T-Mobile Vivacity review

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.

Pros

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.

Cons

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.

Specification

GENERAL 2G Network GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
3G Network HSDPA
Announced 2011, November
Status Available. Released 2011, November
SIZE Dimensions 115 x 58 x 10.5 mm
Weight 118 g
DISPLAY Type TFT capacitive touchscreen
Size 480 x 800 pixels, 3.5 inches (~267 ppi pixel density)
- Accelerometer sensor for UI auto-rotate
- Touch-sensitive controls
SOUND Alert types Vibration, MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
MEMORY Phonebook Practically unlimited entries and fields, Photocall
Call records Practically unlimited
Internal 512 MB
Card slot microSD, up to 32GB, 2 GB included
DATA GPRS Yes
EDGE Yes
3G HSPA+
WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth Yes, with A2DP
Infrared port No
USB Yes, microUSB v2.0
CAMERA Primary 5 MP, 2592×1944 pixels, LED flash
Features Geo-tagging
Video Yes
Secondary Yes
FEATURES OS Android OS, v2.3 (Gingerbread)
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Browser HTML
Radio Stereo FM radio with RDS
Games Yes + downloadable
Colors Black
GPS Yes, with A-GPS support
Java Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
- SNS integration
- MP4/WMV/H.264/H.263 player
- MP3/WAV/WMA/eAAC+ player
- Organizer
- Document viewer
- Google Search, Maps, Gmail,
YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Picasa integration
- Voice memo/dial
- Predictive text input
BATTERY Standard battery, Li-Ion 1500 mAh
Stand-by Up to 200 h
Talk time Up to 4 h

Hardware

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.

Software

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.

Conclusion

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.

  • Matt

    You forgot the specs table, leaving a place holder.

  • Anthony Underwood

    Hi

    What did you think of the keyboard. There are some reports of it being sluggish/laggy and hard to type long messages or emails?

    Thanks

    • James Pearce

      The stock Android pretty keyboard is pretty poor. The smaller screen and slight delay make the stock pretty poor. I had to install Swiftkey (goodbye internal storage) fairly quickly.

      • Anthony Underwood

        Thanks for the update. Sorry I see you do comment on it in the review. My bad for skim reading.

  • Emma78

    OK I completely disagree with your review. I use the phone mainly for music, texting a camera use!

    the phones has amazing photo quality and there was no need to install new app’s!
    the music quality was OK, a little crackly with hight notes but overall the speakers are fine for on-the-go use.

    I would recommend this phone to anyone!

  • Anonymous

    What clock and battery widget are you using in that last pic with the SGSII?

    • James Pearce

      The widget on the vivacity is beautiful widgets with ice cream sandwich skin and segment battery skin
      It’s the same on the sgs2 but using the honeybat skin for the battery

  • ozzie

    do you think the phone is good isit fast and if i download alot i mean alot of apps just like the iphone will the phone go slower ? apart from the battery life whats the bad points

  • beccaturner

    Im only 14, and want a better phone than my tokko lite.  I was wanting a good phone, but not something thats too pricey. I text quite a lot, and im kind of addictive to my phone. I would download apps, and would use it frequentley. Do you think this is a good phone for me?

  • anon

    Hi, im 14 and am looking for a new phone, thats better than the tokko lite, but isnt too pricey. Im also going for the phone as Pay as you Go. I text a lot and am quite addicted to my phone, so i would be using it frequentley, but only really using the basics. I wouldnt be storing that much information on there, however i owuld download some apps. Do you think this phone would be suitable for me?

  • John-F

    So it is not possible to make video calls via Skype on this phone, even though it has a front camera?

  • Hayls

    How do you turn on the predictive text function?

  • Alex Georgiev

    Flash is installable as there has been an ARM6 / ARM11 version available at XDA Developers for about 6 months now.  There is also a compatible BBC Iplayer.  The internal memory can easily be repartitioned (Vivacity TPTs), freeing at least another 80 mb for apps.  A2SD scripts enable the installation of apps onto the SD card.  Presently, I have 256 + 200 odd MB (total 450) for apps.  I could easily change the SD card apps (EXT) partition to 512 MB or 1 GB, totaling 700 / 1200 odd MB for apps. More than enough I’d say, if not overkill.

    Google MODACO ZTE CRESCENT and sort the phone out, including ROOT and Unlock.  The phone is excellent – all the shortcomings are irrelevant as they can very easily be overcome.

    The fish n chips crescent ROM includes Flash and IPlayer, as well as A2SD support. It can be found in the forum above (modaco). It comes with a choice of launchers – launcher plus, nemus and others.

    I use a 32GB class 10 SD card. You can not use SD cards on the iPhone, nor can you change the battery. You can do both of these on this excellent little phone. Yes, the screen is TFT not OLED, but no other phone has such a high resolution at this price range (480×800). OLEDs are great but not without shortcomings which TFTs do not posess. Swings and roundabouts.

    ‘You get what you pay for’ – actually it is not difficult at all to get a helluva lot for your money by purchasing this phone. Takes all of 30 minutes to tweak the phone using easily accessible Modaco guides.

  • Jan

    Thank you for your review.  I looked at one of these in Oxford today in the T mobile shop.  I don’t know much about these phones, I have a slider one atm, but wanted to be up to date and get one with internet on.  (I am older so need info).  It was compared to the San Fransisco and that is the one I was originally going for. 

  • Dmytro

    Hi, all!
    Please describe more detail about battery life. For example how long time one can see DivX video?
    Also please answer the question below about video calls in Skype.
    Thank you.

  • Xjade-rx

    My Vivacity was working fine and sudenly it won’t turn on properly. It will turn on but gets stuck on the start-up screen where T-Mobile appears, and just keeps refreshing this page. Any idea why?

    • Starburstlover

      I’m currently experiencing the exact same problem, was you able to get this fixed, if so, how?

      • xcftvgyb

        This is happening to my phone aswell, it’s annoying because I only had it for a month!

        • reg

          Me too.

          Shortly before it started doing this I got a message telling me I had run out of space and had to delete something. I suspect there isn’t enough room for temp files or something and android can’t start because of this. Have tried several solutions including trying a firmware upgrade via the zte tool and an in handset factory reset but no joy. Warranty repair methinks.

  • Deanp89

    my vivacity is ok, the battery life is poor i think personally, i have even tried turning off all widgets and the apps that run constantly and and i can only get 4 hours tops before the phone decides to scream at me.
    after a week or so of having the phone the touchscreen became a right bugger to use now and again. wouldnt slide to unlock properly, texting can be a bit annoying when the phone decides to do what it wants as it will start typing random letters and then the auto correct feature takes over and adds stupid words.
    other than that, the phone is a great little phone, its a shame it doesnt have the widgets what you can get on htc (i.e, the weather etc)
    would be a great first android phone for a young kid or someone new to the smartphone industry.
    and at £100, it was a bargain.

  • http://twitter.com/Dr_Fod Dr Fod

    I love this phone, the battery life is very good, I don’t understand the comment that it isn’t. You must have an issue or an app that is draining the life out of the phone.

    I think the build quality is just fine, the back case is flimsy but only when you’re trying ot get it off, once it’s on it’s fine.

    Don’t really care for the lack of iplayer or flash, does anyone really want to watch TV on a small screen?

    The only issue I have with the phone is the issue that the astronomy apps don’t seem to work with this phone, they load but the sky never seems to orientate itself correctly, I’ve searched on the internet and it seems to be a common issue.

  • Sox

    Thanks Alex for pointing towards the rooting and ROMs. Highly recommended to get the most from the phone.

    Thank you James Pearce for the review, but please be careful saying the headphones can be used for taking calls whilst driving. In the UK it is illegal to use a mobile phone, even hands free, when driving.

  • /–

    this phone has been trouble from the start with me! have sent it back twice and needs to go back again, i have only had it for 3 months, takes about an hour to turn on, does what it please, slow, sticks, freezes and battery life is poor

  • Prashant

    This is my 2nd ZTE phone (first being a ZTE Amoled Blade) and a very nice one for the price of £89.99.   Overall the mobile is a very nice piece of hardware for the price. Its got all the features of any other HTC, Samsung phones. The battery life is about 2 days or more if you disable 3G network connections and install a simple battery saver app off the google market. Space issues can be fixed with apps2SD that moves software from mobile to microSD card. 
    I chose it over Samsung Ace, unlocked it on my own thanks to Cyanogenmod, Go Launcher app fixes some glitches with android keyboard. Only con is the front cam doesn’t work with skype. 

  • poppyjade135

    i have this phone and it has nothing but broke for me , i try get on my gallery and it doesnt work , i usually have to restart it to get it working or keep clicking on and off the gallery also the touch scree doesnt work sometimes , i have had this for a couple of months , sent it to shore 2 times now ,its been nothing but trouble , my family and friends said the same , it is cheap but not that good if you had a problems like me

    • poppyjade135

      store not shore*

  • tray brown

    I wanted to but this phone to give to my wife so we can skype; did you say that skpye does not work on the phone?

  • tray brown

    I wanted to buy this phone to give to my wife so we can skype; did you say that skpye does not work on the phone?

    • jayce

      skype will work but only for calling but there is no video.

  • erik

    I keep getting a symbol of a box with the top left corner cut off with and an exclamation mark in it and l can’t get the internet without taking the battery out to reset the phone.
    Any ideas?
    Thanks

  • Mrs. Janice Wallis

    Hello, please help me. I have a t mobile vivacity mobile and I can’t log out of facebook on it, so I am continuously logged into it. Please would like help to log out.