Over the last month or so, you might have heard the name “Oppo” quite a bit as Android Authority covered all manner of teasers and rumors related to the recently announced Oppo N1. If you’ve found yourself wondering who Oppo is, then you’re certainly not alone.
Oppo is a relatively new Chinese-based company that has only recently started marketing its handsets to the international market, starting with the Oppo Find 5. For those in North America and Europe, buying an Oppo handset means ditching your carrier contract and buying an unlocked device directly from Oppo, or through a retail partner like Amazon.
Despite its (relatively) small marketing budget and the fact that it’s a fairly new smartphone manufacturer, Oppo still manages to pack quite a few features into their handsets and yet offer prices that easily undercut better known brands such as Samsung, HTC and Sony.
There are tons of ‘low-cost’ Chinese handsets out there, so what makes Oppo stand out? For starters, Oppo’s philosophy is one that we wish all Android manufacturers would fully embrace. Oppo believes in keeping a very close relationship with both its users and its dev-community, and strives to update its handsets on a “regular basis”, adding features and changes based on feedback received from its users.
Beyond that, Oppo has demonstrated that they aren’t afraid to try new things and think outside the box when it comes to hardware and features.
A company that embraces working closely with its users
Straight from Oppo’s about page, the company declares:
“Customers are the core of [Oppo’s] business, and satisfying them is the precondition to our existence. OPPO products are co-developed with our customers, with customer feedback playing a big role in both hardware and software development. For our smartphones, we have adopted rapid release cycles, releasing firmware updates based on customer feedback.”
Any company can spew forth claims that they constantly update or that they are actively working with their user base. The proof comes from jumping in and taking a closer look at Oppo’s recent activities, starting with their public forums.
Just reading through the various threads will make it abundantly clear that Oppo actively responds and interacts with its customers at a level that larger manufacturers in the Android world don’t. There’s also a very involved user base on the forums, which is a good sign.
More than just using the forums as a PR stunt, Oppo also pays attention to feedback from its users, and is willing to change strategy based on what they learn from working with the community.
As an example, Oppo has traditionally pushed out some kind of firmware update at least every other week. While their users loved this rapid release response, some also felt that this left the firmware in a perpetual ‘beta’ state. The solution was simple: Oppo now has two different firmware tracks to choose from.
The Official path sees more substantial firmware updates every 2-3 months. The Beta path is for those who want the latest and greatest features and don’t mind taking a minor hit on stability in exchange for bi-monthly updates.
By working with its users and actively responding to feedback, Oppo has built a reputation as a company that truly understands its users and isn’t just about “making the sale”.
The Color ROM and Cyanogenmod
For those that like the freedom of choice, Oppo has you covered here as well. While most Oppo devices come with the standard “Oppo ROM”, many devices also have the option of running a redesigned Color ROM that was designed with the help of its fanbase and dev community.
In addition to the Color ROM, Oppo handsets also work with a variety of custom ROMs including Paranoid Android and Cyanogenmod.
In an effort to bring even more options to its userbase, the company’s upcoming Oppo N1 is even the first device to officially partner with Cyanogenmod since Cyanogen announced its plans to go commercial.
Thinking outside the box
It’s in Oppo’s DNA to think differently when it comes to dealing with customers and rolling out software, but what about the hardware? Actually, Oppo is often at the forefront of change in the mobile world here too, despite being a minor player in the Android game.
With the Ulike series, Oppo has pushed high-quality front-facing cameras for those addicted to taking selfies. Turning to the Find 5, Oppo created one of the world’s thinnest handsets and was the first company to announce a 1080p smartphone – though it was beat to the market by devices like the HTC Droid DNA.
Looking to the present, the Oppo N1 continues the tradition of ‘thinking differently’ as evidenced by the use of a rear touchpad, rotating camera and Bluetooth remote control.
To be fair, Oppo isn’t necessarily first to use a touchpad on a smartphone, as the Pantech Vega is an example of another such handset. Still, a rear touchpad isn’t exactly a commonplace feature in the Android world, making Oppo one of the pioneers on this front.
As for the rotating camera? Oppo calls the N1′s 13MP dual-LED shooter the world’s first rotatable smartphone camera, and that’s basically correct. While there have been older flip-phones that allowed the front cam to be the same one as what you used when your phone was flipped open, Oppo’s solution is much more advanced.
Last but not least for the N1, Oppo even introduced the (seen above) O-Click control, a small remote you can place on your keychain. The O-Click allows you to ping your phone if you can’t find it, take pictures and more. Bluetooth remotes again are nothing new, but including one with the handset is certainly a nice touch.
While Oppo might not be a household name in the US quite yet, they already are in China. Companies like Oppo prove you don’t have to be a massive corporate giant to push innovation and performance. In an article in the South Morning China Post, OPPO executives said they will ship over 15 million units this year alone.
Is Oppo perfect? Of course not. Like every other company, they don’t always get things right, but they have always demonstrated they are willing to go the extra mile. Their willingness to work keenly with the development community, to push out regular updates to their devices, as well as their adherence to sourcing best in class components means they absolutely are worthy of your attention.
The quality they’re bringing to their devices table is evidenced by the industry leading 1080p display used in the original Find 5 from Japan Display Inc. and the fact they’ll be beating Google (and every other smartphone manufacturer in the world) to market with the world’s first mems-cam equipped smartphone in their upcoming Oppo N1. Their ability to correctly source the highest caliber components clearly demonstrate that they are worthy of your attention, and that they are committed to producing great devices that they will work hard to support.
Bottom-line, Oppo isn’t afraid to back ideas that aren’t standard in the Android world, and prides itself in doing things differently than the competition. What are your thoughts on Oppo? Do they have what it takes to be considered a serious player in the smartphone market? Are they ready to compete with the flagships from Samsung, Sony, HTC, and LG?