On Tuesday, I attended an event held by Sony Ericsson in London showcasing their new line-up of handsets, including the Vivaz and Vivaz pro. Below you'll find my initial impressions of the Vivaz devices.
The Vivaz is Sony Ericsson's first HD-recording phone. They've set out to make it clear that it's the smallest HD recording phone on the market (though there are only a few other phones that record HD). Like the Omnia HD, the Vivaz runs on S60 5th edition with a custom Sony Ericsson skin (which has been updated with more customisation options than the Satio) on top.
My first feeling upon holding the Vivaz was surprise at how light it is. Weighing in at just 97 grams, the Vivaz feels almost too light, 'toyish' even. This is to be expected though, as the phone's exterior is made entirely out of plastic. Despite its lack of weight, the Vivaz's 'human curvature' design helps it to fall comfortably into the palm of your hand, perfect for one-handed use.
Sony Ericsson have decided to stick with a resistive touchscreen in the Vivaz, but unlike the Satio, they've now added glass below the top layer instead of hard plastic, which makes it feel like there's less pressure needed for the 3.2" screen to register your touch. I say 'feel' because the fact remains that this resistive screen, like all others before it, is still nowhere near as sensitive as the capacitive screens of the iPhone and Milestone for example. The glass in the Vivaz does, however, help when using kinetic scrolling, as there's no dragging effect common in other resistive screens.
In terms of the quality of displayed content on the screen, it's just a standard LCD -- nothing to shout about. You can make up your own mind by looking at the video below:
Now, the Vivaz's claim to fame should be bringing HD video recording to the masses. This might not be as hard as it sounds, as I was informed that colour-based exclusivity deals have been made with o2 and Vodafone (in the UK at least) on the blue and red variations of the Vivaz respectively. I was also told that the Vivaz will be in stores in two weeks, which sounds very good.
But what sort of quality should people buying the Vivaz expect from its 720p video? Well, from my experience, I'd say they should expect relatively great quality. Relatively in the sense that the Vivaz produces better video than most (if not all) other phones on the market, but still falls short of standalone devices. Why is it so good? Because of its continuous autofocus. Continuous autofocus is something that no other cameraphone is capable of. Some phones, like the i8510 and N900, can do pre-focusing but this simply isn't versatile enough. Nokia experimented with continuous autofocus in prototypes of the N93i, but the feature was nowhere to be found in production handsets. This unique capability of the Vivaz allows it to adjust its focus while recording video, ensuring that whatever you're filming is crisp and clear. I'll soon have a post published comparing 720p videos shot at the same time by the Omnia HD and Vivaz, which should illustrate the difference that continuous autofocus makes. Here's a sample for now:
The Vivaz pro is literally just a Vivaz, but with a slide-out QWERTY keypad and a downgraded stills camera (reduced from eight megapixels in the Vivaz to five megapixels in the Pro). The reduction in camera resolution was made to ensure that the Vivaz was kept as slim as possible, helping to maintain Sony Ericsson's 'human curvature' design. It was emphasised that Sony Ericsson have managed to fit a slide-out QWERTY into the Pro, despite it being only 2mm thicker than the original Vivaz. Another notable change is that the Camera has been moved closer to the top of the Pro.
The QWERTY keypad of the Pro is fantastic. I have to say that it's probably the best physical QWERTY I've ever used on a phone (except the E90 maybe). It's certainly the best in its size class. The keys have just the perfect amount of travel to them and the spacing of the keys helped to keep typos to an absolute minimum. I was truly impressed that Sony Ericsson were able to pack a keypad of this quality into the Pro. In comparison to the Motorola Milestone, it really is a night and day difference. I'm sure the Vivaz Pro will be popular with those addicted to text and email messaging.
Both the Vivaz and Vivaz Pro show great potential. Though they don't bring anything new (with the exception of the awesome continuous autofocus video) to the table, they do offer refinement. The Omnia HD might have been the first HD recording device, but the Vivaz's 720p is notably superior; the Satio might have been Sony Ericsson's first S60 device, but the Vivaz's implementation provides a better experience for the consumer; the N97 might have been the first S60 5th edition device equipped with a slide-out QWERTY keypad, but the Vivaz Pro's is just so much better.
If Sony Ericsson can get it right first time 'round, with no major bugs, the Vivaz and Vivaz Pro could easily prove to be excellent phones. Let's wait and see.