Oppo might be the biggest smartphone company you've never heard of. The company has the fifth largest global market share and officially launched in New Zealand last year. Their latest offering is the R17 Pro, marketed as having the world's fastest charging smartphone technology with a cutting edge in-display fingerprint reader.
The last few months have seen a slew of smartphone companies releasing their latest flagship devices. Huawei, Samsung, Google and Apple released new phones to much fanfare but none stood out as having unique, interesting designs. The race to having a truly all-display phone has forced companies to place an ugly notch at the top of their devices to make space for the camera and sensors. Most look terrible but the R17 Pro's minimalist teardrop notch is the best implementation I have seen. The phone has a beautiful 3D misted glass black which transitions from blue to purple depending on how you're holding the device. The unique design is non-reflective, making it more resistant to fingerprints and smudges.
The R17 Pro is the first smartphone to use Corning Gorilla Glass 6. Oppo says it's able to tolerate one-metre drops onto rough surfaces up to 15 times. I was reluctant to test out the phone's durability but it did survive a tumble off a Lime scooter on Queen Street without any noticeable damage.
The 6.4 inch AMOLED display is surrounded by thin bezels giving the phone an impressive 91.5 per cent screen-to-body ratio. As with any AMOLED display - the inky black and vibrant colours make for a great viewing experience. The volume rocker and power button are clicky to touch but I would have liked to see a dedicated button to launch the camera or Google Assistant. The bottom of the phone houses a USB Type-C port microphone and speaker. Sound quality is decent but muffled when listening at high volume. The phone's curved edges feel great in the hand and the build quality is excellent. Overall, it's the best looking phone I have seen this year.
To achieve this elegant design, the fingerprint reader has been placed underneath the screen and doesn't require any extra space on the front or back of the phone. Placing your finger near the bottom of the screen activates a light sensor which reflects the fingerprint and unlocks the phone. While snappy and futuristic, it's still not quite as fast as other phones with traditional fingerprint readers. If you prefer other unlock methods, facial recognition or a numeric passcode can be used as an alternative.
Features and performance
The OPPO R17 Pro has 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage and an 8-core Snapdragon 710 processor. This isn't the fastest chip on the market so it best positions the R17 Pro as high-end, mid-range smartphone. That being said - the phone is very responsive and majority of users won't have any issues with speed. Navigating the device is smooth and it has no problems with multitasking. It's disappointing that the phone doesn't have expandable memory in the age of 1TB smartphones and there's no 3.5mm headphone jack or IP waterproof rating. I'm sure the phone will handle a few drops of Auckland rain but you won't want to drop this in the pool over summer.
Android 8.1 comes pre-installed on the phone as expected to be updated to Android 9 in 2019. Sitting on top of Android is OPPO's ColorOS 5.2 operating system. While ColorOS feels like Android in iOS clothing, it makes for an easier transition if you're used to Apple devices. There's no significant bloatware (pre-installed apps) but the lack of an app drawer and the ability to hide apps from the home screen is frustrating. I'd recommend installing Nova Launcher for more of a 'stock Android' look and feel.
I was most surprised by the quality of the R17 Pro's camera system. It's punching above its weight with a 12MP sensor, optical image stabilization and a variable aperture of f/1.5 and f/2.4. The secondary sensor is 20MP at f/2.6 which is used for DSLR-like 'portrait mode' photos with background blur.
Photos are bright and almost as good as those taken on Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 but there's no wide-angle lens and OPPO's software is subpar. The ability to manually adjust background blur - after the photo is taken - would be a great addition.
The automatic scene recognition is useful and the camera takes excellent low-light shots, albeit over sharp. 'Ultra Night Mode' photos do take a moment but the results are worth it. Video can be shot in 4K and slow-motion can be recorded in 1080p. The 25MP front camera is impressive but the optional 'smooth skin', 'thin face', 'smaller nose' and 'bigger eyes' features are a sad sign of the times.
The third camera is a TOF (Time of Flight) 3D stereo camera which emits nanosecond bursts of infrared light to gather information about its' surroundings. My demonstration unit didn't have this feature enabled but Oppo says that the camera will take advantage of new AR and VR applications that are expected to hit the market soon.
Battery and performance
I was curious to see that the R17 Pro not one but two 1,850mAh batteries which equals 3,700mAh in total. The batteries include SuperVOOC flash charging technology, which charges the phone from 0% to 40% in 10 minutes and fully charged in 35 minutes. Unfortunately there's no wireless charging but this impressive SuperVOOC technology is the fastest wired charging I've seen in a smartphone.
This phone has its flaws but credit should be given to Oppo for the elegant design, innovative charging technology and in-display fingerprint reader. It's difficult for a smartphone to stand out amongst its peers but the R17 Pro is offering something different for consumers. For those who want a premium-feeling phone that charges quickly, takes great photos and is under $1000 - the R17 Pro is worth considering.
Pricing and availability
Available from November 16 for $999.00. Colours include Radiant Mist (blue/purple) and Emerald Green. The phone can purchased from Noel Leeming, JB Hi-fi, PB Tech and Smiths City. Oppo R17 Pro is available from 2degrees for $999.00 or on a $40 per month Carryover plan + $25 handset repayment over 36 months ($65/mth) with $29 upfront cost.