Vivo has announced the Apex 2019, the futuristic follow-up to last year’s “concept smartphone” that introduced the pop-up selfie camera later seen on the Nex. To be clear, the Apex 2019 probably isn’t ever going to ship as a real product in exactly this form, but Vivo is taking it to Mobile World Congress next month and we may well see some of its features show up in the company’s product lineup over the next year.
Like last year’s Apex, the 2019 model prioritizes screen-to-body ratio and slim bezels. It’s aggressively minimalist, without any physical buttons or port openings in sight, and features a “Super Unibody” curved glass design. Unsurprisingly there’s no headphone jack, but there isn’t even a USB-C port, either; charging is handled by a rear-mounted magnetic connector that can also be used for data transfer. Vivo is yet to release a phone with conventional wireless charging, and that hasn’t changed with the Apex 2019.
The Apex 2019 is Vivo’s first 5G phone and makes use of Qualcomm’s X50 5G modem. Vivo says it’s using a new stacking technique to make 20 percent of extra motherboard space available for the 5G components without compromising the phone’s overall design. Elsewhere the Apex 2019 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, 256GB of storage and — because why not — 12GB of RAM.
There’s a dual-camera setup on the back of the phone, but Vivo hasn’t provided technical details, probably because they wouldn’t strictly be relevant for a device that isn’t going to ship. What is curious, however, is the total lack of a selfie camera, without the Nex or original Apex’s pop-up module or the Nex Dual Display Edition’s second screen to provide that functionality. Vivo says it wants people to focus on the other innovations in the Apex 2019 concept, which is fair enough but further reinforces the sense that this specific design isn’t likely to be a viable consumer product.
One returning Apex feature is the expanded in-display fingerprint sensor, which lets you press on a larger area of the screen to unlock the phone. This time around Vivo calls the tech “full-display fingerprint scanning” and claims it covers “almost the entire display,” though they called the last Apex’s scanner “half-display” when it was really about a third, so we’ll see how this works out in practice. In any case, it’s a feature that you can expect to be a key area of competition in smartphones this year — the original Apex implementation never ended up shipping, but last week Oppo and Xiaomi revealed details of their own takes on the idea.
Another feature embedded in the Apex 2019’s screen — the regular specs of which are otherwise unspecified — is Vivo’s “body soundcasting” technology. This helps enable the seamless design by vibrating the screen to act as a speaker, removing the need for grills. There is, however, a small opening at the bottom edge of the device that appears to be for a microphone.
From what Vivo is saying, the Apex 2019 does sound like an ambitious device, and it certainly looks sleeker than the 5G prototypes we’ve seen so far. We’ll have to see it for ourselves at Mobile World Congress in a month’s time, however, to find out how Vivo’s engineering holds up in reality.