Vivo is back in the premium smartphone segment with a bang. Well, at least in terms of attention. The brand had made a few waves with the Nex in 2018 but had subsequently dropped off the premium charts. Well, with the Rs 49,990 X50 Pro, you can safely say that the brand is back in premium-land.
And frankly, it has marked its return with what can be called either courage or craziness, depending on whom you talk to. While all the talk in the build-up to the launch was about the Gimbal Camera system, all the talk AFTER the launch was about the pricing of the device. At Rs 49,990, the Vivo X50 Pro is not a token premium device (we have brands talking of premium experiences at Rs 25,000 for instance) but an all-out premium player. It goes up against some very formidable competition – most notably the OnePlus 8 and 8 Pro, the Xiaomi Mi 10, and of course, the iPhone SE.
That’s a good place to be in, right? I mean, that is the creme de la creme of flagships, this side of the more expensive iPhones and Galaxy S20s.
Well, yes it is. But, and this is where the “are they brave or are they crazy” conflict comes in – the Vivo X50 Pro is the only device in that list to not feature a flagship processor. Make no mistake, it ticks off almost every other important hardware requirement – great design, great display, plenty of RAM, big battery with fast charging, and those cameras (read our first cut to know more). But when it comes to the processor, it ships with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chip. Now, this is a new processor and one that is near-flagship levels but is not quite on the same ground as those on the other devices in its zone – the Snapdragon 865 on the Mi 10 and OnePlus 8 series and the A13 Bionic on the iPhone.
In terms of other hardware, the X50 Pro seems outmatched actually even by the likes of the Realme X50 Pro (now back after a sales sabbatical) and even the iQOO 3 from its own sub-brand. So what exactly does the X50 Pro have to command that premium?
The answer is on that rectangular unit on the back – those cameras, or to be more exact, the Gimbal Camera system which Vivo claims mimic the stability provided by a gimbal! And that really reveals the extent of the courage or craziness that Vivo has indulged in with the X50 Pro. After all, it has been quite a while since a smartphone charged a premium mainly for its camera – in fact, the last time we heard a device putting so much weight behind a camera and charging a premium for it in a device that had a less than flagship-level processor was perhaps in the case of the Lenovo Vibe Shot way back in 2015. Ever since devices that have showcased cameras have generally either come with premium hardware with flagship processors (like the Galaxy S series and the iPhones) or have come with surprisingly low price tags (like the Redmi Note 7 Pro).
People spending close to Rs 50,000 (we would say even Rs 35,000) on a phone have started expecting not just good design and cameras, but also flagship-level processors. Will they settle for crazy good cameras in lieu of a top-line chip? Vivo is trying to make them do just that with the X50 Pro. “Hey,” it says. “I ain’t got a Snapdragon 865, but then all those 865-toting chaps don’t have THESE cameras!” It is a brave gamble and one that has not really paid off too often – just ask Nokia about its PureView experiences!
With the X50 Pro, Vivo is not just trying to get back into the premium smartphone market but is also trying to change the perception of premium smartphones themselves, gently moving processors off their perch and putting cameras in their place. It is a subtle attempt to shift consumer priorities. It has been a while since we saw a brand try to do that. We do not know if it will work, but hey, credit to Vivo for trying.
Some will call it foolish. Some will call it fantastic. Some will term it brash. Some will term it brave.
It all depends on how you look at it. If the X50 Pro succeeds, we could see a number of brands following suit when it comes to showcasing cameras. That would be something. Don’t laugh at the notion – a dozen years ago, more people were concerned about displays and cameras on flagship phones than about processors!