A mechanical pop-up camera means the front of the Oppo Find X is almost entirely given over to the display. It has the thinnest bezels of any phone on the market today.
According to Oppo, the Android phone has a screen to body ratio of ‘93.8 percent’.
That number is way more precise than we needs. It says a lot about how Oppo can have interesting ideas, such as a pop-up camera, yet still miss the point about what makes a phone great.
If anyone cares about the screen to body ratio to the nearest 0.1 percent, no amount of technology is going to fix their problems.
While the notchless all-screen front is an achievement, Oppo should would do better to focus more on the user experience, less on meaningless mathematical precision.
There’s something else about that number. The 93.8 percent only applies when the camera is retracted. When it’s in the shooting position there’s a huge bezel across the top of the phone. Because the camera pops up when you use the phone, it’s there a lot of the time. In other words, you only get that small-bezel effect some of the time.
Another thing Oppo needs to think more about is a product’s perceived value. The Find X sells in New Zealand for $1500. That’s a lot of money by any standard. It puts the phone is the ultra-premium category.
Aiming for this space is fair enough, after all, that’s where phone makers make profits. Yet for the last 18 months Oppo has pitched itself to New Zealand buyers as a low-cost alternative to Samsung or Apple. This scraps that strategy.
Find X’s price matches best-selling phones from the market leaders. That’s a brave move by Oppo.
Let’s put this price in context. The Oppo Find X costs NZ$100 more than the Apple iPhone XR or Samsung Galaxy S9. If you spend NZ$300 more than Oppo wants for the Find X and you can have an iPhone XS. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 costs NZ$200 more than the Find X.
So is the Find X in the same ultra-premium class as this year’s iPhone and Galaxy models?
The simple answer is no. While it is close, it doesn’t match the world’s best.
This is clear the moment you pick the phone up. The review model is in a purple-red colour Oppo calls Bordeaux Red. It looks good, but so does every other phone costing more than around $700. Oppo has achieved the minimalist goal of a smooth case fronted by a sheet of glass and with three discreet buttons on the side.
The phone does not feel as well-engineered as the latest Apple or Samsung models. There’s a distinct ridge where the screen meets the case and another between the back of the phone and the case. OK, that’s not a huge deal, but Oppo’s rivals are better machined.
Likewise the phone doesn’t feel as good in the hand. Admittedly not everyone will agree.
What else is different?
Away from the pop-up camera, there are two other important features: fast charging and three-dimensional face scanning.
The face scanning is similar to the technology used on Apple’s iPhone X. Although it doesn’t work as seamlessly as Apple’s face scanning, the difference in performance is minimal. Let’s not quibble about this. Chalk one up for Oppo. When you unlock the phone the camera pops-up.
Oppo uses something called VOOC charging. It is fast, but not linear. VOOC gets you to about 75 percent of a full charge in 40 minutes, then takes another 40 minutes to get all the way to 100 percent. This is good if you need to give a phone a quick bump, say, before you leave the house.
You will want to get it all the way to 100 percent. This gives about 18 hours use. More if you don’t spend all your time on the phone, less if you’re an intensive user.
The pop-up camera is clever. It’s not clear if it will capture people’s imaginations or if most consumer will be happy living with screen notches.
Anything mechanical that can wear and tear is less reliable and more trouble than solid state electronics. That’s not an opinion, it’s an immutable law of the universe.
Oppo says the camera can handle 300,000 pop-ups. If you look at your phone 40 times a day it should last 20 years. We’ll see.
Away from the pop-up camera and fast charging the Oppo Find X is good, but not outstanding compared with rival NZ$1500 phones.
It is fast. So is every other expensive phone. The screen is nice. That’s also standard fare. While Oppo’s cameras and photography software belongs in a lower division than Apple, Samsung or Huawei, it is still outstanding.
Earlier Oppo phones featured the company’s ColorOS, a software overlay that makes Android look and feel a lot more like Apple’s iOS. That’s not the case here.
Oppo Find X verdict
Android fans may feel otherwise, but the Find X has nothing like Apple’s ease of use. If I’m going to use Android I prefer the purer version you find in Android One phones like the Nokia range. These are less than half the price of the Find X.
Should you choose the Oppo Find X? It’s not a bad choice. You won’t be disappointed. None of the expensive phones on the market are sub-par.
I can’t help think that the pop-up camera is a novelty more than a helpful feature. It’s fun the first few times, but that wears off fast. Of course it might strike a chord with buyers, but I have doubts about that.
A fast processor, nice screen and outstanding photography are table stakes in ultra-premium phones. If the pop-up camera appeals and you like a notch-less all-screen phone front, then this is for you. Otherwise you’d do better looking elsewhere. That doesn’t have to mean another brand: Oppo’s NZ$800 R15 Pro offers far better value for money.