Smartphone manufacturers want to offer consumers as much screen as they want. And in the race to deliver the best experience has been one big experiment. We’ve gotten some interestingly shaped notches as well as pop-up cameras—and just recently the debut of under-screen cameras. While that last one is still ways away, we’re getting a bunch of different takes of the other two designs. Vivo opted to go the pop-up camera route with the V15 series. And we tested the more budget-friendly V15.
Pop goes the camera for a full-screen experience
Unlike its competition, Vivo decided to bring this feature to both the V15 Pro and the cheaper V15, which means you get a similar full-screen experience whether you get the V15 Pro or the V15. And we definitely like that you get the option.
Of course, one trade-off is that the V15 Pro gets a Super AMOLED display, while the V15 doesn’t. But in its place, you get a slightly bigger 6.53-inch Ultra FullView In-cell Full HD+ display with 2,340 x 1,080 resolution. It isn’t the brightest screen out there, but it’s still usable under direct sunlight when you have the display’s brightness cranked up to 100 percent.
And we really enjoy being able to see more without any obstructions. The V15 has a 90.95 screen-to-body ratio. You get a teeny bit of a chin at the bottom, but otherwise, the bezels are almost non-existent. Color output is good, the text looks crisp, and viewing angles are decent with hardly any color shift when seen from different angles. It even has some protection courtesy of Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
The tone is a bit on the colder side, but this is adjustable. And the rounded corners will sometimes hide some content for certain apps, especially if said apps don’t support scaling. What you can do disable full-screen scaling, which you can do on a per app basis. This will, however, add black bars on either side while playing games and watching videos in landscape mode.
Quite a looker
Another thing the V15 inherited from the V15 Pro is its looks. The build is solid and there isn’t any flex when you apply force to the rear panel, despite it being made out of plastic/polycarbonate material. The Glamour Red version that we tested featured a gradient pattern that moves from this deep maroon to magenta with sparkling silver dots littering the bottom of the phone. The pattern extends to the side of the phone for that uniform look. It’s a stunner. Unfortunately, it scratches easily, and it’s the kind of glossy that attracts fingerprints, so you might be forced to use the thick plastic case that comes with the phone.
Without the case, the phone is thin enough to hold with one hand. But you’ll have to move your hand up and down a bit to reach the buttons on the side. The phone comes with a dedicated Smart Button/Google Assistant button on the left, which I personally didn’t find any use for. But if you need to quickly pull up Google Assistant, Google Search, Google Assistant Visual Snapshot, or Vivo’s Image Recognizer, this button will do that for you. While we appreciate that the button is remappable, we hoped it was available for more features or apps.
Get the job done
The V15 runs on a MediaTek Helio P70 processor with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage. Navigating through the phone and using social media and productivity apps are a breeze. Swapping between apps doesn’t take too long either. If you aren’t a power user, this phone will serve you well. Now, when it comes to gaming, you will need to tweak the settings of the more graphically-intensive games to make sure it doesn’t lag or stutter. I’ve had this choke a bit when I first started playing Harry Potter: Wizards Unite and it warmed up a bit when I first started playing, but it isn’t enough to make it alarming or uncomfortable to hold.
The V15 runs on FunTouch OS 9, which is based on Android 9 Pie. We love that we get the latest version of Android available for the public. But if you’re coming from a non-Vivo phone, the user interface will take some getting used to. Like some of the other phones from Chinese companies, you lose the app drawer, so all your apps will be scattered across your home screens. When you swipe right on the first home screen, you’ll be directed into the Smart Launcher. Here you’ll find task cards for the weather, a to-do list, app shortcuts, and news headlines. The Smart Launcher also features a universal search bar that can be used to find an app, jump to a system setting, or perform a quick online search.
One thing we wish wouldn’t be included is the number of pre-installed apps that come with the phone. There’s still room for improvement there. But at least for this particular unit, you have around 107GB of usable storage out of 128GB, so it’ll take a while to fill that up. If you do, the phone comes with a dedicated microSD card tray to store your files.
You also still have a 3.5mm audio jack here. The speaker isn’t particularly loud or great so using Bluetooth or wired headphones is still the way to go.
One feature I personally found useful is the painless Smart Mirroring feature. It allows me to connect to compatible TVs as painless as possible, which proved useful in hotel rooms without that many channels to watch.
Still holds its own
The camera setup for the V15 and the V15 Pro are similar, but the main camera on the V15 has a lower resolution than the V15 Pro. And for a mid-range device, this phone can hold its own in the photography department. Photos shot in daylight or well-lit areas turn out social media ready, requiring minimal tweaking. The photos taken with the main sensor turn out sharp and detailed. It struggles with dynamic range sometimes with highlights being overblown, especially if you use the wide-angle sensor. That sensor seems to distort images a bit strangely, stretching them out at an angle. But if you like experimenting, you’d want to use this sensor more. Portraits through the depth sensor are a bit hit or miss. It has trouble sometimes identifying edges. In low-light, the photos will turn out less detailed and a bit lackluster in terms of color. Thankfully, Vivo recently added a Night Mode to help improve photography when shooting at night. It wasn’t available when we first got the unit, so we appreciate the update.
Video quality isn’t spectacular, but it’s not bad either. Like the footage in well-lit areas will focus quickly and looks steady even if you move a bit. Those in low light will be grainy and lose detail. It’s not going to be the best companion for a concert if you aren’t as close to the stage as possible.
As for the hidden front camera, its higher megapixel count allows for capturing a lot of detail. For those who like filters or edit selfies before posting them, the V15 has an extremely customizable AI Beauty feature. In fact, it’ll let you slim down someone’s figure using the rear camera. If that’s your thing, well then, it’s available here.
But can it last?
If you’re worried about the durability of the pop-up camera, at the moment we can’t speak for how long it’s going to last. But if you don’t take a lot of selfies, we’re sure you can get this to last. The module itself will retract into the body if it detects that you’ve dropped it. And strangely enough, face unlock isn’t offered here. But it is one of the differentiating factors between the V15 and V15 Pro.
Keep you secure
The retracting front camera is good for those who are worried about being watched through the camera. It’s out of sight when you aren’t using it. And since this doesn’t have face unlock, you have the reliable fingerprint sensor at the back of the phone. It’s easily reachable, so picking up the phone to unlock it isn’t going to be difficult.
A suitable daily driver
You get a sizeable 4,000mAh battery that supports Vivo’s Dual Engine Fast Charging. But you don’t have to worry much about it not getting you through the day. Even with a full day’s use of answer messages, perusing social media, watching some clips, and the like, you can get around 20 percent by the time you reach home at around 6 p.m. With the charger that comes in the box, you can get 75 percent in just around an hour. It’ll start to slowly charge around that mark and take under two hours to reach 100 percent. One downside is that you still have a microUSB port here, so that puts a damper on charging times, for sure.
The Vivo V15 tries to bring high-end features into the midrange segment. And it does this for the most part. As expected it feels just as much a junior of the V15 Pro as it would. But if budget is an issue and you are only able to afford the V15, then it’s worth the buy. If you have more money to spare, we’d definitely recommend you spring for the V15 Pro.
Display: 6.53” FHD+ Ultra FullView, 2,340 x 1,080 resolution, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, Corning Gorilla Glass 5
SIM: Dual nano, dual standby
Operating system: FunTouch OS 9, based on Android 9 Pie
Processor: MediaTek Helio P70 2.1GHz octa-core
GPU: Mali-G72 MP3
Memory: 6GB RAM
Storage: 128GB internal storage, expandable up 256GB via microSD (dedicated slot)
Cameras: Rear – Triple 12MP, f/1.78 aperture + 8MP ultrawide, f/2.2 aperture + 5MP depth, f/2.4 aperture; Front – 32MP, f/2.0 aperture
Connectivity & I/O ports: 4G; Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, hotspot; Bluetooth 4.2, A2DP, LE; GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou; microUSB 2.0, USB OTG; 3.5mm audio jack
Security: Rear-mounted fingerprint sensor
Battery: Non-removable Li-Ion 4,000mAh w/ Dual-Engine fast-charging
Dimensions & weight: 161.2 x 75.9 x 8.5mm, 186g
Price: P17,999 (PRO: P23,999)