Remember when you didn't need an overdraft or a second mortgage just to buy a new phone?
It's not unusual for even a mid-ranger to set you back upwards of £500 (around RM2830) any more. Even the mighty OnePlus 3 couldn't maintain its budget price, with the costlier 3T having taken its place.
You can blame Brexit and evil corporations all you want for the price hikes, but that's not going to help your wallet.
It's why the budget-friendly Vivo 6 feels like a bolt from the Blue. Or should that be Blu? The new-to-the-UK phone maker has shaved off fancy features that made the OnePlus 3 and iPhone 7 2016's smartphone juggernauts, leaving behind a handset that balances key components and keeping it within the realms of affordability.
Does it have the greatest processor? No. Can its screen compete with the big boys? Not quite. What’s the stand out feature? Other than the price, the Vivo 6 doesn’t really have one. But then it doesn't really have any major flaws, either.
THE GOLD STANDARD
You get a huge 5.5in screen up front, in a phone that costs half the price of the similarly-sized competition. That makes it a bit of a pocket squeezer, so if you’re into skinny jeans, you’re going to feel it clinging to your leg like a koala with attachment issues.
It’s made from a now classic combination of aluminium and glass – Gorilla Glass 3 to be exact, which is admittedly a couple of generations old now. It still does a decent job of preventing light scratches, and even comes with two screen protectors for anyone so paranoid of damage they like to laminate their furniture.
The curved design priorities comfort, which is important for lengthy Netflix binge sessions - especially now you can download for offline watching later. You’ll gain some muscle from doing so too, as it weighs 170g. Okay, it’s not exactly going to replace your dumbbells, but it’s noticeably heavier than its competitors.
This comes as a surprise, as it’s a relatively thin phone. Nowhere near as skinny as the iPhone 7 mind, but at 7.6mm its waistline is similar to the OnePlus 3 and Motorola Moto Z.
The biggest drawback is colour - unless you’re into your bling. There’s Gold and Rose Gold to choose from, but both are an acquired taste. If the Vivo 6 was available in silver or black too, it might not have stood out from the crowd, but it would have appealed to a lot more people.
The touch sensitive buttons at the bottom of the phone can be incredibly infuriating, too. You’ll find yourself accidentally brushing the bottom panel right as you’re getting comfy to watch a film, chucking you straight out of your app. There’ve been times that I’ve wanted to tear my hair out because of this annoying design choice.
THE BARE NECESSITIES
In a pursuit to be crowned the king of budget phones, Blu has stripped the Vivo 6 of everything but the necessities. There’s no waterproof casing, no NFC for Android Pay, or any other stand-out feature hiding up its sleeve.
You do get a fingerprint sensor, but it offers mixed results when it comes to unlocking your phone with a touch. Even after an in-depth scan of my thumb during setup, it usually took a few attempts for my print to be recognised. Good job we’re not all using fingerprint locks on our front doors just yet.
It may have cut the fluff, but Vivo 6 manages to get the basics right. It hits the storage sweet spot with 64GB - enough space for most, as long as you don’t try to build up a mobile movie library. There’s a microSD card slot for adding extra storage later, too.
A USB-C port ensures speedy charging, and the headphone port means you won’t be forced to plug in an adaptor, or search stores for a pair of wireless cans just yet.
CHOKED BY MOTION
AMOLED might be the must-have display tech for top dollar smartphones, but if you’ve spotted the emerging pattern of this review, it’ll come as no surprise the Vivo 6 doesn’t have one.
It sticks with LCD, but manages to find room in the budget for a Full HD panel, which still looks great. Colours dazzle in the rainforests of Attenborough’s Planet Earth 2. You couldn’t fault the display while watching a close-up shot of a sloth slowly swinging through the trees.
As soon as the camera pans for a wide shot, though, the pixels go all grainy. This is also true for fast moving objects, whether you’re streaming or watching video saved to your phone.
Still, you’ll rarely encounter this issue depending on on your TV habits. Watching Sir Alan Sugar fire his wannabe business partners, or Z-list celebrities survive a jungle, and there’ll be enough stationary characters that you’ll be lulled into the belief that you have a top-market display.
Just remember that as soon as you switch over to the football, you’re going to become disgruntled by the lack of clarity.
That 5.5in screen-size really boosts the viewing experience, though. If you’ve never had a phone-screen at such a size before, you’ll be more inclined to start catching up on the week’s TV during your daily commute.