Oppo is one of the fastest growing smartphone manufacturers in the world. Having sold around 50 million smartphones last year, it’s closing in on LG, which is pretty impressive given the size of the company. The F1 Plus looks to continue that success in 2016 and having spent some time with the phone, Oppo’s got a great shot of doing just that, even if the device needs a little work.
It looks like an iPhone. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s continue…
There’s a lot to like about the Oppo F1 Plus’ design. The all-metal back has an attractive, soft anodized finish which is neither too glossy nor too dull. It also happens to have really good-looking rounded edges and corners, which aren’t just aesthetically pleasing, but also combine with the thinness of the phone to make it easy to hold in one hand. It’s still a stretch to reach some areas onscreen, but that’s the case with every 5.5-inch phone on the market. At 6.6mm thin and 145g, it never gets tiring or uncomfortable to hold.
What’s a little unusual is that the metal body’s shiny, chamfered edges don’t quite reach all the way up the edges, making the brilliant white front panel look like it’s sticking out a little. It’s not necessarily a terrible thing, it’s just odd.
The rest of the front panel is pretty impressive. The bezel on the sides of the screen is really thin, and the fingerprint sensor/home button has an attractive gold ring around it. It’s flanked on either side by two capacitive buttons, which only light up when pressed. This makes it hard to use to begin with, especially if you come from a phone where the back and app-switching buttons are arranged the other way around. Still, they save space on the bottom of the screen, and I don’t mind that.
While the phone is pretty, light and sturdy enough, I did face a couple of issues with the phone’s design. Both the front glass and rear metal finish are really easy to scratch. Despite not being treated rough, they both have noticeable marks on them with only a week’s use. So if you buy one, leave the pre-applied screen protector on, and use the included case.
It’s hard to know where to start with the Color OS software. It’s equally hard to list what I noticed without it sounding like a one-sided rant about yet another Chinese smartphone maker with a terrible UI. So let’s start with this: It’s not terrible, but it needs improvement in a lot of areas.
Ignoring the fact that the default launcher has no app drawer, there’s just too much about the user interface and stock apps that has clearly taken inspiration from the iPhone. The card-based app-switcher view, calendar, calculator, camera and phone call app user interfaces are so similar to iOS it’s almost hilarious. Even the way you uninstall apps, and how they automatically arrange themselves on the screen is eerily close to Apple’s bespoke software.
My other complaints are for daily tools I use. Things like ‘do not disturb’ which can’t be activated simply by pressing and holding the volume down key, or via an easy quick-toggle on the drop-down menu. There’s also the fact that it really doesn’t like having a third party launcher set as the default. I found it often just switched back to the system default, despite manually changing it. It particularly didn’t like Nova Launcher.
Putting all of my complaints to one side, I like the general clean-ness of the UI. It’s sharp, minimal and mostly uncluttered. The settings menu is nice to look at, while the pre-installed TouchPal keyboard is among the easiest to type on that I’ve ever used. And unlike the free version from the Play Store, it doesn’t have annoying pop-up ads. You can download themes if you want to, but the default has well-spaced keys, each with a clearly defined secondary character, making those trips to the dreaded ‘symbols’ screen fewer and farther between.
Like a lot of custom Android skins, it also has its own set of gestures for launching specific apps and functions. You can select to have it wake up when you tap the screen twice, or launch the camera when you draw an ‘O’, or the flashlight when you draw a ‘V’. Likewise it has some in-call gestures and motions. You can set it to switch from loudspeaker to earpiece when you lift the phone to your ear, or mute calls by placing the phone face down.
It also happens to have its own battery optimization tools, allowing you to manually choose which apps can and can’t run in the background when the phone is locked. Sometimes this is good, since it stops the battery from running down when you’re not using the phone. In other ways, it’s intensely frustrating, especially when it stops Strava from tracking one of my runs after just a couple of minutes, or when it stops the web browser-based version of WhatsApp from connecting to my phone.
If ColorOS was running on Android Marshmallow, it could simply make use of Google’s built-in ‘Doze’ mode for preventing excessive standby battery consumption. But it doesn’t, it runs on Lollipop. A phone, in 2016, running on a 2014 version of Google’s mobile OS.
We’re getting to a point in the smartphone industry now where it’s very rare to find a device sporting a bad display. Almost everything in the mid-tier market and upwards has a 1080p (or greater) resolution panel with great color accuracy, sharpness and brightness. That’s certainly the case for the Oppo F1 Plus.
The 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display is great. Colors are really vibrant, which is really helped by all the brightly colored icons from the stock applications, and is a great screen for gaming on. Viewing angles are good, and colors don’t distort too much when looking at it from an angle. It’s easily one of the best displays I’ve seen on a mid-range device.
The main 13MP camera on the back is fine enough. Its f/2.2 aperture and phase detection autofocus mean you get mostly clear, sharp images with adequate depth of field. Plenty of noise creeps in during low light testing. It’s a passable smartphone camera, but sadly lacks the manual controls found in some of the most recent devices like the Huawei P9, Galaxy S7 or HTC 10.
Now, the front camera packs in even more pixels than the rear one. And, despite its relative tardiness and tendency to create blurry images if you move too quickly, or your hands are shaking, it can take some really sharp images. As long as you’re in good light, this will take the best selfies you’ve ever taken. Instagram will never be the same again.
Performance and Battery
With a 4GB RAM, a 2.0GHz octa-core MediaTek P10 processor and all of its aforementioned software optimizations, you could assume the Oppo F1 Plus has no trouble with performance. And you’d be right.
While its Geekbench scores for both single and multi-core performance are far from the best, it’s got enough power to compete with most of last year’s best phones. This from a phone which costs almost half what today’s best devices will set you back. Switching between apps, and various parts of the overall user interface is almost always smooth. Apps and games load quickly, as does web content.
It’s not the fastest phone I’ve ever used, and the frame rate isn’t exactly speedy during intense gaming or more advanced benchmark tests, but it’s not sluggish. Frame drops and stuttering happens, but not so much that you’d complain about using a slow phone.
Battery likewise is decent. The 2,850mAh battery can easily make its way through a full day for me with heavy or light usage. Regardless of how fast the battery drains, it charges up again ridiculously quickly. Left alone in standby, it can go from 0-100% in just over an hour plugged in to the proprietary VOOC charger. In fact, it charges almost as quickly when being used, and doesn’t get overly warm, as I discovered in my recent test.
Despite its flaws and imperfections, I can’t pretend like I didn’t enjoy using the Oppo F1 Plus. Oppo got a lot right with it, and many of those things are appreciable on a daily basis, in regular day-to-day usage. It feels great in hand, despite being big, runs smoothly most of the time and has a keyboard that’s easy to type on. Yes, there are many improvements to be made, both from a hardware and software perspective, but I’d happily use it as my daily driver.