Vivo X90 Pro+ : will be China-exclusive

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    Vivo has finally delivered its X90 flagship phones to the global market, or at least two-thirds of them, a little more than two months after they were launched in China.

    That’s because, although the X90 will be available in Asia shortly, and the X90 Pro will be available in Asia as well as Europe, the X90 Pro+ – the most exciting of the group – will reportedly never leave China.

    Don’t get me wrong: there’s a lot to get enthused about with the X90 and X90 Pro, which score two worldwide market firsts.

    The normal Vivo X90 will be available in Asia but not in Europe.

    Both are powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 9200 processor, which debuted in November and is positioned to compete with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 this year, giving the market leader a run for its money.

    The X90 and X90 Pro were the first phones to use the processor anywhere, and they’re also the first to ship outside of China with the high-end hardware, which combines peak performance with Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.3, and real-time ray-traced graphics.

    The X90 Pro also has a camera system that has never been seen on European soil.

    The 1in Sony IMX989 sensor in the X90 Pro’s primary lens is extremely big, capable of gathering more light and enabling outstanding low-light photography – already one of Vivo’s specialties.

    We’ve seen the sensor in phones before, most notably the Xiaomi 12S Ultra and 13 Pro, but the former never made it outside of China, and the latter, while slated to go global soon, hasn’t yet.

    We named the X80 Pro our favorite phone camera of the year last year, and with the IMX989 update, along with a 50Mp 2x telephoto lens and a 12Mp ultrawide lens, the X90 Pro appears well-positioned to do so again.

    Last year’s Xiaomi 12S Ultra uses the same Sony IMX989 camera sensor

    So why are we depressed about it? Because the X90 Pro+ looks even better – and those of us outside of China will never get to use it.

    The X90 Pro+, you see, has the identical IMX989 primary camera. It also contains a 50Mp telephoto lens, but a significantly enhanced 48Mp ultrawide lens with its own optical image stabilization. That’s a pretty high-end setup that outperforms the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 200Mp primary sensor.

    The Vivo also has a fourth rear lens: a 64Mp 3.5x periscope lens for zooming in on faraway things. Strangely, the X90 Pro lacks a periscope, but the X80 Pro does – one of two unusual downgrades, along with a dip to FHD+ resolution for the display.

    Those two lenses might be the difference between being a great camera and being the best camera, so it’s a shame that Vivo is restricting those extra features to the Chinese market, where it’s a huge player.

    The Vivo X80 Pro was our favourite camera phone of 2022

    From Vivo’s standpoint, there is most likely a simple reason: pricing.

    In the West, its flagship phones have never been affordable. Last year, the X80 Pro was priced at £1,199 in the UK, and it’s reasonable to assume that the X90 Pro will be priced similarly Although Vivo hasn’t revealed pricing or a precise release date just yet.

    That’s already towards the top of the market, just marginally less expensive than Samsung’s premium Galaxy S23 Ultra, which begins at £1,249, and right up against the £1,199 iPhone 14 Pro Max.

    The Galaxy S23 Ultra has its own high-end cameras – including a 200Mp main lens

    Outside of its home China, Vivo just has the brand strength to compete with those two premium category behemoths, so it’s natural to be concerned about how many people would buy an X90 Pro+ that costs much more.

    Even Xiaomi, which already has good sales across Europe, has yet to put one of its top-specced Ultra phones on the market in the West.

    But Vivo needs to start somewhere, and even a vanity launch of the X90 Pro+ might help the business gain global brand awareness. It has definitely expressed an interest, having spent an unknown amount of money sponsoring the Euro 2020 and World Cup 2022 football competitions. But if no one knows about the phones, a bombardment of Vivo posters won’t help much.

    Shipping a tiny number of exorbitantly priced Pro+ models is unlikely to generate money in and of itself, but the combined press coverage and word of mouth generated by releasing the year’s greatest camera might be critical in pushing sales of the more lucrative models lower down the price chain.

    Maybe I’m just irritated because I really want to put the X90 Pro+’s OTT camera through its paces, and the almost-as-good Pro model feels like cold comfort right now.

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