If I told you the phones of tomorrow will be a slab of glass with no buttons, no ports and a full-display underscreen fingerprint sensor, you'd probably tell me I was dreaming. But I'm not.
Chinese phone-maker Vivo's Apex 2019 concept is all that and more. I've just had the chance to try out this 5G phone, and I'm pretty much blown away. Forget folding phones: The Apex 2019 is what the future looks like, though a quick caveat here -- selfie cameras are not included.
We know the front and rear of the Apex 2019 are covered in Gorilla Glass, but Vivo wouldn't disclose which version of the glass it's using. Its main claim to fame is that it uses a full-display fingerprint sensor -- you can touch the screen anywhere to unlock the phone. Vivo suggests adding a second finger for enhanced security, but the test phone unlocked with just one fingerprint when I tried to test the feature. That's because there were other prints already registered.
Making the whole screen unlockable gives Vivo more options on the unlock screen. There are apps you can tap to unlock and load straight away. When you touch the screen, the pixels in the area will light up, helping the reader under the screen see your print more clearly. This is supposed to help speed up the scanning process, but it was already quick enough.
There are no ports on this phone -- not even a Type-C USB. That's because it uses what it calls a Magport, similar to the older Apple MacBooks, and uses a magnetic clip that connects behind the phone to charge it at 18 watts. It's an odd placement that means you can't leave the phone flat down -- instead it sits at an awkward angle. There's no wireless charging and, predictably, no 3.5mm audio jack.
Adding on to the no-port mania, there's no SIM card slot, so you'll have to use an eSIM for this phone. It doesn't have speaker grilles either -- instead it uses conduction, vibrating the phone to deliver sound straight to your ear. I didn't get a chance to try this, but I did get to play music. The sound comes out from the back of the phone, but I found it a tad quiet. Putting it flat on a table helps give it some more volume.
Because there's no ports anywhere, the Apex 2019 is technically water resistant, but there's no official IP rating as Vivo has yet to test this out fully. I did notice a small gap for the microphone, but I'm guessing there are ways to keep water out of this tiny hole.
Vivo has gone the extra mile to sell the idea that this is a futuristic phone. It's stripped off all physical buttons -- even the power and volume keys usually found on the side. Instead of the keys, it uses a combination of capacitive and pressure sensors as replacements. And there's a haptic motor to simulate the experience of pressing a button.
The Apex 2019 also has liquid cooling and claims to use the largest vapor chamber plate in the industry. The phone comes in three colors, with fanciful names: Quartz White, Titan Silver and Meteor Gray, and I loved the silver version. It's shiny enough that you can check out your reflection if you're using the rear cameras for a selfie. And you'll have to turn your camera around for a selfie since this phone has no front camera.
The rear cameras have a 13-megapixel ultrawide sensor and a 12-megapixel regular sensor, but don't expect any neat tricks, as Vivo told me that the focus of this phone isn't on the cameras.
This is a concept device, so don't expect to see it in the market anytime soon. Vivo said that the technology it uses, such as the full-display underscreen fingerprint scanner, will probably trickle down to its mass-market phones in the future.
Vivo Apex 2019 specs
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Memory: 12GB RAM, 512GB onboard storage
Camera: Dual rear 13-megapixel wide-angle and 12-megapixel cameras
Battery: 2,000-mAh battery, 18-watt wireless charging Magport
Features: Full-display underscreen fingerprint scanner