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T-Mobile Vivacity Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Looks a lot like an iPhone 4

The Bad

  • No Flash support
3

The T-Mobile Vivacity (actually made by ZTE) is an attractively priced touchscreen phone that looks a lot like an Apple iPhone 4.

Available for a fraction of the price of an Apple phone, the Vivacity is sure to appeal to those who want an inexpensive phone that doesn’t sacrifice design or style but delivers the basics and doesn’t over complicate.

At the time of writing the Vivacity can be bought from T-Mobile for £89.99 – a steal by anyone’s estimation. For your money you get a 3.5-inch touchscreen, a 5-megapixel camera and Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

Though it doesn’t ship with the more advanced Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (and more than likely won’t get the upgrade) you’re likely not to be bothered about this if you just want a super-budget phone. With this in mind we took the T-Mobile Vivacity to task to see just what you get for £90-odd.

T-Mobile Vivacity: Design and build

The T-Mobile Vivacity is a flat, compact black cuboid with rounded corners and a silvery plastic strip running around the edge. In other words, it looks awfully similar to an Apple iPhone 4, as we said in the intro. We won’t waste time here detailing just how similar the two phones are (we already did that here) but its safe to say that if you’ve ever seen an iPhone 4 or a 4S, then you’ve already got an idea of what the Vivacity looks like.

The black plastic front and sides are very shiny and reflective, which gives the phone a posh gleam. Sadly, like many of ZTE’s shiny plastic phones, the T-Mobile Vivacity picks up fingerprints faster than Sherlock Holmes. Keep a hem of your shirt (or a microfibre wipe cloth) free for cleaning duties.

The back cover easily peels off at the corner. The flexible, shiny plastic feels pretty resilient and it clips back into place securely.

Behind the cover is the microSD card slot (which you can get to without removing the battery) the SIM card and the battery.

A 2GB memory card came included with our review model. Like practically every phone with a microSD slot these days, you can pop in cards of up to 32GB in size, giving a bit more real estate for your pictures, music and whatever else.

Just as well really, as the internal memory clocks in at a featherweight 512MB and only 112MB of that was available to us.

Measuring 115 x 58 x 11 mm and weighting 118 grams, its a very slender and airy phone. The 3.5-inch screen, though not an airless display, is pretty close to the screen cover. So much so that the viewing angles on the Vivacity are really good. Web pages and images taken on the camera look pretty sharp on the Vivacity’s screen, which has an 800 x 480 (WVGA) resolution.

The plastic cover of the display, like the rest of the phone, attracts fingerprints like nobody’s business and doesn’t feel very premium or pleasant to the touch. On a £90 phone however, we can live with this.


T-Mobile Vivacity: Interface

The T-Mobile Vivacity’s layout and menu is basically vanilla Android. Bar a pair of T-Mobile custom apps (which can’t be removed), the user experience is exactly the same as it is on unskinned Android phones like the Nexus One, Nexus S and ZTE’s own Skate.

There’s five homescreens which you can pepper with app shortcuts and widgets, like the big Google Search bar that sits at the top and the Power Control widget, a large bar that lets you toggle Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS (among others) without having to go in and out of the Settings menu.

The app launcher sits at the bottom of the screen next to shortcuts for the phone dialler and the web browser. Tapping on the launcher pulls up a tray of app icons which you can then drag and drop onto homescreens if you wish. Adding widgets is a simple case of holding your finger down on the screen for a couple of seconds (long press) and waiting for the relevant menu to pop up.

If you’ve used an Android phone before then you’ll be right at home here; it’s a very straightforward set up. It’s not very daunting if you’ve not, most of the functions and features are fairly self-evident.

The T-Mobile apps we mentioned earlier allow you to check your balance on the go (you’ll need to log in to your T-Mobile account) and browse for the most popular apps. Shortcuts to both of these are pinned to the homescreen as default. We’d recommend not bothering with the second one; if you’re going to download apps and games, then there’s a tailored recommended section in the Android Market anyway.

For tips and points you can always perform a long press on any spare homescreen area, select Widgets > Home Screen Tips, to get some beginner’s guide pointers.


T-Mobile Vivacity: Browser

Given that the interface of the Vivacity is the unskinned Android 2.3 Gingerbread interface, its perhaps unsurprising to find that the default browser is the stock Android one as well. It’s a basic but speedy and efficient mobile web browser.

You can have up to eight pages open at once (it won’t let you open any more) the ability to block pop ups and block images, if you want some text-only browsing action.

Pinch to zoom is a little stuttery at times but otherwise is pretty smooth; tapping on a chunk of text in a news article will zoom in and reformat the page so that everything fits around the paragraph.

Flash Player isn’t supported by the T-Mobile Vivacity so you won’t be able to watch any Flash content on the web, nor will you be able to make use of certain apps (like BBC iPlayer) either.

Other than that, you get an OK (but not amazing) web browsing experience with the Vivacity.

T-Mobile Vivacity: Multimedia and camera

The 5-megapixel camera is capable of taking some fairly good stills; distance shots and close-ups both come out well on the Vivacity, but a steady hand is needed.

The autofocus isn’t exactly fast and there’s that characteristic ‘wobble’ effect if you move your hand too quickly or your grip isn’t steady enough.

There’s a wealth of settings for exposure, detail and sensitivity, but these are all slung into one long list of settings which you have to scroll through, rather than being accessed from separate, discrete sub-menus.

Video (VGA maximum resolution) isn’t great. Footage suffers from that same wobbling effect every time you move and the sound (particularly outdoors, especially if its windy) is pretty crackly. Clips naturally look (and sound) a lot better on the Vivacity’s screen, but up close on a big monitor, or on YouTube and the limitations become apparent.

Round the front there’s a VGA camera for self-portrait shots and video calls. Skype and Tango aren’t currently supported, so your videocalling avenues are limited for the time being. Self-portait shots on the cam are as you’d expect pretty grainy, but you have have fun with it, taking shots with a sepia filter and in a pinch it works well as a digital mirror.

Sideloading songs onto the Vivacity is a case of plugging in via USB and dragging and dropping. Alternatively, if you’ve got a microSD card that’s already filled with MP3s from a previous phone, you can just pop this in.

MP3 and M4A files were supported, but WMAs wouldn’t play on ours. Before moving anything over from Windows Media Player, check whether they’re WMA or not.

The music app is the default Android music app – pretty basic, but functional. You can easily make playlists and search by track name or artist. If you want something with a bit more beef then there’s the Spotify app and music players like PowerAMP, both of which work on the Vivacity.

T-Mobile Vivacity: Performance

Generally performance of the Vivacity is actually pretty nice and better than what you’d give a £90 phone credit for.

Flicking through web pages and menus is breezy and relatively painless. Precise gestures and inputs, i.e. when clicking on links or texting, wasn’t as smooth as thumbing through Facebook feeds or web pages.

Texting isn’t helped by the fact that the custom text input software is just horrible. We switched it out for a bunch of keyboards from the Android Market (we tried SwiftKey X, Swype beta and Smart Keyboard Pro) and things did improve, but the screen isn’t the easiest to text on.

Call quality to other mobiles and landlines is of an acceptable quality. With the volume all the way up ought to be loud enough for busy, rush hour situations. We’ve definitely had clearer, more audible calls on other phones though.

As you’d expect, for the basics, the T-Mobile Vivacity will sort you out, but don’t expect it to multitask very well. The Android Market force closed a lot, as did Facebook and (less often) casual games like Bejeweled and Drop 7.


Verdict

The T-Mobile Vivacity is a nicely packaged and (very) nicely priced phone. If you’re after a touchscreen phone on a shoestring that doesn’t a) look terrible or b) suffer greatly performance-wise, then you could do worse.

But then again for a little more money you could get an HTC Explorer, which is a much smoother proposition, but about a third more expensive.

Our only big gripe is that texting on the T-Mobile Vivacity feels cramped and is user-unfriendly. That is, if you stick with the standard keyboard. We’d advise you download a better one from the Android Market. Otherwise, the T-Mobile Vivacity represents a good value for money option.

Specification

OSAndroid

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