Can you feel that?
Suddenly, in 2017, it feels like the shine is wearing off the two biggest names in smart phones. From pocket explosions to corruption hearings, Samsung seems to be lurching from one PR crisis to another.
Meanwhile, what is it that Apple has actually done for us lately? From leaders in tech innovation to Johnny-come-lately followers in just a couple of years. The iPhone cult is a powerful one, but more and more kids are yelling, "The emperor's wearing no clothes!"
If ever another brand was going to grab some market share in New Zealand, now's the time.
Here comes OPPO...
You don't become the number one selling phone brand in China by accident. To keep that many customers satisfied, the phone has to deliver on what it promises. The OPPO R9s makes some pretty big claims, and doesn't disappoint.
It's a highly attractive phone to start with, extremely thin and extremely light, due to the aluminium casing. The brushed finish on that casing, combined with a slightly indented bezel around the screen means the R9s isn't as slippery to hold as other classy looking phones. Normally I wouldn't talk price until the end of the review, but it's such a significant part of the OPPO equation, you need to know what you're dealing with right off the bat. The R9s is currently retailing for just $699... at least $400 less than comparable models from other established brands. A lot cheaper, but there's nothing cheap about it.
Take the cameras for example. Both are 16 megapixels - yes, even the selfie lens! Both feature a wide aperture for better low-light performance, with the main camera doing particularly well in this department. It's not the very best camera I've encountered on a phone, but it's not far off. On the other hand, the selfie camera probably is the best I've tried, offering a variety of filters and beauty options to streamline your social-media uploading process. Unfortunately, my selfies all still have me in them - OPPO hasn't come up with a solution for that yet. One weird quirk was a lack of picture size settings - I'm used to being able to select between 16:9, 4:3 or 1:1 sizes of varying resolutions, but the OPPO R9s merely offers "Standard," "Rectangle," or "Full Screen." The horizontal level guide in Expert Mode is pretty cool though.
The fingerprint sensor is another definite promise keeper. Situated under the home button at the bottom of the screen (which isn't actually a button, just a depression) it did its job from multiple angles, even when I'd just taken my hands out of a sinkful of dishes. What's more, it's lightning fast, bringing up the home screen in an instant at the slightest touch. I personally prefer a sensor on the back of the phone for your index finger - much more practical for one-handed operation, but this one worked as well if not better than any I've used before.
Battery is another biggie for the R9s. You won't find fast charging on too many phones in this price range, but OPPO's VOOC Flash charger is genuinely quick and boasts 5 levels of protection against any kind of overheating/overcharging issues. What's more, the R9s is designed to learn from your personal usage habits, optimising which apps to let run in the background and which to freeze. This meant an extremely long life between charges, as much as two days of casual use. The downside was sometimes I had apps I didn't want to be optimised quite as much as the phone thought I should, and the process to reverse this is a bit mysterious and complicated.
This is all part of OPPO's Color 3.0 operating system, built on top of Android 6.0.1. I don't quite understand why different manufacturers can't just leave us with Android and be done with it. Color 3.0 has it's good points; there's virtually no bloatware and iPhone users will find the icon-based layout very familiar. On the downside, for someone who likes to customise things, there just aren't enough easily accessible settings. As usual, while most apps auto-rotate between portrait and landscape, the homescreen doesn't. So I ask the same question I always ask; why no landscape for a 5.5inch screen? I'd also like a splitscreen email display for the same reason, although the stock email app is surprisingly user-friendly. The calendar is far too basic however, with no easy way to choose which accounts to sync.
I think that's the simple beauty of the R9s though; OPPO never said it was the world's greatest calendar or email phone. Besides, there are plenty of other apps for that.
Where I really ran into trouble was trying to run wearables like smart watches and fitness trackers. No matter what I tried, I simply could not get notifications to push from the phone to those other devices. Media controllers on those devices wouldn't work back the other way to the phone either. Again, OPPO never claimed to be your smartwatch go-to, but I thought it was weird that other phones seem to handle this stuff okay.
Back to basics though - when it comes to browsing, streaming, filming and photography, the R9s runs like a dream. It has masses of processing power under the hood and a whopping 64GB of on-board storage - practically unheard of in a $700 handset. What's really crazy is you can expand that out to 256GB using the SD slot, something I didn't even know was technically possible in a phone.
Okay, so it's not waterproof and there's no wireless charging, but again, OPPO never said there would be. What you DO get is an expensive-looking, smooth-running, high-spec phone, that takes great photos, AMAZING selfies and charges super quick.
All for $699. What's more, OPPO launched two other models in New Zealand last week that cost even less.
At long last the race for smart phone market share in this country is back on. OPPO is definitely a form player to watch.