Oppo R9s: Galaxy-like phone, half the price

Oppo R9s delivers nine-tenths the function of a Samsung Galaxy S7 for half the dollars.

Oppo R9s at a glance

For: Value
16 megapixel cameras front and rear
Battery life
Against: Rough edges
Clumsy software overlay
No NFC chip
Maybe: Performance
Verdict: Lots of phone for less money
Price: $700
Website Oppo R9s

At first sight the Oppo R9s looks like it might be yet another premium Android phone. The physical design goes a step beyond paying homage to the iPhone. At the launch Oppo execs showed and Apple-like Rose Gold model.

The review model has a matt black finish, but still looks like a slimmer iPhone 7 with a wider Touch ID button. There’s even an iPhone-like bump for the camera lens on the back of the phone.

Oppo goes further down the Apple path than most phone makers. The R9s uses Oppo’s ColorOS 3.0 software. It’s based on Android 6.0, but Oppo tweaked the home screen to look more like iOS 7.

In the hand

You only have to hold the R9s to realise it is not an iPhone, Galaxy or an Xperia. It doesn’t feel as polished. There are, quite literally, rough edges. They are noticeable every time you touch the phone.

This serves as a metaphor for everything else about the Oppo R9s. It lacks the fine attention to detail you’ll find if you spend twice as much on your phone.

During the review I found myself yearning to get back to a better feeling device.

Rough edges aside, the effect is still classy for a phone at this price. The R9s is thin, yet still solid. The screen gets near to the edge or as phone makers say, it has a thin bezel.

It’s made of aluminium. This means it is light and doesn’t have that plastic feel found elsewhere. Yet there is no getting away from the uncomfortable feel of those rough edges.

Color me crazy

Android phone makers have this crazy idea they can add value with software. They never do. Nothing beats the pure Android experience you’ll find on a Nexus or Pixel except, perhaps, iOS. 1

Oppo uses its own ColorOS 3.0 software. This is based on Android 6.0. That is now a year behind other Android versions.

ColorOS has been tricked out in places to look like iOS, but don’t be deceived. It is nothing like iOS in practice. Nor is it as smooth as stock Android.

In places the ColorOS user interface is misleading to anyone experienced with other versions of Android. It doesn’t make sense to screw with basic conventions such as swiping down to get notifications.

Many Android fans like to tinker with their software. Oppo seems to have gone out of its way to make this difficult. That will lose it friends in the geek community.

Camera give and take

Every modern phone maker highlights camera technology in their marketing. Oppo is no different.

One of the best reasons to choose an Oppo R9s that it has front and rear 16 megapixel cameras. Oppo has used Sony camera technology, arguably the best in the phone business.

In practice you get great camera performance considering the price of the R9s. It’s often as good as most premium phones.

Advertised highlights are the fast shutter speed and decent low-light performance. In practice the shutter speed isn’t so great… maybe half a second delay.

Low-light performance is far more impressive. You get automatic sharpening and smoothing, but the exposure is long, so pictures are ruined if the subjects move.

Nearly all the camera features you find on more expensive phones are here and some odd ones too. Oppo includes a selfie filter called Beauty Mode. It did nothing for me, make what you will of that.

Battery life

When it comes to battery life the R9s is outstanding. You’d need to be a heavy user not to get at least two days use from a single charge. This is as good as any performance I’ve seen on a modern phone at any price.

Oppo sweetens the battery life problem by including fast charging. You can give the battery a two-thirds boost in 30 minutes. While I didn’t need this during testing, it’s ideal if you are travelling and need a quick top-up between appointments.

Price

Everything about the Oppo R9s has to take the price into consideration. Oppo has yet to announce the New Zealand price, but promises it will be competitive. Looking across the Tasman, the phone sells for A$600. Converting that and adjusting for higher GST means it could sell here for NZ$700 to NZ$750.

Given the price, you get a lot of phone. The cameras are equal or close to the cameras on phones costing twice that price. The display is also as good.

The build quality is a tad behind that on premium phones. Oppo’s ColorOS software overlay is more disappointing that those found on Sony or Samsung phones. The R9s doesn’t have a NFC chip for making payments, this could be a deal breaker for some users but a lot of people won’t care.

Oppo saved a few pennies on the phone’s eight core powerplant. You’ll get more grunt on more expensive phones. In everyday use this is unlikely to worry all but the most demanding users. If you are someone who does everything on your phone, then you may need more power.

The flip side of this is that the processor is less energy hungry and that’s one reason the battery lasts longer than many other phones.

Verdict

Oppo’s R9s story is all about the price. We don’t know for sure but if it lands in New Zealand at NZ$750 it’ll be competitive. For that money you get most of what you’ll find in premium phones selling for twice the price.

While there are rough edges and compromises, the only weak spot is the software. And that’s something a lot of users don’t care about. The R9s looks good and has a great feature set. You’ll struggle to find better value.


  1. Let’s not argue about the merits of Android versus iOS here. ↩︎

3 thoughts on “Oppo R9s: Galaxy-like phone, half the price

  1. Nothing beats the pure Android experience you’ll find on a Nexus or Pixel except, perhaps, iOS
    I’ve had Nexus phones for several years and I don’t use the native Google launcher. Like most serious Android users, the first thing I do is install the Nova launcher. Much more capable, yet still easy to use. That’s just for app launching and obviously I still go into stock Android for general phone administration.

    While Nova improves stock Android devices like the Nexi and Pixel, it really comes into its own if you have a bloated device with its own software, overlay. I suspect it would greatly improve the Oppo R9. It certainly transformed my Samsung and Asus tablets.

    I imagine the Oppo’s rough edges problem would become moot the moment you put a case on it.

  2. I’m not a fan of things like Nova, but that’s the beauty of Android. People who want to pimp their phones can do so.

    As for putting a case on the phone, well yes you can. There are arguments for and against, I usually don’t and I certainly don’t with review phones because they are never around long enough.

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