The OPPO N3 smartphone is another device from China, but one with a difference. The company continues to power it’s devices with VOOC (Voltage Open Loop Multi-step Constant-Current Charging) or Flash Charging for normals. This is a rapid-charge technology that means if you’re running low, in as little as five minutes of charge, you’ll be right to go for another 2 hour phone call.
The technology will speed to 75% of the total charge in just 30 minutes. Surprisingly this isn’t the best feature of the phone.
The white body of the N3 is solid, not like a brick solid, but the I’m ready to go to work kind of robustness that feels like it could bear a few drops and be perfectly fine. It’s a lot longer than you’re average device with a 5.5″ display, given they’ve stuck a substantial camera module up top. To make matter worse, there’s also a extension at the bottom of the phone, which seems exactly there for bi-directional pulsing light notifications. If you’re a tall guy with big hands, the more than 16cm long phone will fill your palm like a basketball.
Once you get past the size, you turn your mind to what’s inside that package.
Living inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AA Quad-core 2.3 GHz processor, which is from last year, but the phones been out for a while, so that’s to be expected. Combined with 2 GB of RAM the phone feels snappy and thanks to slick new transitions and animations in Color OS, silky smooth in areas like immediately after unlocking. That unlock of course can be done with a pin, pattern or using the fingerprint reader on the back. For those iPhone users, it’s not embedded in the home button, but on the N3 your index finger kind of magically finds it, which makes for a nice experience.
That display is 5.5″ in size, but just a lowly 1920×1080 pixels, while that may account for 403 PPI, that’s relatively low compared with the insanity that is today’s mobile displays. The Samsung Galaxy S6 for example has a bonkers Quad HD display with 2560×1440 resolution. It is however the same as the iPhone 6 Plus with Retine HD display. It also packs 6 million colors, and despite the Full HD res on paper, it looks good, surprisingly good, I’d say better than you’re imagining. To power a big screen takes a lot of battery and inside is a 3000 mAh Li-Po battery which is decent, but not the largest battery we’ve seen. By far it’s best asset is the VOOC Flash Charge support and no, you can’t remove the battery, but the point here is you won’t need to. The only complaint I have is that while the charger is technically a micro-USB connection, there’s something ever so slightly different about the cable that means it doesn’t work with other phones.
We’ve talked about speed in terms of UI performance, but in terms of connectivity and internet speeds, the dual-band 2.4/5GHz Wi-Fi chip offers the full array of standards, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. That 802.11AC being the most important as we look to the future. While OPPO will throw their own browser in your face, I still recommend you replace it with Chrome or Chrome beta, especially if you’re already an experienced Android user. The one redeeming feature is the night mode, however the adjustable brightness for the display does get the brightness lower than most.
If you’re someone who stores a lot of content locally, or you fill your phone with large games and media, you’ll be happy that 32 GB internal storage comes standard. You’ll be even happier to know you expand this up to a massive 128GB with a microSD card. With storage so cheap, that’s a far better option than getting 128GB from a factory as not all users will need that much.
Oppo include dual-SIM in the N3, which is something we’re seeing more and more of. However this is the first we’ve seen attempt it with a single SIM tray. This helps keeps the cut outs on the side of the device to a minimum.
By far the biggest reason someone will buy this phone is it’s camera. It’s world-first, motorized rotating camera aims to give you the best camera for all your needs. Usually there’s compromises in phone cameras, with the high resolution camera facing out to the world, while the front-facing (or selfie) camera is 1/10th the quality. With the N3, you get to flip the camera through a full 206 degrees to capture either direction in the highest quality. That quality is 16-megapixel with the OmniVision OV16825 and a f/2.2 lens.
Being able to flip the camera manually is one thing, but the best experience arrives when you launch the camera app and simply swipe up or down to rotate the camera. That’s just plain cool and makes for one hell of a demo to your friends. If you need to get further than an arms-length away from the phone to take a photo, Oppo include a small, keyring button, the O-click 2.0, that acts as a remote for the shutter.
The one thing to remember with that camera is the speaker for phone calls is only located on once side, so you have to remember to return it to the back if the phone rings mid-selfie. It’s a bit of a clumbsy situation but with a big lens and equally large LED flash, there understandably wasn’t room to double the speaker.
Skyline Notification 2.0
Running along the bottom edge of the phone’s body is a pulsing LED light. Other than keeping you awake at night, this is designed to let you know you have notifications, problem is you have no idea what you’re being notified of. If you use a lot of social apps and have a couple of email accounts configured, this pulses constantly and offers no insight on importance until you wake the screen. While it may not be much, this ads an unnecssary cm to the bottom of the phone, without justifying it’s exitence with real functionality.
The N3 runs ColorOS 2.0.1i, based on Android 4.4.4. There’s maybe the single biggest problem right there. Whenever a manufacturer customises Android, they instantly create a delay for customers in getting future releases from Google. Android 5.0 has been out for months now and despite ColorOS being updated, is not the same as having Android 5.0. Through a normal version update this may not be so obvious, but with Google’s shift to material design, you now get a number of updated apps that feel out of step with the OS.
Even as a fan of stock Android, ColorOS isn’t terrible. There’s certainly not a performance degredation with the custom skin, it feels consistently fast. The Settings menu and notifiaction drawer actually add to the experience and functionality. The biggest problem is the UI elements that are no out of date, the most overt being the icon set. While there’s different themes avaialble, none of them are good.
Either the developers of ColorOS find a way to keep pace with the Android updates or Oppo give buyers an option to buy their devices with stock Android. The craziest thing is ColorOS 2.0.1i isn’t even the latest version, back in March we looked at 2.0.6i beta which has some nice new improvements, but is still not available for the N3.
Price & Availability
The OPPO N3 is avaialble now, for A$779.00, yep almost $800 for this guy. While the manufacturer may be out of China, that’s a premium price for the phone and a hard one to justify. For that price you could get the flagship from most companies and with an older OS, it’s hard to argue that’s a great deal.
When you consider the Find 7 (with a Quad HD display) is now discounted to $629.00 even Oppo seem confused about where the N3 fits in their device lineup.
If you do decide to grab the N3, it’s available for purchase direct from their website, and until the 10th of May, 2015, they’re giving away a free VOOC Flash PowerBank with every one sold. This 6000mAh power bank is normally $79.00 so makes the overall price a little more digestable. It’d be great to see Oppo offer this as an ongoing value add, well past this month.
The Oppo N3 ticks a lot of boxes and deserves consideration. The biggest box to tick though is price and we think this misses the mark. At around $500, this would be an much easier sell, especially to the selfie obsessed. That motorised camera may seem like a gimic to some, but I applaude Oppo for thinking creatively about solving that problem. Gestures that actually do things in the real world at a hardware level is an exciting prospect, rather than simply flicking through UI elements.
Overall I enjoyed my time with the N3, but with so many great options on the market for Android devices, the market for this may be a nieche one.
More information at Oppo Mobile.