The Vivo V20 is the first phone shipping with Android 11, and we tested it
Vivo’s V series has tried to stand out from the pack by prioritizing the selfie-taking experience, and this year’s V20 series is no different. However, there’s one more noteworthy thing about at least one of the models this year: The standard Vivo V20 beat Google’s Pixel 4a 5G and Pixel 5 to the punch in being the first device to ship with Android 11 out of the box.
Well, a version of Android 11 anyway, as Vivo’s runs a customized version named Funtouch OS, also in version 11. (For some unexplained reason, only the standard, non-Pro Vivo V20 runs on Android 11; the Vivo V20 Pro, which I’m also testing, is still on Android 10)
I’ve been testing the Vivo V20 (and the Pro) for a couple of days now, and it seems like most of the new Android 11 features have made their way to the Vivo V20, although there are some notable features not working. Vivo has cleaned up its custom Android software by quite a bit, as Funtouch OS used to be one of the heaviest skins around, even going as far as changing the core Android experience. (For example, previous versions of Funtouch OS placed shortcut toggle buttons in a swipe-up menu located at the bottom of the screen instead of within the notification shade at the top of the screen.) This time, it seems Vivo tried to stick closer to what Google had in mind for Android 11, though some things still fell through.
First, let’s look at design and specs
It feels a bit odd to just jump straight into a brand new phone series and talk about small software tweaks, so let’s get the basics out of the way and go over the specs of the entire Vivo V20 series (including the lowest tier SE model that I do not have for testing), along with the overall look and feel of the devices.
|Specification||Vivo V20 Pro||Vivo V20||Vivo V20 SE|
|System-on-chip||Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G||Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G||Qualcomm Snapdragon 665|
|Fingerprint scanner||In-display optical||In-display optical||In-display optical|
|Battery Capacity||4,000 mAh||4,000 mAh||4,100 mAh|
As you can see, the standout feature of the Vivo V20 series, at least in the top two models, is the 44MP selfie camera. Other than that and the soft matte finish of both devices, the overall build and design of these phones are very familiar, if not a bit tired by late 2020. Still, they are quite thin and well constructed for what should be a sub-$400 device, with decent haptics and a sturdy aluminum frame.
Android 11 features
Android 11 doesn’t bring wholesale changes to Android 10 the way some previous version jumps have; instead, Android 11 is about refining an already very polished experience. The key to Android 11 this year seems to be better managing notifications, particularly chats. For example, ongoing messages in any chat app — AKA conversations — are now grouped together and prioritized at the top of the notification card stack, above less important notifications.
On the Vivo V20, that change has sort of carried over. I say “sort of” because while WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are grouped together in a single conversations box that’s prioritized above less important notifications, WeChat is left out and remains its own notification card. I whipped out my Pixel 4 running Android 11 to see if this was the case on Google’s device too, and nope, WeChat was correctly grouped alongside other chat apps on the Pixel 4.
You’ll see that Android 11 on the Pixel 4 has also pushed the music player widget into the core notification shade along with the toggles instead of being its own separate card. This feature, too, only works from time to time on the Vivo V20’s version of Android 11, as you can see from the screenshot above where the Spotify player is still its own card below the WhatsApp notification card.
Two features that have carried over successfully are the notification history, which allows users to see all their notifications from the past 24 hours, and chat bubble support. The latter will be familiar to those who’ve used Facebook Messenger on Android in the past — it essentially allows chat apps to be minimized into a floating window so users can jump back and forth between an ongoing conversation and whatever else they may be doing on the screen.
Finally, the other two notable changes to Android 11 — power menu device control and one-time permission for location tracking — have both made it over to Funtouch OS 11 on the Vivo V20 without changes. Long pressing the power menu on the Vivo V20 brings up the power menu as can be seen in one of the screenshots above, and it’s basically a central hub for not only controlling your phone’s shutdown or reboot options, but also your one-stop-shop for housing your smart home controls.
Elsewhere, the one-time location tracking permission worked as advertised on Here WeGo maps. I only allowed it to use my location once, and as soon as I closed the app and locked the phone, the next time I opened the app it had to ask for permission again.
Funtouch OS 11: What’s new?
Vivo’s Funtouch OS has its own software changes that go beyond what Google had in mind, some of which overlap with Android 11’s additions. For example, Android 11 added a native screen recorder, which Vivo’s Funtouch OS has had for years. So instead, Vivo added to “S-Capture”, which is a group of screen grabbing or recording tools. These include a basic screen recorder, of course, but also scrolling screenshot capture, or the ability to grab screenshots in specific shapes, like a heart, circle, etc.
There’s also a new “AI Photo Editor,” which offers a very comprehensive suite of photo editing tools baked into the phone’s native Album app. With most phones, we can expect to be able to adjust exposure, orientation, crop into photos, and maybe scribble some marks. Vivo’s editor includes all the aforementioned features plus object eraser, which allows the user to remove unwanted elements from a photo — like a stranger photobombing your selfie — from the shot. This trick, to be honest, can be found in any photo editing app or software worth its salt, so it’s not exactly a groundbreaking feature, but having it built into the app will make it easier for casual smartphone users to make light edits.
The results from the object eraser can be hit-and-miss — though this isn’t really Vivo’s fault, as even widely used photo-editing apps like Adobe Lightroom or Pixelmator can’t quite pull off a clean erase every time. In the screenshot samples below, you can see I somewhat successfully removed a car from the corner of the shot.
There’s also a new batch of Always-On Display options that are colorful and vibrant, but they are not interactive like LG’s or Samsung’s AOD, which allows for music controls. Overall, none of the new additions to Vivo’s Funtouch OS 11 are amazing per se, but together they do give it a more playful vibe than some of the more staid Android skins like LG’s or Sony’s UI.