Finally, we arrive at what Vivo has marketed itself differently from the competition. Camera is Vivo's masterpiece feature on this phone as it has a massive 24 MP selfie camera with dual 16 MP + 5 MP cameras at its rear, which is first on any Vivo smartphone.
The front 24 MP sensor with an f/2.0 aperture comes with lots of features like Face Beauty, Face Beauty video call, HDR mode and a bizarre feature called Gender Detection. What Vivo is marketing the device is for its AI-enabled camera. AI-powered camera deals more with Face Beauty mode though, which means it does have an effect on images but it's not something what Huawei has done with AI, such as scene detection. Use of AI here is more for an effect rather than really going deep and have a more meaningful impact.
Vivo has worked hard to improve its selfie camera and results are evident in Vivo V9. Selfies clicked with Vivo V9 came out sharp and extremely accurate, especially outdoors. Color accuracy and sharpness is seen vividly in photos with selfie camera autofocusing extremely quickly. Color reproduction and dynamic range was good and overall, selfies looked great on Vivo V9.
There's an iPhone-like feature here as well called Live photo. It records what happens 1.5 seconds before and after a picture is clicked and creates an image with more detail. Vivo left no stone unturned in giving the perfect selfie experience so they had to include Portrait bokeh mode to front camera as well, and honestly, results are impressive. Selfie camera lives up to its reputation and is one of the better ones around. Vivo is also introducing its own version of AR Stickers which were first seen on Samsung Galaxy S9. They function differently though and you can use a lot of stickers on AR selfies. It is a feature which will be liked by users who use Snapchat on a daily basis.
At its rear, Vivo V9 boasts a dual camera setup of 16MP and 5MP sensors both having an f/2.0 aperture placed vertically, along with a single LED flash. Results were fairly impressive in my testing, considering price of the phone. Vivo V9 did a good job in capturing subjects outdoors and impressively it captures lots of detail in photos. Default mode on Vivo V9 is bizarrely called Take Photo. You can also find other modes like Professional, Ultra-HD, Slo-mo, Time Lapse, Bokeh mode, Shot refocus, HDR, Face Beauty, and Panorama. The second camera on Vivo V9 is a depth sensor so expect your Portrait mode photos to come out great. You even get an option to increase or decrease Bokeh effect in portraits. After taking lots of photos with Vivo V9, the problem I had to face most was inconsistent shots. Camera takes some really good photos, especially outdoors during day time, but same cannot be seen during dark, low light scenarios. There's a clear difference in image quality of photos taken during day time and during night.
Taking into consideration both rear and front cameras, Vivo V9 provides a camera experience which will satisfy most of its users. Selfie camera is one of the best around but rear camera could have been better. It keeps in tone with overall vibe of this flagship device by Vivo, some excellent features while some are not really up to the mark.
As mentioned earlier Vivo has tried their level best to mimic Apple iPhone X and same can be said about Vivo V9's software. It comes with Android 8.0 Oreo out of the box with Vivo's own custom FunTouch OS 4.0 on top. This is a heavily customized skin which tries extremely hard to look like iOS. Icons look similar to ones you see on Apple iPhones, notification slider is similar too, and you can also slide up a control center like settings page from the bottom of the screen, which again, is a classic iOS look.
If you've used a Vivo smartphone before, you will have an experience pretty similar and easy to navigate. Only difference you will see is positioning of network signal, clock, data/WiFi, and battery level indicators because of notch. There is no application launcher as Vivo likes to keep apps on main screen only and UI uses multiple home screens to house applications. Swiping down from top will reveal notifications drawer while swiping up from bottom brings out shortcut keys.
Inside Settings, users can change order and styles of navigation keys, or choose to use navigation gestures instead of keys giving them the option to navigate through UI similar to how it is done on Apple iPhone X. Vivo V9 has a picture-in-picture mode and one can go to settings to check which apps support it. There are some nice software enhancements like one-handed mode, app cloning and smart motion gestures. It is something we have also seen on Motorola and Huawei devices. For instance, if you just shake the device, flashlight can be turned on. Other features include a Game Mode for uninterrupted gaming, Smart motion for gesture-based controls, Smart Split for split screen or picture-in-picture mode, One-handed mode, App Clone, Smart click for quick app launches using volume keys, and Face Beauty for video calls.
Vivo V9 has Vivo's native apps like the V-Appstore, iTheme, iManager, EasyShare, and Vivo app to view company's own products. Google's apps are here as well, along with pre-installed apps like Lazada, Facebook, and WPS Office, which you can uninstall. To have an idea about amount of bloatware which is on this device, you're getting 49.40GB of usable space out of 64GB.
Even with a heavily bloated software experience, Vivo provides decent RAM management. Phone runs fairly smooth, with a few lags here and there. Most frustrating thing about this OS for me is that it undermines user experience of many third party-apps, and instead tries to add an Apple like vibe to everything. For security you get a Facial unlock with Vivo V9, which is not as secured as Apple's face id, but it works quite fast.
Overall, you get an experience with this phone which you might want to get from an Apple smartphone. If you're a stock Android fan, this phone is a definitely not for you, but if you want to enjoy the Apple experience at a lower price, you won't find many problems with Vivo's latest flagship.
Vivo V9 is available in market for around 300 Euros. It comes in two different colors: Black or Gold. It is a good phone for selfie lovers and for people who are looking for a great selfie experience at a lower price point. It can certainly not compete with the likes of Samsung Galaxy S9 or Apple iPhone X and no one should expect it to at this price. Vivo is targeting masses with this device, especially those who are looking for a well-rounded smartphone that is equipped to handle anything.
Frankly, it is really hard to judge Vivo V9. It lives up the expectation of great selfies, has an impressive display and 19:9 aspect ratio comes really handy. AI is more about marketing as real impact of it can hardly be noticed. At 300 Euros, it's not exactly a budget smartphone and what lets it down is its mid-range specs and software experience. Build quality is not very premium either, as most premium looking phones these days are made of glass instead of plastic. With a flagship device you expect top-notch specifications which Vivo V9 lacks. Yet, it's a smartphone that delivers performance which most users will find more than acceptable.
Vivo V9's biggest problem will be Oppo's F7 which is marketed in a similar way and has same price point, with much better specs on paper at least. Overall, as a smartphone, one can't help but feel that Vivo V9 could've been a much better device.