Samsung Galaxy S20 just got beat by a camera phone with a built-in gimbal

Vivo Apex 2020 will battle Samsung Galaxy S20
(Image credit: MyPreview)

Forget about 5X periscope optical zooms. Forget about triple lenses and ToF sensors. The coolest smartphone camera game in town is now gimbal stabilization, one of the star features of the stunning Vivo Apex 2020. This phone is surprisingly cool, as you can see in the video below.

That gimbal must be amazing

As you can see in the video above, the technology packed in the Apex 2020 is impressive. 

Never mind the zero-port, zero buttons body that uses capacitative touch on the edges with haptic feedback to give you control over volume or power on. 

Or that gorgeous extremely curved display, which Vivo calls the 120-degree FullView Edgeless Display.

You can even ignore its under-display camera that avoids having any punch holes, notches, pop-up or slide selfie cameras. We have seen that already. 

Yes, the 60W wireless charging made me go “whaaaaat the whaaaaaa?” and the instant photo bomb removal AI magicks left me scratching my head.

And while we haven’t seen yet a continuous optical zoom that can smoothly slide from 5X to 7.5x using motorized moving lenses, the real star here is somewhere else in that circular camera package: gimbal stabilization.

The gimbal stabilization is the winner here, my friends. Imagine being able to maintain a leveled camera at all times without the need to attach any awkward thingamajig to your phone. 

This is not just mechanically stabilizing the lenses for shaking and vibration. This gimbal means that you can move the phone in any way you want, an its sensors will keep looking straight without losing ground level.

Obviously, this is not a total replacement for a true external gimbal with multiple degrees of freedom: it can’t compensate for yaw and pitch, just rolling. But an external gimbal is a pain to carry with you at all times and, arguably, rolling correction will benefit most people at all times. Not only to take straight video but also to make leveled photos 100% of the time (say goodbye to image rotation cropping).

Clearly, the gimbal is one of the most useful and practical features I’ve seen in any phone since the introduction of multiple sensors and AI. Optical zoom is OK, but not as useful as this.

When is the Vivo Apex 2020 coming out?

(Image credit: Vivo)

Vivo has surprised us year after year with its limited edition Apex phones, but the phones are never available for broad distribution. The Chinese company uses the Apex to showcase the technology it thinks will be the next big thing for smartphones.  

So what are the chances of seeing the gimbal or any of the Apex 2020’s cool features available in mainstream smartphones? I would say pretty high. First, Vivo usually adopts these innovations in its Nex line. But other manufacturers — like it happened with the pop-up camera — also adopt some of the features for their own phones.

Last year we saw the Vivo Apex 2019, an impressive single slab of metal and glass. We know that other companies have been working on phones with no openings or ports — Apple is reportedly working on that, thus avoiding adopting a future European Union mandatory USB-C port law

The year before, Vivo went viral with the Apex 2018, a concept phone that showed a true full-screen screen devoid of any notch thanks to a pop-up selfie camera module. That experimental model resulted in the commercial Vivo Nex S. Recently, the company made another splash with the follow up, the dual-screen Vivo Nex 2.

But the Vivo Apex 2020 is the company’s most impressive effort yet. I have the feeling that the gimbal feature alone will probably start a new camera feature war in the coming months, putting smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S20 on notice.

Jesus Diaz

Jesus Diaz founded the new Sploid for Gawker Media after seven years working at Gizmodo, where he helmed the lost-in-a-bar iPhone 4 story and wrote old angry man rants, among other things. He's a creative director, screenwriter, and producer at The Magic Sauce, and currently writes for Fast Company and Tom's Guide.