OPPO became China’s top-selling smartphone brand in the third quarter this year. Now the Chinese developer of Android handsets is taking on the rest of the world with the F1 Plus model, and the world is reacting now as other models vie with it for market share. The 5.5-inch device costs about $430 and features a decent 16-megapixel selfie camera, a generous 64 GB of internal storage and a crisp display. “If you’d like an iPhone 6S, but your budget won’t stretch, this could be a contender,” the news website TechRadar said in November.
It’s no iPhone, according to a deeper survey of reviews, but the remake of a popular sold-in-China model is expected to help build OPPO’s profile overseas.
OPPO has been around since 2004, once as a developer of MP3 players and now part of the pack of upstart Chinese smartphone brands that also include Vivo and Xiaomi. It took a 17.5% share of the home market in the third quarter, up from 9.8% in the same period a year ago, due largely to its style of marketing, tech research firm IDC says. OPPO relies on traditional offline stores rather than deals with carriers. “Unlike Xiaomi, OPPO relies heavily on brick and mortar retailers,” says Aaron Lin, an analyst with the Taipei-based Marketing Intelligence & Consulting Institute. He estimates 300,000 physicaloutlets in just Asia.
The brand also ranks among the world’s top five smartphone brands. It’s a top rival for Samsung in India and Southeast Asia, for example. The F1 Plus (nothing to do with the car races) was released earlier in the year based on a similar model in China and aimed again at developing Asia as well as Africa.
But the F1 Plus needs a better processor, the tech news website Android Authority says. It uses a MediaTek chipset, not quite the A8 processor of the iPhone 6S. “With all due respect, I don’t see Oppo F1 Plus being targeted to power or heavy users in any which way,” one reader comments on Gsmarena.com. “And I say this being an owner of Oppo F1 Plus.” Battery life also may be uneven. E-mail notifications come slowly because the phone is is trying to save power, but the battery declines fast during a game of Minecraft, according to a Trusted Reviews author. The phone’s speaker also misses the sound quality of a late-model iPhone, the review says.
Android Authority even says the device also looks too much like an iPhone. That’s a perk, given the price gap, until you consider how much bad press Chinese brands of almost anything have received over the decades for copying Western counterparts.
You get what you pay for. Still, the F1 Plus and its Chinese domestic equivalent shipped 13 million units from March through September, giving OPPO its “best-selling model” or “hero model” of the year, says Linda Sui, director of wireless smartphone business at market research firm Strategy Analytics. Dwellers of smaller cities and rural parts of China are eagerly buying it, Sui said, while the developer is targeting users in India, Africa and other emerging smartphone markets.