With the number of phones flooding the market these last few years, it’s quite hard to keep track of what’s being sold and even harder for a manufacturer to make a device that stands out.
The Vivo Y66 is the perfect example of such a device. It sells for Rs 14,999, has bog standard hardware and is available in gold. You can walk into any retail store in the country or browse online and find a device like this one without even trying.
So what, if anything, sets the Y66 apart from the competition at this price point?
Build and design: 6/10
At first glance, the Vivo Y66 looks just like any other China-made smartphone in the price range.
The device looks decent, but feels cheap.
Manufacturers these days prefer to slap some 2.5D glass on the front of their devices. 2.5D suggests that the edges of the display unit are curved down to seamlessly transition into the display.
While the Y66 looks like it does this, these looks can be deceiving. The display is slightly smaller in area than the front of the device and is surrounded by a thin strip of plastic. Since the front of our device is white, the plastic is also white, which is why you don’t notice a visual discrepancy.
A thin metal frame surrounds the device as well.
When you hold the device, you can clearly feel the step at the edges, where the screen meets the frame, and this doesn’t feel so great.
But then again, the device is Rs 14,999, so I can’t complain too much.
The rear of the device is entirely plastic, though there are discrete plastic inserts doubling as antenna bands. To look at it, you’d think that the device had a metal back. The finish accentuates this impression.
You do get a small camera bump at the back, but it’s so small that you won’t notice the bump. A single LED flash accompanies the camera.
The bottom features a single speaker grill, a micro-USB 2.0 port and the headphone jack.
The left side houses the dual-SIM tray while the right houses the volume rocker and power button. The buttons feel clicky and sturdy, which is nice.
Capacitive buttons on the front bezel are what you get for navigation, but they’re not backlit, which is disappointing.
The hardware is nothing to right home about. You get a MediaTek MT6750 chipset, which is an entry-level platform, and you get 3 GB of RAM. Internal storage is adequate at 32 GB. You get the option of expanding the storage by 256 GB via a microSD card.
Interestingly, a 13 MP camera makes up the rear unit but the front camera is a 16 MP unit. I suppose selfies are more important than photographs these days, so this isn’t a surprise.
The battery is a 3,000 mAh unit and the device weighs about 155 g.
The screen is a 5.5-inch HD (1280x720) LCD unit.
There’s nothing here that stands out, other than the fact that Vivo thought it best to flip the front and rear cameras, but this is becoming a trend anyway.
The 5.5-inch display on this phone isn’t very bright but is sharp enough that you won’t complain about clarity. In bright sunlight, the display is barely legible, even at maximum brightness.
Even in regular use, the phone’s firmware was very reluctant to push the brightness too high. The display looked perennially dull and I had to keep turning the brightness up when watching videos or trying to read something for an extended period of time.
Maximum brightness isn’t much brighter than the default setting, but at least it makes the display look a little more vibrant.
Overall, I’d call the display muted, but functional.
The software is, well, interesting, to say the least. The phone runs a skin called Funtouch OS 3.0 on top of Android 6.0, so that means there’s no Nougat here and no Google Assistant.
The interesting bit here is that the OS is a blatant rip-off of iOS. Many of the icons and fonts are clearly iOS-inspired, as is the control panel that you pull up from below and the layout of the control panel. The default music app is unabashedly called “i Music” and its UI, again, will be achingly familiar to someone who uses iOS regularly.
That’s not to say that the software is bad. It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and despite ripping off Apple, the OS actually manages to meld together the best bits from iOS and Android rather well.
The redesigned Settings menu is also nice because the essentials are more prominently placed, leading to less clutter.
There are other nice features as well. The double-tap-to-wake gesture is a fitting substitute for the lack of a fingerprint sensor. There’s also an icon on the home screen that you can tap to turn off the device. You can also double tap the screen to turn it off.
Other touches, like the option to display network usage stats in the status bar, S-Capture for screenshots, gesture-based shortcuts, etc., are nice.
There are a number of options for customising the UI and gestures and many of these features can actually be useful. There’s a great deal to mess around with, if you want to, but I just wish I had Nougat to work with.
Overall performance was sluggish. The UI works reasonably well, but try anything heavy, like browsing a web page, opening multiple apps, etc., and you’ll encounter stuttering.
The same stuttering occasionally popped up in some games as well.
If you treat the device as just a phone i.e. you make calls and chat with friends and maybe take some photos, it’s perfectly fine.
For heavy browsing and playing games, the performance is inadequate.
In fact, the Redmi Note 4 with its Snapdragon 625 chip is much more powerful, cheaper, and provides a far better experience.
The single speaker at the bottom is not very loud and it’s difficult to hear anything in anything other than a quiet room.
I faced some issues with signal quality as well. The signal was rarely consistent. I travel by train and admittedly, signal strength isn't very good over my commute. However, the Vivo Y66 would encounter connection dead spots where no other phone would. This was puzzling and frustrating as I stream music over the length of my commute.
The phone’s camera quality isn’t bad, actually. I had no issues in terms of speed of capture or focusing, and the image quality was quite decent in good light.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) images came out particularly well, with the camera capturing enough detail in the highlights and shadows to make it worth leaving on.
The 16 MP front facing camera was also good, capturing good colours and a decent amount of detail in decent lighting.
Low light performance wasn’t too great, but I didn’t expect it to be. Few smartphones are capable of good low-light shots, even the iPhone struggles in this department.
You get a number of features, including UltraHD mode, slow-motion, etc., and they all work reasonably well. Images shot in UltraHD mode, for example, are definitely clearer than regular images.
Our standardised battery test gave the device a rating of 8 hours and 43 minutes. This is strictly average performance as we’ve seen a number of phones easily surpass the 9.5 hour or 10 hour mark.
However, real-world use paints a different picture. The device easily got me through a full work day and had around 15 percent charge left the next morning as well. My work day consists of a couple of hours of music and video during my commute, a couple of hours of web browsing and switching between multiple apps, dozens of emails, a great many more messages and a few calls.
Given that few phones last me till I get home, let alone the next morning, meant that Vivo has done something with the software that enables this battery life.
The downside to this is the charging speed. The bundled charger takes forever to charge up the Vivo Y66. I measured it at almost three hours to a full charge, which is slow for a 3,000 mAh device.
Verdict and price in India
Answering my first question, no, the Vivo Y66 does nothing to set itself apart from the competition.
At this price range, the Redmi Note 4 is cheaper, made of metal, and much faster. The slightly more expensive Moto G5 is better built and faster as well. Then there's also the battery life king, the Asus Zenfone 3S Max.
That said, the Y66 isn’t a terrible option at this price, but it is an uninspiring one. This is the kind of phone you buy when you don’t know what you’re looking for, when you just walk into a store and ask to be shown phones under Rs 15,000.
It has a decent camera and fairly decent battery life, but the body doesn’t feel very great and the screen isn’t very bright. Performance is average.
If you can get your hands on it, there’s little that can beat a Xiaomi Redmi Note 4. Spend a little more, and you’ll get the Moto G5.