Vivo X Fold Hands-On: Setting foldable goals for 2022
The foldable phone scene can still be considered nascent in the majority of the world. But inside mainland China, it’s already reached a status of normal, with Huawei, OPPO, Xiaomi, Honor, Motorola, and even little-known brands like Royole all selling foldables alongside Samsung. With so much competition, brands really can’t rest on their laurels, and the Vivo X Fold brings further breakthroughs to foldable tech, including the first in-display fingerprint scanner in a foldable phone, plus a flagship-level camera system.
Unfortunately, like those other foldables from Huawei and OPPO, the Vivo X Fold is only sold in China for now, but with a relatively low starting retail price of 8,999 yuan ($1,372) and full Google Mobile Services support, this could be an enticing import option for enthusiasts outside China.
Personally, I wish Vivo would consider an international release of this phone, not just because I selfishly want to use one with Vivo’s more western market-friendly OS, but because it would give Samsung pressure to step up its foldable game. The more I test these Chinese foldables, the more I can’t accept the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s relatively basic camera system and hard screen crease.
Vivo X Fold: Specifications
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About this hands-on: This hands-on was written after a day and a half of testing a China retail version of Vivo X Fold on loan from third-party retailer Trinity Electronics based in Hong Kong. Neither Vivo nor Trinity had any input in this article.
Vivo X Fold: Design and Hardware
The Vivo X Fold is a large screen inward-folding phone with a design pioneered by Samsung which has since been adopted by Huawei, Xiaomi, OPPO, and Honor (in that order). With a 6.5-inch outside display and 8-inch inner screen, plus a full-fledged almost premium flagship camera system, the Vivo X Fold is the biggest and bulkiest of them all, measuring 162mm (6.38-inches) in height and weighing a whopping 311g. The Galaxy Z Fold 3, by comparison, weighs only 271g. The OPPO Find N looks tiny next to the X Fold.
For those whose only experiences with foldables have been Samsung’s offerings, Vivo’s X Fold will impress: the device folds entirely flat, without the gap seen by Samsung’s foldables; and the X Fold’s 8-inch foldable screen also barely leaves a crease at the folding point, again unlike the significant indentation mark left by Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 3.
Of course, the technology to dramatically lessen signs of a crease is nothing new for those more well-versed with Chinese foldables — the Huawei Mate X2 and OPPO Find N both have achieved this task. Where the Vivo X Fold pioneers are in biometrics — the Vivo X Fold is the first foldable to use an in-display fingerprint scanner. Two of them, in fact, one on each screen. These are Qualcomm’s ultrasonic scanners (not the crazy fast 3D Sonic Max version, however), and they work well.
Most of the recent breakthroughs first introduced by Samsung’s foldables have made it here to the X Fold too: Vivo’s hinge can stay in place at most angles, allowing it to be its own tripod or stand; and the folding display is covered by the ultra-thin glass so it doesn’t feel plasticky. There is no official IP water resistance rating or stylus support like in the Galaxy Z Fold 3, however.
Both displays look great: 120HZ LTPO panels with resolutions not quite at WQHD+, but north of 1080p. Maximum brightness is satisfactory for outdoor use too. I am also a fan of the vegan leather back, which gives the backside more texture and character than the usual glass fare. However, I think the blue colorway looks much better than the dull grey unit I’m testing.
Under the hood, the Vivo X Fold packs a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 with 12GB of RAM and a 4,600 mAh battery that can be charged at 80W speeds via the included charger, or 50W wirelessly. I have not used the phone enough to give a verdict on battery life, but general smartphone performance was fine as expected with that silicon. There’s also a physical toggle switch like the alert slider seen in OnePlus phones, and loud stereo speakers.
Vivo X Fold: Cameras
The camera system here deserves its own section because it is close enough to a premium flagship camera system, which is something sorely missing in Samsung’s foldable phones thus far. Don’t get me wrong, the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s cameras are fine in a vacuum, but the hardware is years old and clearly a few steps behind Samsung’s glass slab offerings. The Vivo X Fold, on the other hand, offers camera hardware almost on par with the Vivo X70 Pro Plus, which is great news because the latter camera system is one of the absolute best on the market.
The X Fold’s quad-camera system consists of a 50MP, f/1.8 main camera using Samsung’s GN5 sensor, 48MP ultra-wide Sony IMX598 sensor, 12MP 2x telephoto zoom, and 8MP 5x Periscope zoom lens. For those familiar with the X70 Pro Plus and keeping score: the Vivo X Fold has the exact same ultra-wide, Periscope, and telephoto setup, but the main camera, although using a newer sensor, is technically inferior to the X70 Pro Plus’ GN1, which has a larger image sensor size.
The Vivo X Fold is also missing the V1 imaging chip and the gimbal system that supports the X70 Pro Plus’ ultra-wide. So yes, spec for spec, the Vivo X Fold’s camera system still isn’t equal to Vivo’s best slab camera system, but the gap between Vivo’s foldable camera hardware and the best slab camera hardware is much smaller than the same comparison with Samsung, OPPO, or Xiaomi phones.
I only had limited time testing the cameras so far, but samples looked good, with the same uncanny HDR that the Vivo X70 Pro Plus was known for. See the samples below — the gap in quality is particularly large in the ultra-wide set.
Even against Samsung’s best possible camera, the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Vivo’s HDR can hold its own and produce arguably as good, if not better, images.
And while the X Fold’s Periscope zoom lens isn’t at the level of the world-beating Galaxy S22 Ultra zoom lens, it’s still so much better than a Galaxy Z Fold 3 zoom shot.
For me, I am a big fan of foldables and Periscope zoom cameras, and I disliked needing to choose one or the other over the past couple of years, the Vivo X Fold is the first phone to give me both other than the Huawei Mate X2, which can’t run crucial Google apps I need for work.
Vivo X Fold: Software
The X Fold runs OriginOS, which is Vivo’s China-only software that differs from Vivo’s global software, FunTouch OS, quite a bit. I have covered OriginOS in my recent Vivo X Note hands-on, so please check out that article for more in-depth impressions, but the short version is that OriginOS has a very stylized look that’s heavy on animations, bold fonts, and colors, with giant widgets that fill the homescreen, and dramatic animations for every action, even something as simple as the number pad popping up when a fingerprint reader can’t correctly identify the digit.
I like some parts of OriginOS, such as the dynamic widget that can trigger app actions directly on the homescreen. For example, I can begin a voice recording directly on the voice recorder widget on the homescreen, without needing to open the app at all. I generally like the color schemes and animations too.
But I dislike that there is no app tray — OriginOS really encourages you to fill up the homescreen with stuff — and that the many non-native apps can’t open in a floating window (you can do this with Vivo’s native apps, but not, say, Google Chrome).
Otherwise, I saw no major issues with how the software handled the folding and unfolding of the phone, although one thing I was unable to test has the same aggressive background app management that breaks push notifications. I’m willing to bet yes on that since that’s how all Chinese versions of Android do. But I’m also confident I can fix the issues by jumping into settings and tweaking battery settings because I have successfully done so on dozens of Chinese Vivo/Oppo/Xiaomi/Huawei devices over the years. Still, OriginOS will very likely frustrate western consumers who are not experts at tweaking phone settings.
One cool trick Vivo has built for the X Fold (not sure if it’s exclusive to the X Fold or all phones running OriginOS) is the ability to sync the phone with either Windows or Mac computers. This requires installing a Vivo software for the computer, but once installed, a simple scan of a QR code synced the Vivo X Fold with my MacBook Pro, after which a mirrored version of my phone screen shows up on my computer. I can interact with the phone directly on my MacBook, including responding to text messages or even use the phone’s cameras. There is also the ability to drag and drop photos and files from the Vivo X Fold to the Mac/Windows, but this requires a Vivo mainland China account.
Vivo X Fold: Early Impressions
When I tested the Huawei Mate X2 a year ago, I was blown away by how much Huawei improved on the foldable formula established by Samsung — it was the first large-screen inner-folding phone to not have a crease, fold completely flat, and offered a Periscope zoom lens. But because the phone couldn’t run Google apps and was priced exorbitantly high, it was a non-starter for most consumers outside mainland China, even the ones who are willing to import such as me.
With the X Fold, Vivo has essentially given us that Mate X2 hardware plus further improvements like in-display fingerprint scanners, at a much lower price point, plus Google support to boot. This makes the Vivo X Fold appealing for phone enthusiasts who are willing to import.
I want to say the Vivo X Fold has the best foldable hardware right now, but I’m sure some readers will disagree, arguing Samsung’s official IP rating and S-Pen support still gives the Galaxy Z Fold 3 the edge. That’s a fair enough argument — to each their own. For me, I value a crease-free display and a real zoom lens far more than stylus support or water resistance.
Even if you have no interest in importing or in using Chinese phones, the existence of the Vivo X Fold is a good thing because it further shows consumers what is possible on a foldable device. So if Samsung still gives us a Galaxy Z Fold 4 with a creased display this August or September, we consumers and phone enthusiasts have cause for complaints.
But ultimately, until Chinese brands start releasing their foldable phones internationally, Samsung effectively still has a monopoly on the foldable market, and that allows Samsung to cruise a bit. I want Samsung to feel the pressure, so it can give us the best possible Galaxy Z Fold 4, Z Fold 5, and so on.