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For Vivo X Fold3 Pro, three generations of refinements define characteristics

Little has been left on the table as far as the performance stakes are concerned, and the same can be said for the camera, refined hinge architecture and ergonomically conducive design

by Tunae

If you’ve been sitting on the fence about whether the hair-raising experience of handling a foldable smartphone was worth the effort, there may be some good news as far as ergonomics go. Vivo’s first foldable smartphone for India is actually a third-generation device, and generational improvements figure prominently. Within the ambit of its competition that are the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold5 and the OnePlus Open, the latter took learnings from the passage of time to not only keep parity on the spec sheet, but alongside improve on dimensions and weight reduction. The Vivo X Fold3 Pro drives that progression forward, significantly. Anything less would have been a disappointment.

The Vivo X Fold3 Pro mobile phone. (Vishal Mathur/ HT Photo)
The Vivo X Fold3 Pro mobile phone. (Vishal Mathur/ HT Photo)

A smidgen of data will give you some perspective about why foldable phones are becoming important for phone makers. Research firm Trendforce indicates the global foldable phone shipments will be around 17.7 million in 2024, which would mean they contribute 1.5% of the overall smartphone market share. This is momentum from the 15.9 million foldable phones that were shipped in 2023. You’d be parting with around 1,59,999 for the X Fold3 Pro (do factor in possible payment offers), and that’s in the same ballpark as the Samsung Galaxy ZFold5 (around 1,54,999) though the OnePlus Open (around 1,39,999) still represents value.

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Also read:Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5 is all about polish, a new hinge and benchmark refresh

Therefore, no surprise Vivo’s foldable sits within the premium X-series portfolio. Vivo insists the X Fold3 Pro is the slimmest fold phone that you can buy in India, today – and they have a point – with 5.2mm unfolded and 11.2mm folded, compared with the OnePlus Open (5.8mm and 11.7mm) and more so the Galaxy Z Fold5 (6.1mm and 13.4mm). The immediate advantage of shaving off a few millimetres is the fact that unfolded, the X Fold3 Pro can fit in the palm of one hand with a bit more ease. Use cases for that scenario are limited, but more reassuring if you are reading or watching anything on the larger screen.

Weight too is a factor, since the much larger footprint can feel clumsy if not balanced well. Despite retaining the large camera island akin to the X100 Pro phone, the Vivo X Fold3 Pro has an even-ness to its heft. At 236 grams, this is the lightest foldable phone, just a shade lesser than the Open’s own significant weight shedding operation (239 grams) and the Galaxy Z Fold5’s bulk (253 grams). Weight reduction, and slimness makes a foldable phone ergonomically better, but remember, the basics of using a book-style foldable don’t really change.

Also read:OnePlus Open review: New benchmark for foldable phones with key software smarts

This has the technical advantage of being the most spacious foldable screen in this category of phones till now, at 8.03-inches. In comparison, Samsung had done with a 7.6-inch foldable display and the One Plus Open went a step forward with a 7.8-inch screen. It’s a foldable AMOLED and paired with an equally useful 6.53-inch cover display, you’ll probably feel its two phones in one. With the specs checklist more than seamlessly ticked off, Vivo has been able to get the visual aspect of it just right. Colours are rich yet well separated, viewing isn’t hampered even at angles and there’s more than enough illumination to be useful under bright ambient lighting.

I’m glad Vivo has persisted with the camera module design it calls ‘Big Eye’. This can be argued, but it is one of the better-looking camera island designs. Xiaomi may have, and rightly so, an argument to put forward for the 14 Ultra, but Vivo’s gone ahead and replicated it on a more complex to balance foldable form factor. To touch on the photography performance, Vivo’s built a strong foundation that simply works – the troika of a 50-megapixel wide, 64-megapixel periscope and a 50-megapixel ultra wide aren’t subscribing to the initial foldable template where cameras were a compromise (OnePlus Open bucked that trend; Vivo’s building on it). No longer is that the case.

Also read:Android flagship battles resume as Vivo X100 Pro settles a photography yardstick

As is often the case with camera partnerships, the expertise bearing partner must get its share of the credit. In the case of the Vivo X Fold3 Pro, it is the German optics technology company Zeiss. There is some similarity with the wide and ultrawide megapixel counts, while the telephoto has a higher number, but that’s not the complete picture – the Vivo X Fold3 Pro uses slightly different apertures which will vary the performance slightly, and yet, keeps it within the flagship leadership ballpark set by the Vivo X100 Pro.

The little elements make the biggest difference. The T* coating, as Zeiss calls it, reduces light flares and keeps exposure well in control – this will be important for many photography scenarios, particularly ones where the sun or a light source face directly. The 1-inch sensor is at the core of photos that come through as perfectly detailed, whether in the default pixel-binned mode or the High-Definition mode. I’d noted at the time of the Vivo X100 Pro review that colour tone in the HD mode is ever so slightly warmer and richer while the standard Photo mode reverts of a cooler colour temperature. Differences are less profound with the X Fold3 Pro, pointing to changes with the software.

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For now, among your troika of choices, the X Fold3 Pro has by far the best cameras. If that’s at all important for you. The multi-focal portrait (your choices range between 24mm and 100mm focal lengths), optimisations for sunset photos and telephoto macros will find a lot of relevance as you go about using this as your default camera. It is clear there are behind the scenes improvements (compared with my experience with the X100 Pro earlier this year) with colour rendering, dynamic range as well as noise cancellation without compromising details.

The materials that Vivo has used to strengthen the X Fold3 Pro, will make their presence felt sooner or later – I can attest to the Armour Glass as well as the combination of a durable glass and UPE, or unsaturated polyester fibre’s real-world usefulness, in case the foldable tumbles earthwards. It is quite understandable that hinge architectures are being reworked as foldables evolve, and Vivo’s efforts have brought us firmly to the doorstep of an implementation that doesn’t leave a gap between the two layers when the screen is folded. This might be subjective, but the fold and unfold mechanism returns a tad less resistance.

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Little has been left on the table as far as the performance stakes are concerned, with the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip along with all else you’d expect from a serious foldable contender with premium pricing – 16GB RAM, 512GB storage, a 5700mAh battery with 100-watt wired charge and 50-watt wireless charging (Vivo will also be selling a wireless charger that’s compatible with the X Fold3 Pro, and indeed a broader X series portfolio). You’ll begin to notice the artificial intelligence (AI) at work soon enough – there’s the Google Gemini based layer for the note app, the voice recorder for transcripts and on-screen translation. As many as four apps can share the screen space.

There is a fold to split gesture, in which if you have an app on the foldable screen and want to add an app to share that space, proceeding to fold to about 160 degrees should slide the already open app into half the screen space. In my experience, this isn’t as seamless as I’d have liked it, at least for now with the expectation being a software update will improve responsiveness.

The market for foldables, as data illustrates, is increasing. More of you will consider a foldable for your next phone purchase, irrespective of whether or not you follow through on that. For phone makers, it’s important to have their portfolio in place, to cater to that eventuality. Vivo’s first foldable for India, its third generation in the bigger picture, is on form with refinements imbibed over time. That should hold it in good stead in a niche but hotly contested product category. As has become the form with Vivo’s recent flagship and premium phone launches, things are mostly spot on. Again.

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