Vivo has shown that it can step up when it comes to smartphone innovation, with devices such as the Vivo Nex (Review) and Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition. New offerings such as the Vivo Apex 2019 are continuing the streak. The Chinese smartphone maker's latest launch in India, the Vivo V15 Pro is meant to bring aspirational and useful features to a more affordable segment, and offers a pop-up selfie camera as well as an in-display fingerprint sensor and triple rear cameras. Launched at Rs. 28,990, the Vivo V15 Pro has a lot going in its favour, including an attractive design, stacked hardware, impressive cameras, and the latest version of Android. Can the Vivo V15 Pro justify its price tag, especially when 2018 value flagships such as the Asus ZenFone 5Z (Review) and the Poco F1 (Review) can be purchased for as much or less?
Let's take a look at what the Vivo V15 Pro brings to the table and find out.
The Vivo V15 Pro is a looker and will draw a few second glances, but not in the same way as many other smartphones out there right now, which have eye-catching designs and colours. Instead, Vivo has gone for a more tasteful, elegant finish.
The rear panel of our Topaz Blue review unit has an electric blue diagonal streak in the middle, which gradually fades into a deeper shade of blue in the corners. There's also a micro-dot pattern in the centre that morphs into a wave-like pattern near the edges, in what Vivo calls “Spectrum Ripple Design”.
The colour shift looks beautiful when light falls on it from different angles. This phone is also available in a completely different Ruby Red finish, which has a red gradient with a cross-hatch pattern across the back.
But there are a few pitfalls too. The rear panel is glossy and attracts smudges and dust easily, and we found ourselves wiping it every now and then.
While the rear panel looks like glass, it is actually plastic, and there is no IP rating for protection against the elements. At the launch event, a representative from Vivo's technical team told Gadgets 360 that the device can take a few accidental spills, but we strongly advise testing that claim out.
The Vivo V15 Pro's glossy rear panel curves around the edges, which gives the impression of the device being thinner than it actually is. The sore point here is the rear camera module, which creates a considerable bump on the back.
A metallic rim runs around the edges of the V15 Pro, and the absence of sharp edges makes it easy to hold. On the right sits the power button and volume buttons, while the left has a Google Assistant button and microSD card tray. The buttons provide good tactile feedback, but they are a little to reach, especially the volume up button.
The dedicated Google Assistant button, which is labelled “Smart AI” in FunTouch OS, is customisable and can be mapped to activate the virtual assistant, perform a visual snapshot, or open the Google Search homepage. You can assign different functions to a single-press, double-press and long-press.
The top of this phone is where you'll find a microphone, the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the pop-up selfie camera module, while the bottom features a speaker, the SIM tray (Nano Nano), and a Micro-USB port. Yes, a Micro-USB port on a smartphone that costs this much, and at a time when even lower-priced smartphones have started embracing the USB Type-C standard.
The front of the Vivo V15 Pro is dominated by a 6.39-inch full-HD (1080x2340 pixels) Super AMOLED display with 19.5:9 aspect ratio and no notch. This phone boasts of a screen-to-body ratio of 91.64 percent. There is barely any bezel except for a small chin, which creates a more immersive visual experience, something that notches impede on other phones. The earpiece is centrally positioned at the top.
The box contents include the Vivo V15 Pro itself, an 18W charger, a Micro-USB cable, a headset, a hard silicone case, a SIM ejector tool, and some paperwork.
The Vivo V15 Pro is powered by the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 675 processor paired with 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 128GB of internal storage that can be expanded using a microSD card (up to 256GB). Thankfully, there are three different slots for housing the microSD card and two Nano-SIM cards, which means users won't have to sacrifice dual-SIM functionality for more storage space.
Connectivity is handled by 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth 5, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, GPS/ A-GPS, a Micro-USB port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Onboard sensors include an accelerometer, ambient light sensor, digital compass, gyroscope, and proximity sensor.
On the software side, the Vivo V15 Pro runs FunTouch OS 9 based on Android 9 Pie and we had the January 2019 Android security patch running on our review unit. FunTouch OS is a heavily skinned version of Android and will require some time to get accustomed to.
The deviation from stock Android is evident from the get-go, starting with the absence of an app drawer. Swiping left on the home screen opens the Smart Launcher which is populated by cards for tasks including events, the weather, a to-do list, and news headlines. The cards on the Smart Launcher and their order can be customised.
The Vivo V15 Pro comes with loads of pre-installed apps which include in-house software such as the V-AppStore, iMusic, iTheme, Albums, and VivoCloud among others, as well as third-party apps that include Paytm, PhonePe, Gaana, UC Browser, and WPS Office. Bloatware is never a desired trait.
We find the UI of FunTouch OS a little garish, and overall it looks like a less-refined take on iOS. It's also not very easy to find specific things in the Settings app. Users will have to live with it or resort to using a third-party launcher from the Google Play store.
On the positive side, FunTouch OS on the Vivo V15 Pro does offer some nifty features such as Smart Motion, which in turn is divided into three sections: Smart Wake for performing different tasks using gestures, Smart Call for making a call by just bringing the phone to the ear, and Smart Remind which shows notifications when users pick the phone.
Then there is Smart Split for controlling split-screen multitasking, App Clone for running second instances of certain apps, Smart Lock for assigning tasks to the volume down button, and Smart Mirroring for displaying media files on another display while you continue to use the phone.
We found the messaging split-screen feature particularly useful. For example, if you receive a notification from a messaging app such as WhatsApp, it will appear on the screen as a floating bubble. Tapping on it instantly opens the split-screen interface without having to close the app you're currently using.
FunTouch OS also offers GameCube, a feature tailor-made for gaming. This lets users mute notifications, automatically reject calls, minimise interruptions due to accidental touch gestures, and stop all background apps while gaming to maximise performance.
he Vivo V15 Pro also features FunMoji, Vivo's take on Apple's Animoji. Motion detection is quick and movements are smooth, but it lags behind Animoji when it comes to capturing subtle expressions and gestures.
FunTouch OS offers a rich set of features, but if you are switching from stock Android, you may find it a bit confusing.
Coming to the performance aspect, let's start with the display. Right off the bat, the Vivo V15 Pro's display is gorgeous, both in terms of its design and visual output. The thin bezels and the absence of a notch help achieve a more engrossing viewing experience when watching videos and playing games.
The 6.39-inch Super AMOLED panel is vibrant and renders deep blacks. The viewing angles are good too, but we noticed a slight colour shift, especially while using the device under daylight. The display's curved edges obscure a small bit of full-screen content, and the only way to avoid this is by disabling full-screen scaling, which adds black bars on the left and right when using the device in landscape orientation.
The display is a treat for watching videos on, but unfortunately, the Vivo V15 Pro only supports Widewine L3 certification and not Widevine L1, which means you can't stream HD videos on Netflix or Amazon. The lower priced Nokia 8.1 offers Widevine L1 certification and also an HDR10-capable display. It's a shame, and it might be a deal-breaker for many. On the other hand, if your primary source of video content is YouTube, the Vivo V15 Pro will serve you well.
You can adjust the screen's colour temperature to your liking and also change the tone manually or on a schedule to automatically reduce eye fatigue. ‘Blur display' is a neat privacy feature, which selectively blurs the content of certain apps while you switch between them.
The Vivo V15's audio output is also a strong point. The device can get quite loud, and the good thing is that there is minimal distortion and vocal tearing even when the volume is set to its highest level. Listening to EDM and bass-heavy tracks was enjoyable, and so was gaming.
We also did not encounter any issues when it comes to telephony, as call quality was consistently good and voices were sufficiently loud and clear. Vivo says the in-display fingerprint sensor is a 5th-generation unit and it performed just fine for us, identifying our fingerprint patterns in less than a second.
We initially had some doubts regarding the Snapdragon 675 SoC powering the Vivo V15 Pro and also questioned why Vivo didn't go for the more powerful Snapdragon 710, considering the price of this new device. Well, the octa-core Snapdragon 675 proved to be quite capable, and paired with 6GB of RAM, it easily breezed through day-to-day tasks.
Switching between apps was fluid, and even with 10-12 apps running in the background we rarely came across any stutter or lag that could mar the experience. Be it social media, productivity, or games, the Vivo V15 Pro impressed us with its performance.
It handled graphics-intensive games such as PUBG Mobile, Modern Combat 5, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Mortal Kombat with ease. It is worth mentioning here that the Snapdragon 675 has the less powerful integrated Adreno 612 GPU compared to the Snapdragon 710's Adreno 616. The device heated up quickly during intensive gaming, but thankfully, the temperature did not reach a level where it could become uncomfortable to hold the smartphone.
Also, the battery depleted quite rapidly during such sessions and we noticed an average battery deterioration of 13-15% after just 30 minutes of gaming. The Vivo V15 Pro scored 178,575 in the AnTuTu benchmark and put up tallies of 2,399 and 6,569 in Geekbench 4's single-core and multi-core tests respectively. As for graphics-intensive benchmark tests, this phone scored 1,081 in 3DMark Slingshot Extreme Open GL ES 3.1 and managed 7.1fps in GFXBench's Car Chase test.
Now let's talk about the Vivo V15 Pro's camera performance. The device features a triple rear camera setup that consists of a 48-megapixel primary camera, an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera with an f/2.2 aperture and 120-degree field of view, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor with an f/2.4 aperture. On the top you'll find the 32-megapixel pop-up selfie camera which has an f/2.0 aperture.
The Vivo V15 Pro offers a host of camera features to play with such as Night mode, live photos, 4K video capture, slow-motion recording, and a bokeh mode with multiple portrait lighting effects, among others.
Daylight shots turned out good, with a good amount of detail and depth. The colour gamut in our sample shots was rich but the accuracy could have been a little better. The sharpness in the photos was commendable, and overall, photos were good enough to post on social media platforms without any second thoughts. We did notice a few minor quirks though. HDR shots sometimes appeared to be a little too punchy, and there was some overexposure too.
The Vivo V15 Pro excelled in our tests when it came to daylight bokeh shots, thanks to the excellent job done by the depth sensor. Edge detection was fairly good and the blurring effect was quite spot-on. We noticed that the blur effect falters sometimes with objects that have protrusions or wide profiles. There was some noise and softening in case of low-light bokeh shots.
The wide-angle mode is a feature that photography enthusiasts will certainly appreciate, and with a FOV of 120 degrees, the wide-angle camera captures more than a regular camera could. We quite liked having this option at our disposal, but we did notice barrel distortion at the corners of wide-angle shots.
Tap to see full-sized Vivo V15 Pro camera samples
The 32-megapixel front camera also proved to be a good performer, and with a lot of AI beautification tools, selfies turned out to be bright and vibrant. Purists who prefer natural skin tones will be a little disappointed. Even without applying a beautification filter, we noticed that the Vivo V15 Pro slightly lightened skin tones and there was some smoothening too. The beauty filters — if you want to go there — can tweak appearances to an extent that selfies look unnatural.
Here, it is important to reiterate a banal truth — higher megapixel counts don't always mean better image quality. The main rear camera can capture images at a 12-megapixel resolution by combining four pixels into a single unit (pixel binning). This results in more light captured per pixel, so images turn out to be quite vibrant. If you switch to a native 48-megapixel resolution, photos turn out to be slightly dimmer.
We preferred to stick with pixel-binned 12-megapixel shots, because they looked better overall. The same also applies to selfies shot at the default resolution compared to the 32-megapixel mode. There are a few software quirks too. There is no auto HDR mode, and there is also no option to take 48-megapixel portrait shots.
Video performance was also good, and EIS made videos decently stable. You can record 1080p and 720p videos at up to 60fps, but 4K videos are capped at 30fps. Slo-mo videos turned out to be decent when recorded under natural light, but we noticed a very annoying light-flickering effect in slo-mo videos taken indoors.
Coming to battery life, the Vivo V15 Pro again proved its mettle as a strong contender in the sub-Rs. 30,000 price bracket. The 3,700mAh battery allowed the device to easily sail through a full day of usage, which involved a few phone calls, social media usage for around an hour, surfing the Web and streaming videos, taking photos, and playing a few rounds of PUBG Mobile and Asphalt 9: Legends. On average, we managed to get around 11 hours and 20 minutes of battery life with this kind of active usage in a day. In our HD video loop test, the Vivo V15 Pro ran for 12 hours and 37 minutes.
The Vivo V15 Pro supports Vivo's Dual Engine fast charging technology, and even though it is nowhere near as fast as Oppo's SuperVOOC, it gets the job done. In our test, the Vivo V15 Pro went from zero to 75 percent in 58 minutes, which is not shabby at all. FunTouch OS's low power mode can come in handy, but we found that it is a bit too aggressive when it comes to lowering the screen's brightness.
The Vivo V15 Pro refines innovations introduced by previous Vivo smartphones such as an in-display fingerprint sensor and pop-up camera. More importantly, it makes them accessible to a wider audience. These are highly desirable features for a premium smartphone right now, and the Vivo V15 Pro also looks bold and works smoothly. It offers capable cameras, good battery life, and an immersive screen. The only trade-offs are its Android skin, the old-fashioned Micro-USB port, and the lack of Widewine L1 certification.
Unfortunately for the Vivo V15 Pro's chances of being the king of the sub-Rs. 30,000 segment, rivals such as the Asus ZenFone 5Z and the Poco F1 are both value-flagship offerings with more powerful processors. The Honor View 10 (Review) and Nokia 8.1 (Review) are two other devices that offer a blend of solid performance and attractive design in the same price bracket.
The Vivo V15 Pro might not be the best choice for everyone, but it does stand out with its design and innovations, so the company has succeeded in its endeavour to a large extent. In the end, your choice will boil down to whether the Vivo V15 Pro aligns with what you want in your next smartphone.