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OPPO N3 first impressions: a notable twist in the selfie tale

|October 29 2014 |Android Phones, Oppo

“The N3 looks like a worthy successor to the N1, and ups the ante with its motorised swivel camera”

Its Chinese counterparts Xiaomi and Gionee may have hogged the limelight in India so far, but it seems like OPPO is ready to come out of the shadows. The brand has already started promoting itself in a very aggressive manner in the country, in an attempt to gain the mindshare of potential buys. We’ve always recognised it as a brand that likes to innovate, and have seen if offer some cool features in the past – the gesture support baked into its custom ColorOS, the N1’s touch-sensitive panel at the rear, the Find 7’s 2K display and VOOC rapid charging tech… the list goes on. The N1’s 13-megapixel shooter that swivelled to offer the functionalities of both the main camera as well as the front shooter was an industry first, and made it one of the best selfie-centric smartphones even before the big brands started incorporating powerful camera in the front. The N1’s successor, the OPPO N3 was unveiled to the world at a massive event held in Singapore earlier today, and we got a chance to get up close and personal with it. Let’s dive into what it has to offer in terms of design and capabilities.

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We’d be lying if we say we weren’t expecting the kind of specs the N3 comes with, all thanks to numerous leaks and teasers in the past. As expected, the mainstay of the N3 is its 16-megapixel swivel camera that can rotate 206 degrees. Before you think of it as just a marginal bump, let us add that the N3 is actually the world’s first smartphone with what OPPO likes to call an ‘automated swivel camera. We’ll give you an idea of what it’s capable of in a bit, but before that, let’s take a look at its design and build.

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Clad in white, just like its progenitor, the N3 doesn’t look significantly different than the N1 (review) at first glance. Look closely though, and you’ll find that it’s a little flatter in overall design. With its 5.5-inch full HD display, it’s a little smaller than the N1 that boasted a 5.9-inch display, but courtesy the wide bezels on top and bottom, combined with the swivel camera… it’s larger than most devices that offer a similar screen size. Of course, it’s hard to miss that rotating cam on top, especially since it was pointed straight at us when we picked up the device. While the rest of the phone is clad in matte white plastic, the rotating module on top is finished in faux leather, complete with a stitch that runs around it on one side. One side of the aforementioned module holds the earpiece and the sensors, while the back holds the lens for the 16-meg shooter and the flash inside an oval-shaped chrome window. The camera and the flash almost look like a pair of eyes peering right at you, and stand out distinctively as compared to the rest of the device.

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The bottom of the fascia features a curved chin, and OPPO has incorporated a breathing notification light into it that has been labelled as ‘Skyline Notification 2.0’. Three capacitive hardware keys lit by a faintly-visible backlight are built into the lower bezel above that chin. The spine of the device is slightly protruded from the middle, making it appear that it rocks a sandwich design. Furthermore, the edges of the protruding spine sports chrome bands running all around, adding a touch of elegance to the looks.

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The right spine is home to a 3.5mm audio socket and the volume rocker, while the left holds the micro-USB port towards the bottom, a power key up top, and just above that, a tray that can ejected by inserting a pin into a tiny orifice next to it. Quite a few smartphones these days use a similar design to accept SIM cards and memory cards, but the N3 had an interesting trick up its sleeve. Before we tell you what that is, do note that unlike its predecessor, the N3 is a dual-SIM device, and can accept a micro-SIM and a nano-SIM in that ejectable tray.

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However, the intriguing bit is that the same cavity that accepts a nano-SIM can also gobble up a microSD card – but since the N3 doesn’t like the two of them fooling around together, it only lets you insert one of the two at a time. This means that you can either make use of the dual-SIM functionality, or choose to forgo that in favour of more storage.

That rotating camera module makes its presence felt at the rear too of course, but that and OPPO branding aside, there’s another distinctive looking new addition – a fingerprint scanner surrounded by a metallic oval-shaped window.

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Coming to that ‘automated’ swivel camera, the automation refers to the motorised rotational capabilities that has been added to the swivel mechanism. You can still choose to rotate it manually of course, but that’d be a waste of effort since it can turn on its own by just swiping your finger up or down on the camera viewfinder screen. That swivel motor also swings into action if you swipe on top of the fingerprint scanner at the rear, since it also offers ‘touch access’ features. Another way to perform the same action is by making use of O-Click 2.0, the second-gen Bluetooth accessory from OPPO that also lets you accept or reject calls, apsrt from offering remote shutter release and phone finder features. Watching the motorised swivel mechanism is quite cool, but not stopping there, OPPO has smartly made use of it to add some special features to the camera.

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One of this is the Auto Panorama mode, which, instead of the usual way of physically moving the device and / or your body to capture a panorama, just turns the camera module horizontally (or vertically, depending on the orientation and the direction of your panorama shot). This means you can just hold the phone steady and let the motorised swivel do the hard work for you. Another interesting feature that’s been added is the way tracking focus has been implemented. While capturing a moving subject, you can enable tracking focus and the camera turns automagically to keep the target in focus. Very nifty indeed.

The software based interpolation mode that helped the N1 generate 50-megapixel shots (called the Ultra-HD mode) has been bumped up to 64-megapixels on the N3, and since it failed to impress us the last time around, we’re hoping that it manages to do it this time. There’s an expert mode too that lets you tweak various settings for more creative control over the images you shoot.

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Software-wise, there’s OPPO’s ColorOS 2.0 which runs atop Android, and as we’ve seen in the past, comes with support for a variety of baked in and custom gestures. Some of them can even work when the device is on standby, and that dedicated gesture panel that lets you draw letters or shapes to perform certain actions is there too… though it now appears from the bottom of the screen with an upward swipe.

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The OPPO N3 is fuelled by a 3,000mAh battery, and just like the Find 7, supports the VOOC fast charging technology that can charge it from nought to 75 percent in just about 30 minutes. This is a very handy feature to have of course, but this time, OPPO has managed to shrink the wall charger significantly to manageable levels. The supplied charger that came with the Find 7 was a brick in comparison, and a pain to carry around.

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The N3 is powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 chip paired with 2GB of RAM, and we found the going quite smooth during our brief time with the device. Out of the 32GB provided, you get about 25GB to use, and there’s USB OTG support too. The full HD screen looked crisp too, though we’d need to spend more time with the handset to check out its true prowess in terms of performance, camera quality and battery life. We also can’t wait to play with that innovative automated swivel cam and see what interesting use-case scenarios we can cook up for it. Maybe it can be tweaked and set up as a surveillance camera or even better, scare the living daylights out of unsuspecting buddies by making it follow them around as they move about.

At $649 (roughly Rs 40,000), the OPPO N3 isn’t cheap by any means, and with a release scheduled close to the end of year, will need to contend with quite a few worthy rivals. The features it offers would definitely help its cause and make it stand out from the rest, and it’ll be interesting to see how it fares.



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