Lately, Vivo has been looking to make a mark by bringing innovative features from high-end smartphones to the mid-range segment. The company's latest offering — the Vivo V15 — brings the innovative pop-up selfie camera to an even lower price bracket. On paper, the Vivo V15 appears to be a solid device with an attractive design, three rear cameras, a large battery, fast charging, and a high-resolution 32-megapixel front camera. The Vivo V15 certainly has an uphill task in the face of fierce competition not just from value-for-money champions such as Xiaomi and Asus, but also from Samsung, a behemoth whose new Galaxy M-series and A-series smartphones are making waves in the market right now.
Can the Vivo V15 step out of the shadow of its Pro sibling and emerge as a truly capable smartphone in its price bracket? Can it justify its asking price of Rs. 23,990 and wow potential buyers? Let's find out in our in-depth review of the Vivo V15.
Vivo V15 design
The Vivo V15 is ever so slightly larger than the Vivo V15 Pro, but has an identical design. At 161.97×75.93×8.54mm, it isn't the smallest device out there, and it tips the scales at 189.5g. It will require a bit of a stretch to reach touch controls at the top of the screen.
Curved edges give this phone a comfortable in-hand feel, but the rear panel can get scuffed easily. Within a few days of usage, we noticed that the rear panel had small scratch marks at the bottom and edges. The finish is also quite glossy and picks up fingerprint marks and smudges easily.
There are three colour options — Royal Blue, Frozen Black, and Glamour Red. We have the Glamour Red version for review and its gradient pattern shifts between a punchy shade of magenta and deep maroon, with sparkling silver dots at the bottom. The gradient finish extends all the way to the frame of this phone for a uniform look. The Frozen Black variant does not have this top-to-bottom colour shift effect.
Were it not for their different colour schemes, it would be nigh impossible to discern the V15 from the V15 Pro. This similarity is not necessarily a bad thing, because the Vivo V15 inherits the solid build quality of its Pro sibling. Starting with its looks, the Vivo V15 flaunts a gradient finish on the rear panel — Spectrum Ripple Design, in the company's lingo. Though Vivo uses the same description for both models, but the gradient texture on the Vivo V15 lacks the wave-like micro-dot pattern that makes the Vivo V15 Pro stand out.
As for build quality, the Vivo V15's rear panel is made out of polycarbonate and so is the curved strip frame running around the edges. The device feels solid, and we did not notice any flex when applying force to the rear panel.
The positioning of the fingerprint sensor is convenient. The huge camera bump is an eyesore as it stands out prominently. The pop-up module for the front camera is in line with the rear cameras, similar to how it's placed the Vivo V15 Pro. The motorised selfie camera module pops in and out smoothly within one second. It remains to be seen how the mechanism will hold up after extended use, so we would advise some caution while using it.
The right side is where the power button and volume buttons are located. They're positioned conveniently and provide satisfactory tactile feedback, although the volume buttons are a little too stiff. A ‘Smart Button' is located on the left, and it can be customised to activate Google Assistant or trigger a Google search with a single press. Double-press and long-press actions trigger tasks such as launching the image recognition tool and opening the Google Assistant Visual Snapshot page. These shortcuts can be customised as per users' preference.
Above it sits a tray for two Nano-SIM cards and a microSD card. Thankfully, it is not a hybrid tray, which means you won't have to sacrifice dual-SIM functionality in favour of more storage. The Micro-USB port, 3.5mm headphone jack, a microphone, and the speaker are positioned at the bottom. On the top is another microphone and the cutout for the pop-up camera module.
The front is almost completely occupied by the 6.53-inch Ultra FullView In-cell full-HD+ (1080×2340 pixels) display. According to Vivo, this phone has a 90.95 percent screen-to-body ratio and is covered by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. Except for the chin at the bottom, bezels are pretty much non-existent, for a nearly all-screen design. The earpiece is centrally located at the top.
Apart from a Vivo V15 unit, the box includes a Micro-USB cable, an 18W charger, a hard silicone case, a headset, a SIM ejector tool, and some paperwork.
Vivo V15 specifications and features
The Vivo V15 has an interesting mix of hardware. As mentioned above, it packs a 6.53-inch Ultra FullView In-Cell full-HD+display (1080×2340 pixels). We would have a liked a Super AMOLED panel like the one the Vivo V15 Pro has, especially considering that the Samsung Galaxy A50 (Review) and Galaxy A30 (Review) both have Super AMOLED panels despite being priced significantly lower.
The Vivo V15 is powered by the octa-core MediaTek Helio P70 SoC clocked at 2.1GHz, which has four ARM Cortex-A73 cores for all the heavy lifting and another four power-efficient Cortex-A53 cores. While this is a fairly capable processor, the Vivo V15's price tag warrants something beefier. For reference, the Realme 3 (Review) packs the same MediaTek Helio P70 processor but costs almost one-third of Vivo V15's asking price.
Along with this SoC, you get 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, which can be expanded by up to 256GB using a microSD card. The Vivo V15 is available in a single configuration and is priced at Rs. 23,990.
Aside from its eye-catching aesthetics, the main attraction of the Vivo V15 Pro is its imaging hardware, especially its 32-megapixel f/2.0 selfie shooter, which is the same as the Vivo V15 Pro's. The rear setup consists of a main 12-megapixel camera with a 1/2.8-inch sensor and f/1.78 aperture. It is accompanied by an 8-megapixel wide-angle camera with an f/2.2 aperture. It's described as having a 120-degree field of view, however, it actually captures 108-degree wide shots after factoring in lens distortion. There's also a 5-megapixel depth sensor with an f/2.4 aperture.
For connectivity, you get 4G VoLTE, Bluetooth 4.2, a Micro-USB port with OTG support, GPS/ A-GPS, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The battery is a 4,000mAh unit and this phone supports Vivo's Dual-Engine Fast Charging. The use of a Micro-USB port on the Vivo V15 is surprising as well as disappointing, since even phones that are priced significantly lower have already embraced the USB Type-C standard.
The Vivo V15 Pro's in-display fingerprint sensor does not make it to this more affordable model, and so there's a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor on the Vivo V15.
On the software side, the Vivo V15 runs FunTouch OS 9 based on Android 9 Pie, and our review unit had the January security patch. There is a steep learning curve if you are coming from stock Android, especially when it comes to finding what you're looking for in the Settings app.
There is no app drawer, so you have to swipe across your home screens to see all your apps. A swipe to the right on the first home screen will open the Smart Launcher where you can find task cards for the weather, a to-do list, app shortcuts, and news headlines. There's a universal search bar that can be used to find an app, jump to a system setting, or perform a quick Web search.
The Vivo V15 comes with a ton of pre-installed apps, which include both in-house and third-party ones such as Gaana, Facebook, Paytm, Newspoint, UC Browser, and PhonePe. FunTouch OS 9 also has some neat features of its own. For example, the message screen splitting feature shows incoming message notifications as floating bubbles that you can tap to instantly open the message in a split-screen view for multitasking.
There are a host of other nifty features such as Smart Lock, Smart Mirroring, and Smart Motion. FunTouch OS 9 also offers two power saving modes. The “Low Power Mode” optimises the CPU and GPU speeds, automatically lowers the screen brightness, disables Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and takes other such measures to reduce power usage. The “Extreme Power-Saving Mode” shuts down all activities and apps except Phone, Messages, Contacts, and Clock. You can read about FunTouch OS 9 in more detail in our Vivo V15 Pro review.
Vivo V15 performance, cameras, and battery life
Before we delve into the performance of the Vivo V15, let's talk about the display. Unlike the Super AMOLED panel on the Vivo V15 Pro, the Vivo V15 packs a 6.53-inch In-Cell LCD display, but resolution remains the same at 1080×2340 pixels. The colour output is good and text looks crisp on it. Viewing angles are also decent with minimal colour shift when seen from different angles.
Thanks to the all-screen design of this phone, playing games and watching full-HD 60fps videos was enjoyable. The Vivo V15's default colour profile is slightly on the colder side, but you can tweak the colour temperature to your liking. There is also an option to adjust the colour tone in order to reduce eye fatigue, which can either be activated manually or scheduled.
While the full-screen design looks good, the rounded corners tend to hide some screen content, especially in apps that do not support scaling. You can either live with it or disable full-screen scaling on a per-app basis, but doing so will add ugly black bars on each side while playing games and watching videos in landscape mode.
The Vivo V15's display also could have been better in terms of brightness. Using the device indoors posed no issues, but sunlight legibility was not as good as we would expect. Videos and photos appeared dim, even with the brightness cranked all the way up to the 100 percent mark. Another disappointment is the lack of Widevine L1 certification, something that was also missing from the Vivo V15 Pro. This means you won't be able to stream HD videos on Netflix or Amazon. This is perplexing for a phone that costs over Rs. 20,000.
We found the MediaTek Helio P70 to be a capable processor. In our day-day-to usage, we did not come across any shortcomings. The usual social media and productivity apps launched quickly, and switching between them was also buttery smooth. The 6GB of RAM certainly helps while running multiple apps in the background.
Coming to the Vivo V15's performance in synthetic benchmarks, it scored 1,46,753 in AnTuTu. It also managed 1,511 and 5,767 points in Geekbench's single-core and multi-core tests respectively. As for more graphics-intensive tests, the latest Vivo smartphone managed 35fps in the GFXBench T-Rex test and put up 11fps in the GFXBench Manhattan 3.1 test. These scores are similar to those of the Oppo F11 Pro, which is not surprising as both smartphones are powered by the same processor and have equal amounts of RAM.
However, gaming performance was as not as impressive. We tested the Vivo V15's gaming chops with PUBG Mobile, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Modern Combat 5. PUBG Mobile was set to the Medium preset by default, with the Medium frame rate and Balanced graphics. While the experience was mostly smooth, we did have to deal with sporadic lag and stutters. Asphalt 9: Legends ran without any issues, but amping up the visual quality to High resulted in a lot of frame drops and stutters.
FunTouch OS 9 offers a feature called Game Cube which claims to enhance the in-game experience, but we did not see any noticeable gameplay improvements before or after adding a title to the Game Cube list. Another gaming-centric feature is Game Assistant, which claims to optimise the CPU and RAM for a better experience, and provides quick access buttons for blocking notifications and controlling call behaviour.
There's an Esports Mode that lets users close background apps and block notifications while playing a game and disable touch gestures to prevent accidentally opening the notifications shade. There is also an option called “Smart temperature rising strategy”, which when activated, keeps performance steady even if it results in generating excess heat.
One noticeable omission is the lack of face recognition. Both the Vivo V15 and the Vivo V15 Pro feature 32-megapixel selfie cameras housed in motorised pop-up modules, but the latter supports face recognition, while the former inexplicably misses out on it.
A Vivo spokesperson confirmed to Gadgets 360 that the Vivo V15 does not support this a security feature, and there is no word on whether it can or will be enabled with a software update in the future. The fingerprint sensor, on the other hand, is impressively quick and unlocks the device in less than a second.
As for camera performance, the Vivo V15 proved to be quite competent. The camera UI is virtually the same as on the Vivo V15 Pro. Shortcuts for the document scanning mode, Pro mode, AI beauty, and AR stickers are laid out at the bottom, while controls for wide-angle mode, scene selection, and portrait mode are neatly arranged above the shutter button. At the top, one can find the controls for the settings section, portrait lighting effects, live photos, and HDR mode.
The 12-megapixel main camera employs a 1/1.28 inch sensor with 1.28-micron pixels and an aperture value of f/1.78. Vivo claims that the main camera has 24 million photosensitive units and employs Dual Pixel Focusing technology to deliver brighter photos with higher clarity. The images captured by the Vivo V15, indeed, turned out to be quite detailed, exhibiting punchy colours and commendable surface details.
The Vivo V15 truly shines when it comes to macro shots. Subjects with rich colour profiles were captured with great detail. Shades turned out to be vibrant, gradients were decent, and surface traits such as ridges were also distinguishable when zoomed in. Even though close-up shots captured by the Redmi Note 7 Pro are better, the ones captured by the Vivo V15 can hold their own. Daylight shots also turned out to be crisp with good dynamic range and sharpness.
There are a few shortcomings too. We noticed occasional colour bleeding along the edges in macro shots, especially if the object in focus was brightly coloured. Also, some daylight photos turned out to be a little muted and exhibited washed-out colours, especially those captured under harsh lighting.
Users might particularly miss having a night mode. The shots we took in low light exhibited grainy textures and had a considerable amount of noise. HDR mode tries to make up for this with higher saturation and contrast, but it ends up softening details. In comparison, the Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) did a much better job at retaining details and bringing out colours.
As for portrait shots, they turned out well, with good depth. We quite liked the ability to adjust the strength of the blur effect both before and after taking a photo. The Vivo V15's cameras do a good job at locking focus and preserving detail, but edge detection could have been a tad better. We often found the extremities of an object in focus blurred mistakenly when the intensity of the effect was increased. The blur effect turned out to be particularly uneven with complex subjects such as vines.
A dedicated wide-angle camera is certainly one clear advantage the Vivo V15 has, letting users capture wide panoramas. Thankfully, we did not see any barrel distortion like we did with some of the wide-angle shots captured by the V15 Pro. Instead, we found that objects look slightly flat, as if they are inclined inwards. This was only noticeable with objects that have a sharp outline.
The video recording resolution maxes out at full-HD with the frame rate set to 30fps. It is a little disappointing that the Vivo V15 can't shoot 4K or full-HD 60fps video. Recordings turn out to be decent, but the lack of stabilisation on this phone means there is a lot of shaking and trembling in the videos. Slo-mo video recording is also on the table, with the resolution set to 1280 x 720 pixels at 30fps.
The 32-megapixel front camera somewhat redeems the shortcomings of the rear cameras. Selfies captured by the front camera had an impressive amount of detail, with good colour reproduction and sharpness. Edge detection was also fairly accurate, and the studio lighting effects help make shots social-media-ready by letting you add filters and colourful effects.
The AI Beauty mode offers a tonne of beautification options such as skin smoothening, skin lightening, jawline slimming, and eye enlargement. There are also full-body beautification tools that do things like reducing waistlines and making legs look thinner and longer. While the face beautification filters do their job as promised, they tend to change the colour profile of the whole image. For example, the skin lightening filter ups the ISO which affects the entire frame.
Battery performance is one area where the Vivo V15 rises above its Pro sibling. The 4,000mAh battery easily lasted us through a day of demanding usage. During our regular usage — which involved being connected to a Wi-Fi network all day long, using social media and productivity apps, listening to music with wireless headphones for at least a couple of hours, around an hour of gaming, and a few calls — the Vivo V15 still had around a 30-35 percent charge left at the end of the day. In our HD video loop test, the Vivo V15 lasted for 15 hours and 22 minutes.
As for endurance figures, a 30-minute session of PUBG Mobile at peak brightness led to a battery drop of 9 percent. Vivo ships the device with an 18W charger which takes the battery from 0 to 40 percent in 30 minutes, and up to 75 percent in just one hour. Charging this phone to full capacity took around 1 hour, 40 minutes. We noticed a reduction in the charging speed once the battery reaches the three-quarters mark.
The Vivo V15 impressed us with its long battery life, beautiful design, solid build quality, and a capable front camera. However, it has its fair share of shortcomings too. It is still stuck with a Micro-USB port, can't stream HD videos from services like Netflix, and its UI needs some refinement. Moreover, low-light photography is sub-par for a phone at this price.
Unfortunately for Vivo, its competition has more to offer at significantly lower price points. The Redmi Note 7 Pro (Review) has a more powerful processor, better rear cameras, larger battery, USB Type-C port, impressive build quality, and more for Rs. 13,999. Even the Realme 3 (Review), starting at just Rs. 8,999, is powered by the same processor as the Vivo V15, and is a good budget offering.
The Vivo V15 also faces stiff competition from the Samsung Galaxy A50 (Review) which flaunts an eye-catching design, a beautiful Super AMOLED display, triple rear cameras, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. Then there is the Oppo F11 Pro (Review), which offers similar specifications including a pop-up front camera, but better camera performance, for a slightly higher asking price. The Poco F1 (Review) and Asus ZenFone 5Z (Review) also offer flagship-level specifications at around the same price point.
To round things up, the Vivo V15 has a few things going for it but it goes up against numerous competitors that offer more bang for the buck. Even if you really like the idea of a pop-up camera, you can get much better hardware and overall performance elsewhere.