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How Oppo shakes New Zealand's phone market

Earlier today Oppo showed New Zealand media the R11 phone. We could talk about the 20 megapixel camera and features. Instead, let’s save time and get straight to the point: this is a NZ$770 premium Android phone.

That’s right. It costs a whisker over half the NZ$1500 price of a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus. Or, less than two-thirds the price of Huawei’s $1200 P10 Plus.

What does $750 buy (or not buy)?

The Samsung Galaxy S8 looks a little nicer than the R11. It feels better; although not NZ$750 better. While Samsung has more desirable software, the software on Nexus Android phones is far better than either.

NFC missing in action

Oppo didn’t include a NFC chip in the R11. This means it won’t work with the NFC payment services. This is not a technology New Zealand has been quick to embrace, so a lack of NFC may not bother you.

Also, Oppo uses a microUSB jack instead of USB-C. MicroUSB is starting to look dated, although this is unlikely to worry most users.

While Oppo makes a big deal out of the 20 megapixel camera on the R11, experience says the number of pixels is often less important than other camera features. It would be surprising if the R11 takes consistently better pictures than the Galaxy S8 . And anyway, it takes skill to the most from a camera, even on a phone.

Even so, on paper, the cheaper phone has more camera.

No doubt Samsung fans will be able to list more feature differences.

Does another $750 buy anything useful?

Some of these features will matter to some people. Yet, in practice, most phone buyers won’t get more everyday value from buying a more expensive alternative. Sure there will be geeks who think $750 is a small price for some esoteric extra feature.

We can’t ignore snob value, the Samsung brand carries a little more weight in certain circles. If you judge phones that way, you’re reading the wrong website.

Oppo is a Chinese brand. Most of its sales are in its home country. According to IDC it now has a 7.5 per cent share of worldwide phone sales. That’s up from a year earlier. It still ranks number four in international sales behind Samsung, Apple and Huawei.

Another analyst company, Strategy Analytics, says the earlier Oppo R9s model was the world’s best-selling Android phone in the first quarter of 2017.

Oppo only started selling phones in New Zealand at the start of this year. It sells through the big electronics retailers and 2degrees. It’s hard to say how much of a dent it has made so far, but the company certainly seems bullish. It has relocated a number of senior managers to New Zealand and regards this market as a huge opportunity.

In any discussion of the phone market, we can leave Apple to one side. Whatever you think about the iPhone, it obeys a different set of market dynamics to Android phones.

Which leaves Samsung and Huawei. Maybe, at a pinch, Sony.

Oppo, credible alternative

By offering something which is arguably functionally equivalent to the better known brands at a fraction of the price, Oppo does two things. First, it offers buyers an affordable, credible alternative.

Second, it imposes price pressure on the established brands. A Galaxy may not look expensive alongside the iPhone. Next to the Oppo it borders on opulence or indulgence. These are two words that marketing people love to tinker with. They work in the because you are worth it school of branding.

Oppo’s big opportunity is with younger people, students and those at the start of their careers who can’t afford to splash out on pricy phone hardware. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.