Remember that crazy Yota Phone from Russia, with a color screen on the front and an E Ink screen on the back? Well, Vivo has just modernized the dual-screen phone with a special edition Vivo Nex that has a full-HD display on both the front and the rear.
If that sounds crazy, perhaps it is. In fact, we maintain an entire collection of dual screen phones gone wrong. But the new Nex Dual Display Edition aims to overpower any initial objections with its two Super AMOLED full-HD displays: There's a 6.4-inch screen on the front and a 5.5-inch one on the rear.
The rear display isn't just for show. Vivo says you can add photos to customize the look of your phone. And it could be handy for games such as PUBG, which has a lot of buttons, turning the rear screen into an additional, tappable game pad. I've tried it on the actual phone, but the games don't support the second screen yet. But I can see how it would make sense, especially for gamers looking for an edge.
Switching between displays is easy, there are two buttons at the side, the left one for Vivo's Jovi assistant, and right one for the power button, but in the phone I have, the Jovi button instead flips the display around. Cleverly, when it's flipped around, the buttons also switch. You can also swipe three fingers across the screen (which I found slightly clunky), hit both side buttons together, or use the flip screen button from the control panel.
You can flip the screen anytime, but when I was trying it out PUBG, switching display to the rear screen made the game play in a letterbox mode, which looks ugly as heck. These issues can probably fixed via a software update though.
Vivo isn't shy about making a splash. Earlier this year, the brand's first Nex phone had an in-screen fingerprint reader and a pop-up selfie camera to make its full-screen experience possible. Vivo was also the first to show off a headline-stealing in-screen fingerprint reader at CES (sadly, it suffered on a working phone). While Vivo may not have the name recognition outside China, its willingness to make a splash with oddball designs is grabbing attention, at least among Android enthusiasts, if not in the mainstream.
As gimmicky has having two screens may sound, the new Vivo phone has more tricks up its sleeve. It comes with a whopping 10GB of RAM and has a fifth-gen in-screen fingerprint scanner that Vivo says can unlock your phone in 0.29 second.
On the back, its triple-camera setup consists of 12-megapixel, 2-megapixel and time-of-flight (TOF) 3D cameras. The main camera uses Sony's IMX363 sensor and features four-axis optical image stabilization. The 2-megapixel shooter is used for low-light shots, while the TOF camera is meant for facial recognition and measuring distances and helping you get that perfect selfie with beautification software tools.
To take advantage of the rear screen, a special Mirror Mode turns it on to you watch yourself as you're being filmed by someone, while the "Pose Director" mode lets you reference videos or images to copy.
Located over the three cameras is what Vivo calls a Lunar Ring, which can light up for notifications or even add diffuse lightning for selfie shots. It's not as bright as I think it would be, but it does a pretty good job of keeping your face illuminated in dark spaces, and the ring does somewhat diffuse the light to help soften the glare on your skin.
Of course, there's no front-facing camera -- not even a pop-up one. But you won't really need it since the rear screen means the rear cameras can double up as a selfie camera.
The Vivo Nex only has a 3,500-mAh embedded battery, but I'm guessing battery life won't be that big of an issue despite the second screen. After all, the screens aren't likely to both be on all of the time -- you'll only turn them on when they're needed.
The Vivo Nex Dual Display Edition will be sold in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. It'll cost 4,998 yuan -- about $725, £575 or AU$1,000 -- and will be available from Dec. 29.