China’s Vivo unveils US$800 notch-free phone with a pop-up camera solution

Li Tao
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China’s Vivo unveils US$800 notch-free phone with a pop-up camera solution

China’s Vivo launched a new ‘notch-free’ flagship handset on Tuesday, bucking the trend of other Chinese smartphone makers who have followed Apple’s iPhone X notch format, striking a design compromise that incorporates a full screen display with a pop-up camera solution.

The NEX flagship series launched by China’s third-largest smartphone vendor brings the industry one step closer to its ‘bezel-less’ dream as the pop-up camera solution achieves a screen-to-body ratio of more than 91 per cent. This compares with typical notch-design phones that have a screen-to-body ratio of around 80 per cent.

The revolutionary design has allowed Vivo to price its handset at 4,998 yuan (US$780) for the high-end model powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 processor, with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. The entry-level model is priced at 3,898 yuan. The high-end model is the most expensive handset Vivo has ever produced.

Shenzhen-based Vivo is hoping the NEX range can help to revive its smartphone sales. It was the only major Chinese vendor to experience a decline in domestic shipments last year as the China market remains saturated, according to IDC. Vivo also unveiled Fifa World Cup limited edition smartphones last month, hoping to boost sales in line with the global football event which kicks off this week.

The NEX series is the mass production version of a concept phone Vivo showcased during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. It incorporates an 8 megapixel pop-up selfie camera (hidden behind the display until needed), Screen SoundCasting Technology which turns the display into a speaker, in-display fingerprint scanning technology which can unlock the phone via finger pressure on the screen directly, as well as a number of hidden sensors along the phone’s edges to maximise the screen-to-body ratio.

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Alex Feng, Vivo’s senior vice-president, claimed the NEX brings an end to the industry’s pursuit of a true ‘bezel-less’ device, even though a 100 per cent screen-to-body ratio has yet to be achieved.

“Technologies such as the elevating front camera and in-display fingerprint scanning technology merely scratch the surface of all the innovations featured in NEX … As the first to achieve a truly bezel-less device, we hope to encourage the industry to move forward and ask ‘what’s next’ for this mobile experience journey,” said Feng.

Most Android smartphone brands, including Huawei, Oppo and Honor, have developed flagship smartphone models with a ‘notch’ on the display. This mirrors Apple’s flagship iPhone X design, which features a curved notch to accommodate the front camera and sensors.

Xiaomi’s Mi Mix series is another design alternative to the notch solution, where the Beijing-based company has removed the front camera module to the bottom bar, with three sides of the display featuring ultra-thin bezels.

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Although the notch design received a mixed reception, the iPhone X has been another success for Cupertino, California-based Apple, which shipped a total of 12.7 million units globally in the first quarter of 2018, making it the best-selling smartphone model worldwide followed by the iPhone 8’s 8.5 million and 8.3 million units for the Samsung Grand Prime Plus, according to IHS Markit figures released on Tuesday.

Smartphone shipments in China suffered their biggest ever decline in the first quarter of 2018, coming in at 91 million, down 21 per cent year-on-year from the same period last year. Huawei, Oppo and Vivo lead domestic smartphone shipments, owning 24 per cent, 19 per cent and 17 per cent market shares respectively, according to data from independent industry analysis firm Canalys.

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