Sony Ericsson have been limping on profits lately but their ambitions seem to not have suffered one bit. There is the Satio, now the Vivaz and with the XPERIA X10 on its way, the company is gaining a firm foothold in the high-end segment.
Some people scoff at the sight of Symbian but Sony Ericsson's work on the homescreen and their signature media menu, you can spend quite some time using the phone before you actually come down to the slightly off-putting S60 5th UI.
The size of the display might seem inadequate next to the awe-inspiring HTC HD2. The Vivaz though was built to be compact and screen size was dictated by pocketability, not the other way around.
The interface and screen size are pretty much the things for anyone to complain about. The display is sensitive, the CPU is speedy and the camera is excellent - and hard to beat really. So, the phone is great, but this doesn't mean much until you have a good look at the competition as well.
Comparisons between the Sony Ericsson Vivaz and the Samsung i8910 Omnia HD are inevitable. Symbian and 720p video make the two the bitterest of rivals. Samsung have had plenty of time to chisel out some of the problems the Omnia HD had at launch - audio quality and framerate issues in videos. The audio they fixed early on by switching to AAC, but video is still struggling to make it to 24 frames per second.
The Vivaz has its issues as well, but at least it's capable of delivering all 24 fps - and the HD video recording is quite promising. Sony Ericsson's take on Symbian feels more refined too - the homescreens are simple to use but offer all the basic functionality you need and we always liked the custom media menu - especially in its touch-enabled form. Plus the Vivaz feels zippier than the Omnia HD.
If you haven't bought an HDTV yet, then we'll suggest you look at the Sony Ericsson Satio. It won't capture 720p video (just VGA@30fps) but it does 12MP still shots. It offers most of the same functionality as the Vivaz, but on a 3.5" screen. It still lives in a FastPort world though, so finding a good pair of headphones might be a problem.
The Vodafone 360 H1 by Samsung will perhaps intrigue the more adventurous among our readers with its OS. It's one of the few phones around with a LiMo OS (an open source mobile phone based on Linux, and no, it's not Android). The hardware of the 360 H1 lists an AMOLED 3.5" capacitive touchscreen with 480x800 pixels resolution, a Cortex A8 600MHz CPU, a 5MP camera, 16GB of internal storage, Wi-Fi and GPS. We haven't had a chance of testing that in person so we can't pass any judgments yet.
For compact touchscreen goodness, the Samsung S8000 Jet is a must-see. The screen is slightly smaller at 3.1" but 480 x 800 pixels make some difference, especially that it's an AMOLED screen. You won't find pixel density like that elsewhere. It's no contest when it comes to the camera though - the Jet has only 5 megapixels and D1@30fps to offer. And while the Jet has SatNav software and a document viewer it doesn't have the flexibility of a smartphone.
Finally, a stroll around our rumor mill reveals two more potential contenders - the Samsung M8920 with its 3x optical zoom and the HTC Bravo. The quickest way to describe the Samsung M8920 is that it is a 720p-capable 12MP point-and-shoot camera with phone functionality.
The HTC Bravo is more orthodox - it's an un-Googled Nexus One with a little bit more perks. It runs Android, has a 3.7" AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, a 1GHz Snapdragon CPU and its 5MP camera is rumored to capture 720p video.
It's safe to say there is no phone just like the Sony Ericsson Vivaz - the competition is a thing or two short or has a thing or two in its favor. For a bigger screen, you'd have to give up either the smooth video recording or go with an OS that barely ranks in terms of market share. The other option is to wait for phones that haven't even been officially confirmed yet.
The Sony Ericsson Vivaz design team knew what they wanted right from the start and they have achieved their goal. When the Vivaz hits the stores, there will be a line a mile long of Sony Ericsson fans queing for it but, more importantly, there will probably be quite a few new converts as well.