Here’s a quick disclaimer – the Vivo Apex 2019 is a concept phone through and through, which means what you’re about to read further will probably never turn into a consumer product. Not at least in all its totality. But since we’re dealing with Vivo here – and Vivo has a history of turning crazy concept features into real mass market products, it won’t be surprising if some of the features that the Apex 2019 tags along, become available in some near/distant Vivo phone. You never know.
Now that we have that out of our way, let’s talk about the Vivo Apex 2019 – basis of a brief hands-on that I have had with the concept phone of the future. Just like the original Apex from last year, the second-generation Apex or Apex 2019 is also as crazy as crazy gets. It comes with a “curved-surface Waterdrop glass design and no openings, seams or bezels,” full-display fingerprint scanner, Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with 12GB RAM and 5G connectivity.
Vivo says the Apex 2019 is a step closer to the ultimate phone form factor – if you haven’t guessed already, this phone isn’t about the specs, which is possibly why Vivo is isn’t even talking about them.
How does it achieve the ultimate phone form factor, you ask? The Apex 2019 “delivers an unconventional smartphone experience by completely removing physical buttons,” according to Vivo, and instead uses Touch Sense technology to enable capacitive touch and pressure-sensing around its outer frame. This is similar to what HTC did with the U12+ last year, and while I haven’t been able to try that – Vivo's Touch Sense technology largely works as advertised.
The phone has a dedicated area for power on/off on the right side of the frame which is marked so you’re not on your own looking for where to press – which would be terrifying since the Apex 2019 has no buttons whatsoever. Every time you trigger this sensor, you’ll feel as if you’re squeezing the whole outer frame – the volume rocker (which is also pressure sensitive) meanwhile sits above this sensor. It’s an experience that’s straight out of the future, even though ‘squeezable’ phones have been around for some time now.
Next, the Apex 2019 doesn’t have any ports either – it is a completely ‘hole-less’ smartphone. While having no headphone jack is so yesteryear, Vivo decided to chuck the USB port as well. The Apex 2019 has a proprietary magnetic power connector called MagPort on the back for charging and data syncing purposes – which means, loose the proprietary cable and you’re basically on your own. The Apex 2019, for some reason, does not support wireless charging.
Moving on, not only is the Apex 2019 truly hole-less, it is also a nearly bezel-less phone. It uses Body Sound Casting technology, to turn the display into a speaker omitting traditional grills in the process – this works on the front as well as on the back.
The original Apex came with a half-screen fingerprint scanner. The Apex 2019 takes things to a whole new level “with a sensor covering almost the entire display.” Now, Vivo has so far failed to mass produce its half-screen fingerprint scanning tech, so it would be interesting to see if it manages to skip a beat and make its full-display fingerprint scanner available for consumers anytime soon. As for the Apex 2019, its full-display optical fingerprint scanner although it’s not a one hundred per cent perfect, works well most of the time – you can register one finger or use both your fingers together to unlock the device.
Last but not the least, the Apex 2019 does not have a selfie camera – which is, for the lack of a better word, weird. For over a year now Vivo has been up at arms trying to build the perfect all-screen smartphone but it has managed to sneak in a selfie camera – the company outfitted a secondary display on the back in the Nex Dual Display just so users could take, well, selfies. The lack of a front camera is possibly the biggest tradeoff that could seemingly force Vivo into never realizing the potential of a product like the Apex 2019 for the real world – Vivo’s entire product strategy was once governed by the quality of its selfie cameras.
Elsewhere, the Apex 2019 has two cameras on the rear – but Vivo isn’t talking much about them either.
But as I mentioned earlier, the Apex 2019 isn’t about the specs (although I am sure Vivo must be working hard to fit a selfie camera somewhere) - it’s about its crazy form factor and as ridiculous as it may seem on paper, it feels very polished especially by concept standards. That's the Vivo Apex 2019 concept in nutshell - no ports, no buttons, no selfie cam, no problems - I call it, the smooth criminal.
Much like the original Apex and the Nex Dual Display, the Apex 2019 is also no ordinary smartphone. It is just one of its many attempts to build what it sees as the perfect smartphone and even though it isn’t perfect, it’s a step closer to that dream. Hopefully, it would never stop trying.