features, the Vivo X Fold is just a large smartphone (or small tablet, a matter of perspective), not a new category in its own right. This is undoubtedly what justifies his international unavailability at the moment. Only Samsung knows how to make practical folding smartphones every day.

However, it seems clear to us that 2023 will be an important year for this category, with the launch of many products, this time internationally. Let’s hope that prices will fall, which is not a good start because of inflation. Next meeting on August 10, with the 2022 generation of Samsung Galaxy Z.

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