OPPO’s latest smartphone is yet another attempt at wooing the selfie generation. The new OPPO F3 Plus is an upgrade to last year’s F1 Plus (review) and comes with a dual cameras on the front. How about I skip the whole discourse about the invasion of selfies, its popularity among the youth, and the induction of the word ‘selfie’ in the Oxford dictionary? Let’s just get right down to business.
So, what’s unique about the dual camera on the front when compared to the vivo V5 Plus (review) which – incidentally – also sports dual selfie cameras? Well, the V5 Plus uses the secondary camera to capture depth information – à la the iPhone 7 Plus – and shoot images with increased depth in the background. In comparison, OPPO has decided to go the wide-angle route for its dual front camera — just like the rear cameras on the LG V20 (review) and the LG G6. The OPPO F3 Plus’ secondary camera on the front offers a 120-degree wide angle view.
Selfies aside, this time around the phone also packs in a more powerful Snapdragon processor and is a tad bigger too. Here’s my in-depth review of the OPPO F3 Plus.
Camera: mastering the art of crowd control
How many times have you tried to take a selfie and struggled to get all your friends in frame? Well, I can tell you that it has happened with me on more than a couple of occasions. Don’t worry, OPPO has you covered. With the secondary 8MP camera attached to a 120-degree wide angle lens, you can fit your entire group of friends and maybe even more. While OPPO claims that the algorithm has been tuned to reduce image distortion, it is physically impossible to entirely eliminate distortion. You will notice that the edges show an evident lens distortion and there is some softness too but the distortion is not as prominent as the LG V20’s secondary wide-angle camera on the rear.
Moreover, the results from the 16MP primary front-facing camera and the secondary 8MP shooter are drastically different. Obviously, the 16MP camera can shoot better details and the white balance especially is more accurate. In my sample selfies, the colours were duller when shot using the wide-angle camera. Therefore, what this means is that you will have to sacrifice details and colour fidelity if you choose to use the wide angle lens. There is no dedicated flash but there is a screen flash to glow up your face in inadequate lighting scenarios. In fact, the primary 16MP camera can also shoot decent low-light selfies without the need for a screen flash thanks to the f/2.0 aperture, which lets in a decent amount of light. A dedicated Beauty mode is also available for folks who’d like to pretty up their faces. Lest I forget, you can also use the second camera to shoot wide-angle videos in 1080p.
OPPO uses a 16MP IMX398 sensor attached to a f/1.7 lens for the primary camera on the rear. It also comes with dual-pixel autofocus technology. The 16MP rear camera on the OPPO F3 Plus can also shoot some good images, especially close ups with great depth thanks to the f/1.7 aperture. I managed to capture some really detailed close ups of flowers with accurate colour reproduction. The camera also focusses really quickly and accurately on most occasions. While the low-light performance is not exemplary, it is not bad at all. The software algorithm tends to favour details over noise control. I like this approach better than the watercolour effect I’ve seen on other smartphone cameras in this price range over the years. The phone can also shoot 4K video and thanks to the presence of OIS it is not shaky either. The video offers a lot of clarity and details, and good sound recording as well. Very interestingly, there is a Time lapse mode for shooting video but no dedicated slow motion mode. Odd omission in today’s times when even sub-Rs 15k smartphones provide it.
The camera app is similar to the default camera app on the iPhone and it is simple to use. Apart from your regular modes, you get this mode called Ultra-HD. This shoots four consecutive images and stitches them to make a larger 50MP image. The algorithm does a good job of cranking up the resolution without losing image details, which is impressive. There’s another double exposure mode. You can use this mode to shoot separate images and create an interesting juxtaposition of these two images. Another interesting mode allows you to create GIFs.
Overall, the cameras on the OPPO F3 Plus are really impressive and definitely among the best in its class.
Design: the most ergonomic 6-incher yet
Ever since the Apple launched the iPhone 6, most brands have been using its design as an inspiration. So, now when a phone comes to the labs — including the OPPO F3 Plus — and looks similar to the iPhone 6, 6s, 7…you get the drift… I am not surprised anymore. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. For around Rs 30,000, which is half the price of Apple’s latest flagship, you get a premium design with the spit and polish of an expensive flagship smartphone.
The OPPO F3 Plus is a large smartphone with a massive 6-inch display, and it looks very similar to the R9s Plus – a smartphone that was launched exclusively for the Chinese market last year. What I like about the phone is that despite being a 6-incher, the F3 Plus is reasonably compact. I think this is the most ergonomic 6-inch smartphone yet. Mind you, you still cannot reach the top of the display with ease. The weight of 185g is also evenly distributed across the body of the phone. But, let me warn you that the phone is pretty slippery.
On the top left corner on the rear you can find the camera and a single LED flash module as well. OPPO uses a six-string antenna design (three strings at the bottom and three strings on top) on the rear. The Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro used a similar pattern. Curiously, OPPO has decided to go with a micro-USB port and not USB Type-C, but I guess it has something to do with VOOC fast charging tech. The fingerprint scanner is placed on the home button below the display and it unlocks the phone incredibly fast. The power button is on the right whereas the volume buttons are on the left, and all the buttons offer decent tactile feedback. Also, the phone uses a hybrid SIM tray which means that you will have to sacrifice one of the SIM slots in case you want to add a memory card.
Coming to the display, the 6-inch panel offers full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution. OPPO has gone for an IPS LCD panel with Corning’s latest Gorilla Glass 5 protection on top. Weirdly enough — unlike the character of IPS LCD panels — this one is extremely oversaturated with bleeding reds and bad contrast levels. In fact, the images captured by the camera looks saturated on the phone’s display, and neutral when I transferred it to a computer attached to a monitor with a balanced colour temperature. However, the viewing angles and the sunlight legibility are good and I have no complaints there. There is an Eye Protection mode that works like Flux, which adds a warm tinge to the display and makes reading on it easier.
Software: inviting Google Assistant to the party
The F3 Plus runs Android Marshmallow with ColorOS version 3 skin on top of it. ColorOS is OPPO’s take on how users should experience Android on its phones. However, we are already three months down in 2017 and ideally I would have expected the phone to run Android Nougat.
That said, you do get Google Assistant. Yes, Google Assistant is now available on older Android builds too and the F3 Plus is the first phone we’ve seen running it. Google’s AI-based voice assistant can be invoked by saying “OK, Google” and you can ask ‘her’ any queries that you want answered. It is the best AI-based assistant across smartphones and platforms yet.
The OS itself is your regular Chinese OS fare with no dedicated app drawer and all apps line up on the home screen. There are some other frills as well. For example, the lock screen uses a magazine layout to showcase predetermined wallpapers. Jump into the Settings app and you will notice that there are a few screen gestures as well; when the screen is off, you can double tap on the screen to wake it up, draw O to start the camera or V to turn on the flashlight, and many more. A dedicated Theme store is available for users who like to customise their phones to look different from the rest.
Thankfully, OPPO doesn’t bundle too many third party apps. Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, and WPS Office are pre-installed and can be uninstalled as well.
Performance: hot item, literally
Internally, the F3 Plus comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 653 SoC, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a memory card slot that accepts microSD cards up to 256GB of storage space. The only other phone with the Snapdragon 653 available in India is the Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro but it comes with 6GB of RAM instead, which obviously gives it a slight edge. But, in day-to-day performance you won’t notice the difference in performance.
I’d like to highlight one thing though, the memory management works weirdly on the phone. The same problem we’d reported in the F1 Plus persists here as well: apps that have a lock icon in the multitasking carousel cannot be closed without unlocking it first. I don’t know how the software determines which apps are meant to be locked by default. Furthermore, during my testing period, the top rear part of the phone turned hot when I was downloading and updating more than a couple of apps from the Play Store. This is something I experienced with the Galaxy C9 Pro as well and therefore it would be safe to assume that it is a Snapdragon 653 issue. But, I never faced any more heating issues, even when playing resource intensive games on the phone. Talking about games, I played Gods of Rome, Asphalt 8, and Modern Combat 5 with consummate ease and without any frame drops.
As far as multimedia is concerned, the F3 Plus handled all the file formats I tried with it. There is a single speaker at the bottom and it doesn’t get too loud. OPPO has also included DIRAC HD tech which essentially enhances the performance of your earphones and gives it a better sound staging. During my testing though, I didn’t notice any perceptible difference in sound quality when paired with my Shure SE215 reference earphones. But I think personal mileage could vary depending on the earphones / headphones used. In phone calls I noticed that the sound from the earpiece was slightly muffled when compared to Lenovo, Motorola, or Samsung phones. But, the microphone quality is good and the person at the other end of the call had no complaints. Even the 4G performance on Airtel was stable throughout.
The phone has a 4,000mAh battery and it can easily last you more than a day on heavy usage. It lasted 18 hours in our battery test, which is pretty impressive. Moreover, thanks to VOOC technology you can easily charge the phone from 0 to 100 in less than one hour and 30 minutes, which is supremely fast. Do note that the Dash charging on the OnePlus 3T is also powered by OPPO’s proprietary VOOC technology.
Should you buy it?
The good thing about the OPPO F3 Plus is that it is not just a smartphone with impressive selfie cameras; the phone manages to excel in other parameters as well. The F3 Plus offers speedy performance, an impressive near bezel-less design, good audio quality, and of course, great cameras. I only wish it was running Android Nougat out-of-the-box and didn’t come with an over-saturated display.
At its price, the F3 Plus primarily goes up against the OnePlus 3T (review) and the Samsung Galaxy C9 Pro (review), both really impressive smartphones. Choose the OnePlus 3T over the F3 Plus if you want raw performance and a slightly more compact phone, and the C9 Pro for Samsung’s brand value. But, if I have to be entirely honest here, the OPPO F3 Plus is right up there with these two devices in terms of its price-to-performance ratio. Also, it doesn’t hurt that you get one of the most ergonomic and pocketable 6-inch smartphones out there. And, not to forget great selfie cameras as well.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Good ergonomic design
- Great front cameras
- Good rear camera
- Dependable audio quality
- Google Assistant
- No Android Nougat
- Heats up slightly
- Oversaturated display
Photos by Raj Rout