Cellular World Congress is within the rear-view mirror, and by far the most well liked subject was foldable smartphones. “Lastly,” the pondering went, “we might be freed from the boring and traditional telephone kind issue!” However that entails utilizing versatile plastic for the bendable screens, which is prone to signify a compromise in sturdiness and plain niceness. What if there’s extra to be finished with glass?

That’s what Vivo’s Apex 2019 idea smartphone is all about. With a acknowledged purpose of “futuristic simplicity,” Vivo devised a technique to construct a telephone virtually completely out of glass, with its “tremendous unibody” chassis designed to make the display much more distinguished. “All consumer interactions are centered across the show alone,” says Vivo product supervisor Ding Guanli, who desires the Apex 2019 to be seen in the identical mild as iconic, seamless designs like Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” in Chicago.

What this implies in follow is that the Apex 2019 is a subtly attractive smartphone. The glass on the again of the telephone is uneven in thickness, which permits it to increase across the edges till it meets the display panel. We consider most premium telephones in the present day as having “all-glass” designs as a result of the back and front panels have a tendency to make use of the identical materials, however the Apex 2019 eliminates the steel “sandwich” body altogether. It’s not an ultra-flashy design, however after utilizing it for some time, it did make the otherwise-pretty-hot iPhone XS Max and Xiaomi Mi 9 that I’ve been utilizing really feel type of clunky and glued collectively.

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Other than the appreciable engineering challenges Vivo needed to overcome as a way to make glass work like this, the ensuing gadget nonetheless isn’t near being a viable shopper product. The “idea” designation is apt; the Apex 2019’s glass design introduces a number of compromises that Vivo spins as minimalism however in the end aren’t fairly there from a usability perspective.

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The obvious of those is that the Apex 2019 has completely no ports or buttons in anyway. I’m not going to say this doesn’t add to the gadget’s sense of futuristic cool, as a result of it does, however Vivo’s options vary from imperfect to thoroughly impractical.

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The amount and sleep/wake buttons are dealt with by a mix of stress sensors and capacitive surfaces. They work pretty reliably and really feel okay because of Vivo’s inclusion of a correct linear motor — one thing its flagship telephones just like the Nex line might actually use — however there isn’t actually a sensation of localized haptic suggestions. The larger drawback is that the digital buttons lie straight below the place my thumb naturally rests once I maintain a telephone in my proper hand, and I’d continually set off unintentional inputs. It doesn’t assist that there’s no technique to inform the place the buttons are by really feel till you’ve “pressed” them.

Vivo’s “physique soundcasting know-how,” which substitutes for a standard speaker, is extra profitable. The glass unibody itself vibrates as a way to produce sound, and the outcomes are literally rather a lot higher than I anticipated — it’s loud, clear, and unquestionably higher than any of the bottom-firing mono audio system that Vivo normally places on its telephones. I’d moderately have forward-facing stereo audio system, in fact, however that is an auditory step ahead for Vivo.

Sadly I can’t say the identical for the Apex 2019’s charging answer. Vivo, like a couple of different Chinese language smartphone makers, has been oddly reluctant to embrace wi-fi charging, and though you’d assume a port-less idea telephone can be the proper time to take action, it’s not to be. The Apex 2019 has a chunky proprietary magnetic charger that handles knowledge switch and 18 watts of energy, and it does connect to the again of the gadget with a satisfying snap, however I feel this can be a complete miss. Who desires uncovered gold contacts on a supposedly seamless telephone?

I requested Ding about this, and he mentioned that whereas wi-fi charging is a mature know-how, the identical can’t be mentioned for wi-fi knowledge switch. Possibly, however I used to be doing wi-fi iTunes backups with my iPhone 4, and I can’t bear in mind the final time I plugged any telephone into a pc. I additionally use wi-fi charging each day. Of all of the issues I’d miss from a port-less telephone, the flexibility to plug it into the wall can be pretty low down on the record. I don’t need any a part of a future that entails carrying round proprietary pogo-pin cables.



Whereas Vivo’s refusal to undertake wi-fi charging continues to be irritating, the corporate’s iteration on in-display fingerprint sensors has been admirable. No-one did extra to unfold the know-how final yr, and by the point Vivo shipped the Nex Twin Show Version it felt impressively refined, although firms like OnePlus and Samsung have shipped much less dependable implementations. The subsequent step is rising the energetic space of the sensor, and the Apex 2019 goes all-out by letting principally the whole display scan your finger. “Let me allow you to in on a secret,” Ding says. “We knew this is able to be the best way.”

The excellent news is that it really works. The unhealthy information is that Ding admits it entails protecting the whole display in particular person sensors, which makes it cost-prohibitive within the brief time period. It’s additionally a little bit slower than the Nex Twin Show’s sensor, although that’s forgivable contemplating how a lot simpler to make use of it’s. You’ll be able to unlock the Apex 2019 just about simply by selecting it up, which gives the same expertise to safe face-unlock methods with out requiring a notch just like the iPhone or pop-up digital camera array just like the Oppo Discover X.

So what does the Apex 2019 inform us about how Vivo sees the way forward for telephones? In all probability not rather a lot. Whereas it’s a extremely cool gadget from a design perspective, I don’t assume I might use it as my fundamental telephone for quite a lot of days. It doesn’t actually have a front-facing digital camera — not a very large deal for me, however provided that that is the corporate that went out of its technique to pioneer cute little motorized selfie cameras, you possibly can inform the Apex 2019 isn’t meant for public consumption.


Photograph by Sam Byford / The Verge

These pop-up selfie cameras really appeared first on final yr’s Apex, so the pure query is whether or not any Apex 2019 options will make it onto Vivo’s mass-produced telephones this yr. Actually, I’m skeptical until the corporate can lower holes in any such glass to permit for precise functioning buttons. Possibly we’ll see bigger in-display fingerprint sensors in some unspecified time in the future, however that was additionally a function of the Apex 2018. And Vivo nonetheless ships Micro USB on a bunch of in any other case pretty high-end telephones, so don’t anticipate it to drop charging ports altogether any time quickly.

When Ding was making an attempt to position the Apex 2019 within the context of basic unibody designs, he confirmed a slide together with Alessi’s well-known ‘Juicy Salif’ lemon squeezer, designed by Philippe Starck. It’s undoubtedly an iconic and exquisite product, however I’m wondering if Ding’s ever tried to make use of it, as a result of it’s additionally fairly universally acknowledged that it sucks at squeezing lemons.

That’s the Vivo Apex 2019. It’s pure kind over operate.

However what a kind.

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