The other week I bought the new T-Mobile branded Vivacity. It is a repacked ZTE Crescent and also a variant of the Orange San Francisco 2.
I have been using it as my main device since then. My main problem with it is that my normal phone is a Samsung Galaxy S2 so I’m always comparing it to that. I have to keep reminding myself of “you get what you pay for”. That’s pretty much the theme that runs throughout this entire review. It costs £99 plus a £10 top up and for that you get a pretty decent package. Rivalling some of the cheaper devices around. Such as the HTC Wildfire S or the Xperia X8 or the Galaxy Ace or Galaxy mini. My top up even got me six months of free internet as well.
Capacitive screen, Android 2.3.5, 5 megapixel camera with flash, capacitive buttons beneath screen, lightweight, wide range of apps available, it’s cheap so I don’t worry about smashing it up like I do with my other phones and lastly there is also a growing developer community getting behind this and the San Francisco 2. In the last few days several different people have started work on porting Cyanogenmod 7 to it as well.
Plasticy, looks like an iPhone, tiny internal memory, basic screen, poor video camera, some apps missing from the Android Market because of hardware shortcomings (ie Flash or iPlayer) and there are no accessories as of yet. I feel I should mention the tiny internal memory again as this is the main thing that hinders the device out of the box.
||TFT capacitive touchscreen
||480 x 800 pixels, 3.5 inches (~267 ppi pixel density)
||- Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
– Touch-sensitive controls
||Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread)
||SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
||Stereo FM radio with RDS
||Yes + downloadable
||Yes, with A-GPS support
||Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
||- SNS integration
– MP4/WMV/H.264/H.263 player
– MP3/WAV/WMA/eAAC+ player
– Document viewer
– Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Picasa integration
– Voice memo/dial
– Predictive text input
Once I got over the fact the Vivacity looks like an iPhone, I grew to like it. Mainly because it is nice, compact and lightweight. Being all plastic helps with the weight. Some of my other phones are big 4″+ devices and even though they’re nice and thin, the shear size makes them unwieldy at times. Going back to a 3.5″ device was quite difficult at first, I mainly found typing difficult. This was with the stock keyboard which lagged slightly. After installing (and using up precious internal memory) Swiftkey things got a lot easier.
The phone itself only has a few buttons. There are buttons for volume and power on the sides, but no camera button which is annoying. I miss camera buttons and manufacturers seem to be removing them more and more. The back panel is just plain black shiny plastic, no logo or anything. This feels wrong for some reason. The capacitive buttons beneath the screen are a nice touch at this price point, they even light up in the dark (sometimes).
The screen is OK, colours are no way near as nice as on an AMOLED screen, but again “you get what you pay for”. The screen is a TFT LCD screen not an OLED screen like the original ZTE Blade was. I know a few people have been wondering about this. The screen is also only a two point multi touch screen, so you can play games that need two or less fingers ie Angry birds or Cut the rope. Higher spec games wouldn’t work anyway so don’t worry.
The speaker is quite reasonable and I managed to listen to some music without too much distortion. At higher volumes it did became a little distorted. The headphones supplied with the phone are pretty basic. They will suffice for making calls whilst driving but for listening to music you will want something better quality. Listening to music was good, but using an Equalizer was pretty essential though (goodbye internal memory) as you can boost the bass and the treble. I installed Google Music which streamed my music collection seamlessly. Without the Equalizer music sounds a little flat. The Vivacity only comes with a 2GB card so you may want to get a 16gb before you buy this and fit the card from new.
At the moment there are no cases, screen protectors, spare batteries or any other accessories you might need. I guess this will change soon, luckily I kept the film on the screen when I took it out of the box. Some people are reporting that some iPhone cases fit.
T-Mobile have pretty much left the basic vanilla Android alone which is nice of them. With only three fairly unobtrusive apps of theirs installed. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to use the Vivacity for. So I set about installing all of my usual apps and seeing what it could do.
Games first, Angry Birds and Cut the Rope both worked, with maybe a little delay now and again. More complex games that have onscreen controls get quite annoying as the screen is not the largest. As I picked up a few cheap games from the Market this week I tried out Fruit Ninja and Flick Golf. Fruit Ninja was playable and Flick Golf struggled because of screen sensitivity. I will not be trying to install the new OnLive app on it!
Music wise I was quite impressed as Google Music installed without any grief and I could stream my hundreds of tracks to my phone. If you are planning on listening to music on the Vivacity you will definitely need a bigger memory card. Using a decent pair of headphones and the Equalizer app I had quite a pleasant time listening to music.
Video wise is where things start to get a little ropey. Adobe haven’t released the version of Flash for Arm6 processors on the Market so online video is difficult. You can find a version of Flash on Modaco here. The BBC iPlayer app is missing from the Market so you are left using the iPlayer website with Flash installed of course or download an old version from here. I copied a few dvd rips to the device to see how video playback was and as to be expected it came down to codecs used in the video. The app Rockplayer seemed to handle most videos that I threw at it. Playback was smooth and looked quite good on the 3.5″ screen.
The camera is the basic Android app. With plenty of light it takes quite good pictures, in low light with the flash the quality does seem to drop a little. The video camera also only records at vga resolution so recording video and playing it back on the big screen will not be nice. So don’t expect too much from the camera. The front facing camera is only really for basic use as Skype doesn’t work.
The out of the box feeling for the Vivacity was a little slow. I needed to turn off various screen and app animations using Spare Parts. I needed to install Audiomanager to create some sound profiles. As mentioned earlier I needed to install Equalizer to make music sound better. I needed to install Launcher Pro as the stock launcher is pretty basic. After installing these and all of the updates for the basic Google apps and a few games I had filled it up. So I installed App 2 SD which moves part of the app (if the developer has coded it to) to the SD card. This gave me a little extra space to install a clock widget, Twitter, Facebook, SKY+ and a few other things and blam, it was full again. Most of the apps you would expect to work all work.
I am left in two minds over whether this approach with the tiny internal memory is a good thing. They obviously want everyday people to buy these phones, hence the price. But would an every day user just take it out of the box put the SIM in and just use it? Or would they set about installing games and stuff and fill it up within an hour or two? It doesn’t paint a great picture for a new Android user. No doubt these disgruntled new Android users will leave awful reviews on the internet and then go and buy an iPhone anyway (sorry this is just what people at my work do). Surely just putting 1gb internal memory can’t add too much extra to the cost? That would greatly improve this sort of device.
Overall I liked the phone. It will be a great phone for nights out or for holidays. But as a daily device it will be difficult without some serious work from the clever people over at MoDaCo. Mainly because of app storage space.
If you are looking for a cheap starter phone for Android this will be ideal (as long as you don’t go mad and try and install a few apps) or if you want a cheap Android phone that you can root, flash lots of different ROMs to and generally hack the wotsits out of it, then it’s for you. Below I have included a big old gallery of pictures from the initial look we had at the Vivacity and a few other pictures of some of the accessories. Remember “you get what you pay for”.
Lastly if you feel I have missed something leave a question in the comments and I will try and answer your query.