"Oppo makes its India debut with the premium phablet, the N1, touting its innovative features as differentiators"
As expected, Chinese brand Oppo announced its entry into the crowded Indian smartphone market today, having roped in Bollywood stars Hrithik Roshan and Sonam Kapoor as its brand ambassadors. The Oppo N1, the brand's salvo in the Indian smartphone wars, is a premium phablet that comes loaded with high-end specs, along with a stylish design and innovative software features that act as its mainstays as the brand tries to find its feet in the country. Here are our first impressions on the device.
First up – it's gargantuan. Any smartphone that sports a 5.9-inch screen can't be small, and the N1 certainly isn't. As can be expected, the device isn't for those who like to use their handsets one-handed. The size isn't helped by the innovation Oppo has done at the top by making use of a swiveling design for the camera, which is an industry first. The Gionee E7 Mini, which was unveiled later, also boasts of the same feature. The shooter on the N1 has a 13-megapixel sensor, and comes with a dual-LED flash. Courtesy its swivel design that enables it to rotate 206 degrees, the same camera takes on the responsibilities of being the main shooter as well as handling video calling and selfie duties at the front. Apart from that, it also helps you take pictures from weird angles if required. Oppo's definitely done a great job with the build quality – the device is slim, stylish and sports a build that feels solid in the hand, helped further by its sealed design.
Coming to the specifics of the design, the device is encased in white plastic and the fascia is dominated by the large full HD screen. The latter has a black bezel surrounding it, with large areas at the top and the bottom occupied by the swivel shooter and the capacitive hardware keys respectively. A thin chrome-finished strip runs across the spine, lending a touch of elegance to the expanse of white.
A power cum sleep key is placed on the right spine, along with a volume rocker, while the 3.5mm audio socket, microUSB port and speaker are crammed together at the bottom. The aforementioned swivel camera makes it presence felt at the rear too, where it's joined by an Oppo logo to keep it company. A rectangular touch-sensitive area is located slightly above the centre of the rear, and we'll get it to shortly.
Software-wise, the Oppo N1 runs a custom build of Android dubbed ColorOS, which uses Android 4.2 as its base. Similar to what Gionee has done with its Amigo, ColorOS covers most aspects of the Android UI, giving the N1 a custom interface complete with different iconography and theme support as well. ColorOS touts support for a variety of gestures which the user can customise, allowing one to swipe multiple fingers on the top of the screen to perform actions such as playing music, navigating tracks, speed-dial contacts etc. This is further aided by what Oppo calls the O-Touch – a feature that makes use of the touch panel at the rear. The location for this panel is where your index finger would rest when holding the device in the most natural position, and you can customise the actions in settings. O-Touch can be used for scrolling, navigating the phone's interface, activating the camera, clicking pictures, and so on. Apart from the swivel camera, O-Touch forms yet another mainstay for the N1, and to some extent, enhances one-handed usability, handy for a device of this size.
With a quad-core 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 chip powering the show along with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of non-expandable memory, the N1 shouldn't have issues handling multitasking and gaming, and in our brief time with the device, it did seem quite smooth. The large screen, which boasts full HD resolution, also seems sharp. While we'd like to reserve judgement till the time we get to review the handset properly, it comes across as being quite capable overall. The beefy 3,610mAh battery sealed inside should also be able to keep it away from the power socket for a fair bit of time. Yet another highlight of the new phablet is O-Click, a tiny Bluetooth tag that's bundled along with the phone and enables find-my-phone features, apart from other functionalities such as acting as a remote release for the camera shutter.
The Oppo N1 carries a sticker price of Rs 39,999, which we think is slightly ambitious, especially considering that the brand is relatively unknown in the country. A difference of a few thousand rupees becomes insignificant at that price, and the N1 will be facing some stiff competition from the likes of the Sony Xperia Z Ultra and the Nokia Lumia 1520. However, the Oppo N1's real nemesis is likely to be the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, which offers excellent performance combined with a very compelling camera and long battery life, not to mention a highly useful stylus. Further, the Gionee Elife E7, which offers a better processor and is priced much lower, will makes things even tougher. It'll be interesting to see if its distinguished brand ambassadors and the special features N1 comes with, help establish Oppo as a brand to be reckoned with in India.