Strap yourselves in New Zealand, we are about to get a new player in the smartphone market by the name of OPPO. Who’s OPPO I hear you say? That is the exact same question I was asking not all that long ago. Well here is the surprising part, OPPO is a Chinese Electornics business that cut its teeth making Blu-Ray Players (in fact they still make them and are the number 1 Blu-Ray Player brand in the US). After a successful rise to the top on the Blu-Ray front, OPPO turned it’s attention to making smartphones and (now for the surprising part) is actually the fourth biggest selling smartphone brand in the World. That’s right, a smartphone maker that you have possibly never heard of in New Zealand is waaaaay up there in the smartphone market thanks to its exceptionally strong presence in Asia. That presence is expanding with OPPO now in Australia and VERY close to launching in the New Zealand. They are going all in to capture the New Zealand market with their premium handset, the OPPO R9s set to be the first cab off the rank. I’ve been lucky enough to have the R9s for the past week now ahead of launch and I can tell you that if this is the standard OPPO plan on continuing then expect to see this and future OPPO phones in a lot of Kiwi hands over the coming months.
The first thing that is noticeable (and I’m sure you’ll pick it up in the pictures) is the design. The R9s looks a lot like a certain phone that starts with a lower case i. Sure the design may not be 100% original but let’s face it most phones looks pretty similar these days. As you’d expect it’s a stunning design, I had the Black version of the R9s but it also comes in a White front/Gold back variant. It’ll be to individual taste but personally I prefer the all black design. The phone is incredibly light in he hand coming in at just 147g and is nice and thin with a thickness of 6.58mm. To go with that the phone is 153mm in length and 74.3mm wide sporting an 5.5 inch screen. That is a lot of screen for for the dimensions which means that the screen goes almost to the edge and doesn’t end up feeling bulky in the hand unlike some other brands that end up feeling unwieldy to hold. On a side note it is sturdy in the hand definitely no “bend-gate” going on here. On the design front the R9s is a comfortable fit in the hand and feels like a premium device which is exactly what you want a flagship phone to feel like.
Complementing the premium design are tech specs that you’d also expect from a flagship. Sitting behind that attractive package is a Qualcomm Octocore Processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage with support for expandable memory up to 256GB (yuussss). To go with that we have a 16MP rear facing and 16MP front facing camera, that’s right folks both cameras are 16MP so you’re getting a lot of megapixel for your hard earned coin plus it supports 4K video as well. Screen wise the R9s is has a 5.5 inch FUll HD Screen which looks gorgeous which isn’t surprising when there are 16 million colours to brighten up the screen every time you turn the screen on. I’ve saved the battery for last because, quite frankly it has the best technology seen on the market backing it up. On the surface the battery is a non-removable 3,010 mAh that is very efficient, I use my phone fairly heavily and easily get through a days use on the R9s, light users should get 2 days out of it. Should you run short on juice though that’s where this thing really impresses. OPPO have their own charging technology called VOOC, what this means is you have the fastest charger in the world coming with the R9s, plug this bad boy in and around 45 minutes later you’re fully juiced up! That’s right folks in less than 1 hour you are fully stocked and raring to go. Whilst this is a Micro-USB charger the phone can only be charged with the VOOC charger so if you forget your charger when you are going away from home for a period of time you will be in trouble. There is also crazy fast fingerprint scanner on board too that will unlock the phone as soon as you touch it. This also double as the home button. You can load up to 5 fingerprints to the unlock profile and as a novelty assign your fingerprints different unlock functions. What do I mean by that? When let’s say your fvaourite apps are Chrome, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but you’ve grown tired of unlocking your phone then navigating to the app. Now you can assign each app to individual fingerprints and on the unlock you’ll go straight into that app. It’s one of those things that sounds great but in reality isn’t much more than a novelty. Why? Because where the scanner is it is most comfortable to use one of your thumbs to unlock the phone rather than contort your fingers to make use of a fingerprint shortcut. Just put your favourite apps on your first home screen and tap it once you unlock it’d take about the same amount of time as trying to remember which fingerprint does what and then get your hand in the right place to do that unlock, besides I’ll tell you of a better shortcut soon….
OK so I teased the camera in that last paragraph now I should expand on that a bit. The rear shutter is an IMX398 sensor by Sony that they designed exclusively for OPPO. The sensor has an extra-wide F1.7 aperture which is made to ensure quick focusing, less noise and better low-light performance. The rear camera has dual PDAF technology, without going into too much tech babble what this means is that you’ll get faster focusing even when you’re in a low light setting. Real world performance in optimal light is excellent, the images are crisp and bring your photo to life. Focusing is super quick and if you do need to re-focus a quick tap on the screen at the area you want to focus on will have your subject matter crystal clear before your finger has left the screen. Low-light performance is good, but like most phones still captures some noise and highlights that no matter how good phones are getting, using them for low-light pictures remains an elusive mystery. The front facing camera isn’t quite as good as the rear facing camera but is still a quality shutter. Selfie fiends will be able to snap themselves in all their glory and also make use of beauty mode to remove those blemishes on the fly and make sure you are the envy of your friends when uploading the images to the interwebs. The camera interface is ridiculously familiar. If you’ve ever used an iPhone then you’ll know the interface like the back of your hand, simply to use and intuitive.
That’s actually a good lead in to my next talking point. The OS, OPPO uses Android but with their custom ColorOS over the top. The result is the most Apple centric Android OS I have come across. Huawei’s EMUI was previously the closest to iOS but ColorOS is the new king. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, iOS has long been the most user friendly, intuitive and snappy OS on the market. I was a fan of EMUI for it’s take on Android and I’m a big fan of ColorOS. If you are making the switch from Apple to Android then ColorOS will be very familiar. There is no app draw, every app is laid out on home screens and can be put within folders that are on the screen. The benefit though is you get access to Android’s brilliant widgets to put on those screens too. Going between screens, navigating your apps and accessing settings and notifications is generally very fast but there is one drawback that rears its head sometimes… The R9s doesn’t have palm rejection on the touchscreen which means that because the screen is so close to the edge your palm will be in contact with the screen and you won’t even realise until you try and do something like pull down notifications are snap a pic and you don’t get a response. It’s not your phone playing up it’s that your palm is on the screen and the touchscreen doesn’t know what’s going on. OK that was a downside but there is an amazing feature added to the R9s that has amazed all that I’ve shown it too. That is, the ability to open certain apps while the screen is actually off and locked by drawing a pattern on that blank, black screen. Two main shortcuts are a “V” to bring up the flashlight and “O” to bring up the camera. Aside from those two you can also create some of your own, I have mine set to draw an “M” to open Facebook. It works better than the fingerprint scanner shortcuts because you don’t need to contort your hand to access it, just pick the phone up and use your other hand to draw the pattern and you’re into that app.
Now the all important question, Price. That my friends is something I can’t say too much about since I don’t actually know that price as OPPO haven’t announced that yet but what I do know is it is likely to blow your mind. All I have to go off is the price in Australia which is currently around $530-$550AUD. After taking into account exchange rate and our ridiculous import taxes my guess would be a price around $750NZD. Obviously don’t take that as gospel, it may be slightly less or it may be slightly more but anywhere around that price would be near unheard of for a premium device sporting the inner workings of the OPPO R9s. You’d normally see features and performance like this on a deviec that is more like $1,000-$1,300 NZD so look out, the NZ market is in for a real shape up. Kiwi’s are a fickle bunch though and often think that premium quality and performance is only available if you spend $1,000 plus. I can’t re-iterate this enough, the OPPO R9s is QUALITY with a Capital everything. Yes it has some minor shortfalls but none that over detract from what is an excellent first entry into the local market. When the OPP R9s is released in NZ shortly give it a look because the R9s is Premium in everything but price.