Vivo Nex S – Software
There’s no denying, Vivo has tried to make its Funtouch OS 4 Android skin look as much like iOS as it can. This is the closest you’ll get to an iPhone experience without having a half-eaten Apple on the back of your phone – especially if you’re an iPhone X user.
The homescreens look almost identical, as do icons and settings. Even the order they’re laid out in is similar, although Funtouch is far more cluttered than iOS.
Emulating an iPhone’s user interface isn’t a bad thing, however. iOS is a doddle to use on an iPhone X, and so is Funtouch OS on the Vivo Nex S. In some ways – navigation, for instance – it’s even an improvement.
Swipe up from the bottom-middle to go Home, from the bottom-right to go back, and from the bottom-left to access quick settings. On the iPhone X, you need to swipe from the top-right of the screen to get to quick settings, which I find less intuitive and more of a stretch. If you don’t like the navigation layout on the Vivo Nex S, you can tinker with it, too – which is a nice touch.
However, Funtouch OS isn’t quite ready for our shores. It’s taken a fair few OS updates through the time I’ve been testing the phone to get many apps to install and work. However, things are improving.
I’ve had to manually install the Google Play Store, so I can download apps from it. The Vivo App Store is in Mandarin, which isn’t much use to me, but I can’t get rid of the app or even hide it. In addition, some apps just refuse to install on the Nex S.
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Nevertheless, every operating system update – and you’ll be please to know that they’re regular – appears to result in a greater number of compatible apps and an interface that’s a little more complete.
The notifications panel is similarly hamstrung, but more of an issue. There are a few Vivo apps that now work in English – such as the Weather and the Jovi Sport step tracker – but if you want to add more then you only have a choice of apps in Mandarin. There’s no Twitter, Facebook, Maps, news or any of the other widgets you might like, for that matter.
Then there’s split-screen multitasking. You’d expect to be able to do this with plenty of apps on a 6.6-inch phone, but the Vivo Nex S supports only a handful of them. Plus, many will only be useful to a Chinese-speaking user.
There are lots of other Vivo-specific tweaks you can apply to the phone, such as one-handed use and Smart Motion. The latter lets you enable gesture shortcuts, such as drawing an ‘e’ from the lock-screen to launch the web browser.
You can also assign different functions to long presses of the volume down button, such as opening the camera or turning on the flashlight. It isn’t limited to basic phone functions, either; you can choose to fire up any app with a long press. If only this could be applied to the Jovi AI button instead of volume down.
One of the most interesting Vivo software features is one I wan’t able to test. App Clone lets you duplicate an app on your desktop so you can be logged into two accounts at the same time. Unfortunately, there was no English-language help to explain how this works – and it seems, again, to only apply to apps downloaded from the Vivo Store.
So clearly, the Nex S’s software isn’t quite ready for the West, but at least everything runs butter-smooth thanks to blistering performance.
Vivo Nex S – Performance
The Vivo Nex S is one of the most powerful smartphones on the planet right now. It packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, just like the US version of the Galaxy S9, and a whopping 8GB of RAM – which some may believe to be overkill.
In practice, this means the Nex S doesn’t break a sweat – no matter what you throw at it. Navigation is slick, apps load instantly, and photos are taken quickly. Even demanding 3D games run like a dream, without any hint of slowdown, stutter or dropped frames.
This all bears out in benchmark test results. In the CPU-heavy Geekbench 4 test, the Vivo Nex S performs better than many of the big-hitters in the market.
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It also performs superbly in 3DMark’s Sling Shot Extreme benchmark, which taxes the graphics performance of a phone.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t test using another of our stable of benchmarks, AnTuTu 7, since this wouldn’t install on our phone.
The Vivo Nex S is available in two storage options: 128GB and 256GB. Both are generous, but since there’s no microSD card expansion slot, you’ll need to consider your storage needs ahead of purchase.
Instead of a microSD slot, you get dual-SIM functionality. This isn’t a hugely popular feature in the US and UK, but I think it’s useful. For example, a single device can function as both your business and personal phone. This beats carrying a battered old work phone any day – if your business allows you to bring your own device, that is.
Now for what’s missing. Wireless charging and water- and dust-resistance have seemingly become standard features of a flagship phones. However, the Vivo Nex S has neither, which is worth bearing in mind if you hate cords or have a habit of getting your phone wet.
On the plus side, a slim and grippy rubber case can be found in the box, as well as the obligatory in-ear headphones.
The Nex S has a USB-C port for data transfer and charging, which is standard for high-end phones these days, and there’s a fast charger included in the box too. Unfortunately, our version came with a US plug, so we were unable to test it in the UK.