Slim phones shouldn’t cost a fortune, and Oppo appears keen to give consumers what they want, packing the best of both worlds into one neato sub-$500 package. Is this a great deal?
Oppo’s latest take on the smartphone is the R7, a metal wrapped smartphone aiming to compete against the big boys and flagships on weight and design.
We’ve already mentioned that it’s metal, but if you can believe it, this $449 handset also manages to offer something even the Apple iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S6 cannot, with a thickness of 6.3mm, a difference of 6.9 and 7mm respectively.
Inside this thickness, you’ll find Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 615 eight-core processor, comprising of two sections clocked at 1.5GHz and 1GHz, and paired with 3GB RAM and 16GB storage, though the latter of these can be upgraded with a microSD slot provided you’re not using a nanoSIM (more on this in a moment).
Google’s Android operating system runs on the Oppo R7, but not in a way you may be familiar with, as Oppo runs its own variation known as Color OS on this smartphone. Despite this version being a little different from regular Android, it is still totally compatible with the millions of apps and games available for the platform.
Two cameras can be found inside the body, one on the rear and the other on the front, and for this phone, you’ll find a 13 megapixel camera on the back with an LED flash, while an 8 megapixel camera sits up front, both of which are capable of capturing 1080p Full HD video.
Connections for the R7 are relatively standard, with 802.11b/g/n WiFi here alongside Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and 4G LTE, with wired technology handled through the only two ports found on the smartphone, a microUSB port at the bottom and a 3.5mm headset jack up top.
All of this sits underneath a 5 inch display, running the Full HD resolution of 1920×1080 and protected by Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3.
Only two physical buttons can be found on the R7, comprising of a power button on the left edge with a volume rocker on the right edge. Three soft buttons can be found at the very bottom of the handset, just under the screen, with an older style menu button, home button, and a back button.
And then there’s the slots for the phone, and you’ll find two of these here, available on a pin ejectable tray with room for either one microSIM and one microSD, or one microSIM and one nanoSIM.
You can opt to only have one of these taken, such as one nanoSIM and no microSIM, but if you go this route, the nanoSIM takes up the slot of the microSD due to it being in the second slot. Furthermore, the use of the nanoSIM slot removes the ability to add storage via the microSD slot since they are both in the same section.
The battery on the Oppo R7 is built into the handset and is rated at 2320mAh.
Oppo hasn’t been in the phone game for very long, though it is a brand that knows electronics. We’ve seen some very impressive electronics from the company before, and we’re seeing some interesting concepts in the first few phones it has been pushing out over the past couple of years, arriving in Australia officially last year.
Since that arrival, we’ve seen some creative cameras that rotate for you, high resolution screens, and super-slim bodies that even put the major manufacturers to shame, at least when it comes to building them as thin as humanly possible.
But as good as the Oppo phones have been, they were primarily built for one feature in mind. On the N3, it was a great camera that could be controlled using the touchscreen, with a pivot function that could be guided by a finger swipe. On the R5, it was all about keeping the phone thin, and ditching the headset jack to make that possible.
And in the R7, it’s about finding a middle ground for both of those things, getting rid of the rotating camera but keeping the quality up there, all in a body that is slim enough to keep with you and not stress the pocket, and Oppo is doing it for a little under $500.
Design-wise, it’s not hard to see the phone Oppo is borrowing a style from, because if you take the iPhone 5, and then flatten and stretch it, you’ll see a similar look and feel here.
That’s not bad, though it’s certainly not original, but if you don’t care and wish Apple would make that style in a thinner design, this is what you’ll be looking for.
Pick it up, and the build quality is evident, with a solid metal construction and a slightly curved glass at the front.
The metal body is a nice change for a mid-range handset, and while we’re not too fond of the pronounced edges, the 147 gram weight is spread out nicely so that your hand and pockets won’t feel any issues.
There’s even a little physical dot on the back of the phone to help you know which side is the bottom of the phone when you drag it out of your pocket, sort of like the bump on “F” key that told you where to put your fingers if you learned to type that way.
The bump is handy here, and sort of helps to deal with the realisation that yes, you’re basically using a generic block of metal and glass.
Oppo even includes a transparent plastic case in the box so you don’t have to go buy another, though it does make it hard to use that little bump.
At least it won’t hurt too much if you decide to accidentally drop the thing.
Switch the phone on using the power button on the left edge and you’ll find a bright display greeting you back showing the Full HD resolution of 1920×1080.
This screen is fairly bright, and there’s even a dose of automatic brightness if needed, and you’ll find a pixel clarity of around 441 pixels per inch, higher than both the Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus and their respective Retina grade panels.
It’s certainly pleasing to the eye, though not ground breaking, running with much the same screen technology we’ve seen in phones for a good two years.
But if it ain’t broke, it don’t need fixing, and that’s what we’re seeing here, with a decent little touchscreen display that looks good in what appears to be a super-slim iPhone clone.
Get to using the phone and you’ll even see a touch more Apple inspiration in the operating system.
You see it runs on Android but you’d never realise it, and that’s because Oppo’s implementation of Android looks more like Apple’s iOS, with no separate app menu and a design that integrates that app menu into the widgetised home screens.
It’s not hard to see that this instance of Android — which Oppo calls “ColorOS” — borrows quite heavily from the look of Apple’s mobile operating system, and we’re not sure we like it as a version of Android.
Mobile beginners who have played with the iPhone before may find it quite nifty, but seasoned Android users could find it a tad limiting, especially since your app placement on the screen is singular, and you can even accidentally remove apps that you shouldn’t be able to, such as Google staples like the Play Store.
You can return these by diving into the settings menus, and this might even be useful if you’re setting up a phone for a child or a senior — ideally someone who might not want to see or be able to play with apps they don’t understand , or could cost money — but even we were thrown a bit of a curve when we discovered we could accidentally get rid of the Play Store, which struck us as odd.
There are other little quirks and bugs with ColorOS, too, such as how it opens up tabs in Google’s Chrome web browser.
As is the norm in Android 5.1 “Lollipop” — which is what the R7 runs — you’ll find these expand to different windows in the multi-tasking function, just like it does on other Android 5-based handsets.
That’s not new, and we’re used to it. What we’re not used to is seeing that the multi-tasking function on the R7 just doesn’t work properly, with tabs that don’t load properly, and tabs that you go into loading the wrong app, such as email or another app you were just recently in.
This is one of the many quirks we’ve discovered with the Oppo R7, and it’s not helped by the multi-task button on the bottom of the handset not actually being a multi-task button, but rather one of those “menu” buttons taken from an older Android phone.
It still works the same way when you hold it down, but this isn’t Android the way Google designed it, and it’s fairly clear Oppo is pushing its own take on Android with this older inclusion.
There’s also no backlighting for these buttons, which is a bit of a surprise, and something that makes the phone just that much more annoying to use in low-light, so make sure you remember what each button does, because there’s no assistance if you’re checking your phone in a dark room or movie theatre.
We found other quirks, too, including a phone that needed to be restarted a few times before all our regular apps would install, as Google’s account information would frequently disappear amidst trying to download software from the Google Play store. It took about four restarts before everything was good to go, though after that, all was fine.
Another quirk we’ve seen before on Oppo devices also reared its head, with the “misoperation prevention” still here, an error that pops up if you try to unlock your phone when the top of the handset is covered. To quell this, simply stop blocking the top of the handset and it’ll return to normal.
That’s an easy fix, for sure, but after reviewing a few Oppo phones, we still have no idea why this pops up, and it makes itself known very, very often.
Return emails feature another bizarre inclusion, and it’s one we’ve never seen out of the many, many, many phones we’ve reviewed. Simply put, replying to an email has you do it in the space normally reserved for responding to an SMS, otherwise known as the line or two above your keyboard.
Traditionally, emails are handled from the email itself, giving you the space to compose and edit, not just a field for one or two lines.
But not on this phone, because the Oppo R7 asks you to reply in a small space.
If emails were short and punchy like a text message, this would make sense, but since emails aren’t necessarily short, this way of writing a response doesn’t feel right, and this adds to the list of quirks with the phone.
Outside of the odd quirks, however, it’s a fairly efficient and clean version of Android, even if you’d never recognise it as one.
At least the performance is decent, with only the odd spot of lag here and there, no doubt helped by the inclusion of 3GB RAM, which is past the 2GB sweet spot Android prefers.
Combine that with two quad-core chipsets and you’ll find the Snapdragon 615-equipped R7 is a surprisingly snappy little smartphone, which we suspect is the point.
It won’t win awards for the fastest phone in the world, but as a mid-ranger, it is more than capable for the majority of things someone might plan to throw its way, with support for a few games, most of the apps you’ll find, and general use as a phone.
Mobile speeds are also good here, ranging from 15Mbps to 79Mbps in our tests on Telstra’s 4GX network in Sydney.
That’s a pretty solid outcome, and given the mobile networks on offer in Australia, you should be able to achieve some decent mobile connectivity here with this handset.
Battery life is also decent too, managing a solid two days of performance with wired headphones doing our regular schtick, telling us that if you pulled it back to wireless headphones and smartwatches and smart bands, you’d need to charge nightly, but that you should still be comfortable with a full day of life.
Go with wireless headphones and you’ll find a full day is possible on this handset, which we certainly did, needing a charge in the morning the next day.
Either situation isn’t bad, and there are flagship phones that struggle to get this sort of life, and given the size (or lack thereof), that’s a fairly impressive result, especially for a mid-range handset asking for under $500.
The camera is really the final area worth commenting on, and while it’s not quite as impressive as the cameras thrown into the rotating phones Oppo makes, it’s still not a bad shooter.
In daylight, the images are crisp and easy on the eyes, with fairly strong colour reproduction, while night time images tend to be a little slower on the shutter, so expect a little bit of blur from time to time, especially if it’s not the most light-filled area around.
For the most part, it’s a decent little camera, and even the one up front sports some decent selfie-taking abilities, with a good 8 megapixels there for you to get images of yourself, or even do that spot of video conferencing you tell yourself that one day, one day you just might do.
What’s bad about the camera comes back to software, and Oppo’s lack of originality.
Just like the operating system and how it feels derived from Apple’s iOS, so too does the camera software with a pretty similar — some might say blatantly appropriated — design in the ease of use.
That’s not to say this is a bad thing, and if you like the iPhone but just not necessarily the price or lack of megapixels the camera offers, Oppo’s borrowed interface helps to bring this interface to Android, whether Apple wants it to or not.
And really, there’s no attempt for originality here whatsoever, with the same photos and video slide switch at the bottom, a basic camera shutter, and the ability to change your camera’s exposure control using a little brightness control accompanying the square where ever you happen to press.
Oppo hasn’t magically transported you to an iPhone either — your app ecosystem is still planted squarely in the confines of Android — but this interface will make you believe you are using an iOS device because frankly it’s so damn similar.
If there’s one thing we can say about choosing a phone in Australia, it’s that we are quite literally spoiled for choice.
Between the brands, there are just so many options to choose from, and when you get down to it, the whole thing can be a bit of a head spin.
Not helping this is the vast difference in pricing between the models, but if you know roughly what you want, reviews can help.
And if what you want is a decent thin phone for not too much cash, or even one of the best iPhone clones in the business, Oppo’s R7 is one of the best choices you’ve likely never heard of.
It’s not a perfect phone, and we’ll be the first to admit that, but between a slim and solid little body, decent battery life, excellent 4G performance, and a camera that isn’t a bad performer, Oppo has produced a mid-range marvel that hits well above its weight and is surprising value. Recommended.