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Vivo X21 review: First phone with in-display fingerprint scanner, amazing camera & battery performance

The invisible fingerprint tech looks cool, but shouldn’t be your primary consideration.

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Whn you see the X21, you’ll think that this is yet another in a long line of phones with notch displays. But the phone is literally hiding something in plain sight: an invisible fingerprint scanner that sits underneath the display!

This is brand new tech developed by Synaptics (yes, the same laptop touchpad guys) and it requires the use of an amoled display because it takes advantages of the gaps inbetween pixels to scan the fingerprint. It wouldn’t work with traditional LCDs because they have a backlight and opaque backing.

Vivo X21 review: First phone with in-display fingerprint scanner, amazing camera & battery performanceThe first question is why. When smartphone bezels started shrinking, most phones shifted the scanner to the back panel. You might even be used to it on the back. This tech brings it back to the front so that you can unlock your phone while it’s on a table. So how do you know where to press? It helpfully displays a dim fingerprint on the screen as soon as you get near it.

The phone is mostly unremarkable except for that in-display fingerprint scanner. This is officially the first phone to market with this kind of fingerprint scanner and this is probably the main justification for that price tag.

Compared to the more conventional capacitive type of fingerprint scanner (which has been perfected over several versions now), this is just the first generation. Which means there are kinks. It takes significantly longer to register a fingerprint. For it to read correctly, you need to press on the screen fairly hard (and it keeps prompting you to do so as well).

The sensitivity may be affected by screen protectors. It’s not very fast either and at the end of it all, it sometimes doesn’t work at all. Thankfully, there is face unlock too which is a lot faster but not as secure.

Inside, you’ve got the mid-range Snapdragon 660 paired with a generous 6GB RAM and 128GB storage (expandable). Other hygiene features include the dual rear camera (with live photo, portrait modes), curved glass back, 3.5mm headphone jack and fast charging.

There are a few pre-loaded apps like WPS, PhonePe, Facebook, WhatsApp, UC Browserand NewsPoint. Luckily, all of them can be uninstalled. However, there are also a fair number of Vivo’s own apps in there. If you want a stock Android experience, look elsewhere.

On the plus side, there are loads of options for customisation, call recording, OTG, navigation gestures (you can switch off the Android buttons), motion gestures, split screen, one-hand mode, dual apps and game mode.

Camera performance is pretty good — quite similar to the Vivo V9 in fact. Except that the V9 costs just Rs 23k. Battery life is about a day and it charges fast. All said and done, the in-display fingerprint tech is a big conversation starter and it looks really cool. But it shouldn’t be your primary consideration (especially because of the caveats).

At around the same price as the X21, you’ll be better off with the OnePlus 6. OnePlus is giving you a flagship Snapdragon 845 processor, stock Android experience, a better camera with optical image stabilisation and way better battery life.

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