The Oppo R11 is the company’s flagship device, but remains affordable priced as a mid-priced phone. Perhaps the biggest reason you’d by Oppo is the list of features compared to the price point offers great value for money, there other plenty of considerations you make in a phone purchase before pulling the trigger.
If you’re diametrically opposed to iOS as a software platform, or opposed to Apple’s premium prices (as much as double this price of this phone) then the R11 is squarely pitched at you as a customer.
In the battle for an ultimate price point, the feature list is somewhat compromised compared to the best phones on the market, but given this phone is roughly one third the price of that Note 8 that just got announced, its worth investigating further.
There’s no getting around this, the R11 is a great interpretation of an Android version of the iPhone 7 Plus, much like the OnePlus 5. The problem with heavily being inspired by, or copy pasting design from someone else, you risk them iterating to out-date your design, then months ticking by as you rush to copy. If the leaked full-screen design of the iPhone 8 does eventuate on September 12th like we all expect, it’ll make this and many other phones look old, like the S8 did to many of its rivals.
That aside, on its own merits, the body is thin, comfortably-sized 5.5″ AMOLED display runs a standard resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels (401ppi). The screen is bright and vibrant, stretching almost the entire width of the phone, but is top and tailed by the standard camera and home button.
The back is fairly slippery and on more than one occasion I came very close to dropping it, thankfully I didn’t. While this issue certainly isn’t unique to this phone, the aluminum material they’ve used for back surface is coated with something that seems to be worse than most I’ve used. While the phone has Gorilla Glass 5, that doesn’t mean it should be dropped, or could be without risking a smashed screen.
Be prepared to treat this with kid gloves or wrap it in a case. Ultimately that’d be a shame, because the design is quite attractive to look at and ideally wouldn’t be hidden away.
The phones available in just two colours, gold or black (reviewed), while this helps keep manufacturing costs down, it does limit user choice and this can easily be the deal breaker that sees customer look elsewhere.
On the back, you’ll find some subtle antenna bands hidden around the surrounding edge. On the black model, they’re barely noticeable, however on the gold version these are much more overt.
The slick back of the device is interrupted by the camera bump. I find the camera bump issue often overblown and after spending a few weeks with the R11, I can absolutely say you don’t notice it day-to-day.
The body of the Oppo R11 is slick at just 154.5mm tall, 74.8mm wide, and 6.8mm deep. Inside the phone don’t expect the top of the line 835, instead, the R11 is rocking the mid-tier Qualcomm Snadraggon 660 2.2GHz Octa-core processor that’s flanked by 4GB RAM. The graphics are provided by an Adreno 512 GPU.
The phone comes with a generous (hopefully soon standard) 64GB storage on board, but if you need more, its fantastic to have the option to throw in a microSD card and expand it with up to 256GB cards. Sorry that newly announced Sandisk 400GB microSD monster isn’t supported.
Connectivity on the Oppo R11 is interesting. While Australia has turned off its 2G networks, the phone still supports a plethora of 2G/3G/4G networking bands. This will benefit those buyers who travel internationally to countries still not up to 4G networks.
All that makes the phone tip the scales at just 150g, 5 grams less than an S8.
Navigation buttons are switched to the standard Android offerings, but after the 2-3 days of re-learning, this is actually a layout I prefer. Given most people would come to this phone from an Android phone with the back button on the left, app switcher on the right, it really should be an option in the settings to let the user choose.
Most of the time the phone works fine, but its mid-tier processor is noticeably slower, once you’ve used a top-tier phone. If you upgrade from a 2 year old phone, then this will still seem fast for you. The dreaded software rot is still alive and well and every few days I found myself having to nuke the running apps to regain the snappy performance I expect from a modern phone. This is really hard to track down the culprit, it could be a random app that’s stealing CPU cycles, or hogging RAM, but the point is, the OS should be managing and preventing this degrading the experience to the point where the user notices. Occasionally the phone was just plain unresponsive for a few seconds and that is just frustrating and unacceptable.
Thankfully the fingerprint scanner is one of the fastest I’ve used and recognises your fingerprint the instant you place it on the button. This makes checking your phone a speedy process and with little friction, you’re likely to do it more often. Compared to entering a pin or swiping a pattern, this is a crazy fast method to unlock your device.
The OPPO’s R11 is their first model to sport a 20MP+16MP rear dual camera, as well as having a 20MP front facing camera. This is quite unique, in that the front facing camera usually plays second place to a better rear camera. In today’s world, dominated by selfies, the front camera is as important as the rear one for a lot of people.
When shooting with the front-facing camera, you still get access to features like HDR, depth of field, and beauty mode to hide any flaws your skin may have. There’s some neat options like being able to fire the digital shutter with a tap of the screen, rather than a precise tap on the shutter button. This is important as group selfies, or quick selfies with celebrities usually require a quick shot and you don’t want to be that person that holds everyone up while you get your phone into the right mode.
Perhaps my favourite feature is palm recognition. This works by setting up the phone for the photo, then standing as you need and simply holding up your palm to towards the camera to initiate a 3 second countdown timer. This is hands-free operation and while some use voice to achieve this, there will be times where that’s not possible.
The rear dual-camera intelligently adjusts exposure levels between portrait subjects and the background, by automatically identifying over 100 daily scene settings. This allows users to easily shoot clear and bright portraits, in very different environments, with a natural bokeh effect.
Despite all the technology in the camera and software smarts, the lack of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) means photos are often blurry. It is certainly possible to take amazing photos with the R11, but its far too easy to take bad ones. This is one fundamental difference between a mid-tier and a top-tier phone, the camera becomes almost idiot proof, and dead simple to take great photos everytime.
Because of this variability in the photos, I often resorted to taking safeties just in case and hoped some would be crisp and clear.
The front facing camera is dramatically different in video mode. Despite having the same ability to capture 20MP images as the back, the front camera can only capture video in 1080p. This is strange given the rear facing camera is capable of shooting in 4K. In 2017, 4K support is a must have, even if the display of the phone doesn’t have the pixel count to accurately show you what you just captured. We’re all adding 4K-enabled TVs to our living rooms, which means we can playback our captured memories of family and the wider world around us to family and friends on the big screen, while maintaining great quality.
The phone supports a healthy 3000mAh battery, which is decent for how thin it is. It may be the automatic uploading (on WiFi), but on plenty of days I was searching for my charger around 5-7PM after starting my day around 7AM. This certainly isn’t the battery life I was hoping for, although I am a heavy user, moderate users would likely have no problem getting through a day.
If you do need a top up during the day, the R11 supports VOOC fast charging. This means with just a 30 minute charge you get 75% of charge. This is around 4x faster than conventional chargers. If you’ve ever fallen asleep and forgotten to connect your charger, this can be a lifesaver as you connect for a quick charge before work.
Charging is done through the old USB-micro port at the bottom of the phone, not a future-looking USB Type-C like most of the other phones coming across my desk. If you have a bunch of existing peripherals and chargers, then this may be a feature you’re looking for, but most of us are looking for USB-C in all our new devices.
The iOS cloning doesn’t stop at the hardware, OPPO really have made this phone work like iOS. This layer of software is known as ColorOS 3.1 and sits on top of Android 7.1.1 (Nougat). In recent years we’ve seen device makers rein in their destruction of the core Android experience as Android itself improves. Oppo have doubled-down on their customisations and I actually think that’s not assisting the majority of customers in the instance.
The very small number of people who leave an iPhone and get the R11 will appreciate a familiar experience, like the swipe up from the bottom, Control Center experience. This is designed to put all the commonly used actions just a swipe away. for the most part it works well, but doesn’t feature Apple’s newer implementation that allows users to swipe to the left to reveal playback controls for audio applications.
Audio controls are managed by swiping down from the top, which brings us to the rest of notifications and how they’re managed in ColorOS. Its incredibly frustrating to have a 2-step process to dismiss a notification. Once a user has decided they don’t want to tap and take further action on a notification a swipe should always remove the notification. Instead users are forced to swipe left, then tap delete. While this may not sound like much of a difference on the surface, this is something I do dozens of times per day and its a design decision that slows down users, not enhances the experience.
Recently Google announced Android Oreo and while the next release of Android doesn’t necessarily have the longest list of must have features, what it does do is again raise the issue of update delays and fragmentation. Anytime you choose a device that has a custom layer on top of Android, it’ll take longer for that phone to be updates as the manufacturer develops and tests support for the changes, then pushes them through carriers etc. Those that understand this issue, may consider a pure android alternative like a Pixel.
ColorOS changes the method to add widgets to your home screens, instead of the standard long press, you need to pinch to access them. This change doesn’t feel like an improvement, rather a change that simply confuses existing Android users.
Price and availability
The Oppo R11 is available Vodafone, Virgin Mobile and Woolworths Mobile, but strangely not Telstra or Optus. Of course you can still get a BYO plan and throw your sim in the phone, but for those customers looking for an end-to-end solution in-store, you won’t have this phone to choose from.
The Oppo R11 was released on August 7th in Australia and is available now. You can buy the phone outright from electronics retailers like JB Hi-Fi for A$649.00.
The Apple equivalent of this phone could easily cost you double the price of this phone. For that accomplishment alone the Oppo R11 deserves some consideration. The list of things the phone skips on (wireless charging, NFC, USB Type-C, waterproofing, Quad HD display) will be enough justification for many to pass it by.
Every phone manufacturer is forced to find the balance between delivering cutting edge specs, while landing at a target price point they think the market will bear. This definitely feels like the final retail price dominated hardware decisions in the design of this phone.
All boiled down, its a solid offering if you (or your parents) are after iPhone-7 style hardware, but either hate iOS or hate the price of Apple hardware.