Last week I attended the OPPO R15 and R15 Pro Singapore launch event at Capital Zouk Singapore. I sat through the usual launch presentation and slides, mingled with the folks. Then came the lucky draw, and my name was called. Yes, I won the OPPO R15! What can I say, I think have an affinity with OPPO smartphones. In December 2014, I attended an OPPO roadshow at Vivocity and won the R5. 3 years later, I attended the R15 launch and won the R15! If my memory serves me well, I never won any prizes on any other occasions between these 2 events.
Unboxing and Design
So much has changed over the years. Color OS has evolved from 2.0 to 5.0, the R-series sees a number jump by 10 (OPPO launches models in odd numbers, skipping 13 because the number is taboo in many cultures. Even the phone size has grown much: R5 was touted as the slimmest and toughest phone, build of steel so tough it can crack walnuts, and a 5.2-inch screen size. The R15 is heftier, build of glass front and back, and a 6.28-inch bezel-less OLED display at 90% screen to body ratio.
And yes, there is a notch, containing the voice call speaker, 20MP camera and proximity sensor. And fortunately, there is also a 3.5mm audio port and micro SD card slot. Oddly, though, R15 retains the micro USB port instead of the USB Type-C. Also included in the retail box is the transparent silicone case, and screen protector applied on both front and back glasses. However, the screen protector ruins the 2.5D sleek feel as the edges of the screen protector makes the phone feel rough at the edges.
Running on MTK Helio P60, the phone feels smooth and responsive. The Color OS 5.0 is quite different from the usual Android UI, and after using it for a week, I found it resembles a lot to Apple iOS. Many of the usual Android interactions are no longer there. For instance, the notification cards show options when swiping to the left, instead of swiping off the screen like all other Android phones do. To remove the card, I had to tap the “delete” button.
Another example, the notification bar on top does not show notification icons, so I had to swipe down the notification drawer to see what I had missed. Other similarities to iPhones include the camera app UI, the app settings for call, contacts, messages, camera, weather are located at the main settings menu rather than at the individual apps.
The Android navigation keys can also be replaced with the iPhone X style swipe-up gesture. R15 supports several preset options, and after a while, I find the swipe-up gestures usable and frees up the lower part of the screen to give me a full screen experience.
Face recognition is supported and it unlocks really fast, sometimes too fast that it unlocks even though I have no intention to. Needless to say, the fingerprint sensor is even speedier. Screen Clock, also known as Always-On Display, is available, displaying read notification icons.
Killing of apps can be too aggressive. For instance, whenever I close all the apps on the recent apps list, the Samsung Gear would terminate and I lose the Bluetooth connectivity to the Gear smartwatch.
While I am not a fan of the notch, I like to see the notch as an extension of the display rather than part of it. This is what Huawei P20 does, by making the notch black but still display the status icons there. I hope other phone makers who wants to implement the notch can market this approach and set the notch area as black bar by default.
Unlike the Huawei P20, there is no option to hide the notch globally. However, R15 lets you switch off the notch area display by individual apps. This is definitely helpful as I can disable notch for Instagram app and see the Stories bar.
OPPO prides itself from creating some of the best smartphone cameras in the market. The R15 continues to focus on this aspect, offering highly-processed images so that consumers do not have to. The AI Scene Recognition feature can recognise over 120 scenes over 16 tags. When shooting normally, you wouldn’t notice the AI at work until you see the small icon on the top left corner.
The HDR, sharpness and saturation are turned up, but the results are not as exaggerated as Huawei.
Low light is captured in its natural light settings, unlike Huawei’s treatment of elevating the night effects into a HDR effect. Thanks to f/1.7 aperture, images are captured in relatively fast shutter speed.
R15 also supports 3D Portrait Lighting effects, just like iPhone, so you can achieve studio lighting effects like natural light, rim light, tone light, film light, bi-colour light. The effects cannot be modified after the shot is taken, unlike Huawei P20 and Vivo X21. The dual camera helps to create a more natural background blur.
What I find impressive with the R15 camera is the “Sensor-HDR” technology which dramatically improves backlight selfies. In my comparison test with LG V30+ and iPhone X, the R15 beats them hands down in capturing better-exposed selfie.
OPPO is very aggressive in processing the images, making them brighter, sharper, and less noise, at the expense of fine details. When zoomed in, images appear blotchy. This phone is definitely not for the professional image creators, but works great for consumers who have no interest to edit photos.
Moving on, there are some features that makes OPPO R15 stand out from the competition.
Full Screen Multitasking
When using the phone in landscape mode, the notch area will display additional apps and functions to access. Tapping the apps will open them in a floating window, which is rather useful when watching videos. The apps and functions can be personalised.
Security and Data Protection
OPPO has several functions to improve security, like app lock, secure keyboard, kids space, private safe. The phone will also prevent screen captures or video recording on sensitive sites.
Automated Call Recording
OPPO allows voice call recording to be automatically recorded. User can choose either to record selected numbers, all calls or only unknown numbers. I know there are third party apps that do that, but having a native app means it works better.
Battery and Audio
The R15 has a 3450 mAh battery size, and delivers full day of juice very comfortably, with 20% remaining before I go to bed. It does not have the Android battery drain chart, but it captures power consumption of the top apps for the past 3 days.
The audio processor is the same technology as previous OPPO phones, with an option to enable “Real HD Sound” mode that delivers improved clarity and instrumental separation. There is only 3-band EQ to customise to.
The mono speaker audio quality is warm, with rounded treble and forward mids which do not sound piercing nor shrill.
The OPPO R15 lacks a few important features that power users like myself cannot accept.
- No NFC
- No water rating
That’s where the R15 Pro comes in. The R15 Pro runs on the more capable Snapdragon 660 processor, has NFC, IP67 water rating, and a better Bluetooth 5.0 spec. It is also S$150 more.
The OPPO R15 is a solid-feel smartphone with generous screen size that delivers visual enjoyment. I am not a fan of the ColorOS which copies too much of the iOS UI, but if you are an existing iPhone user, you will experience a shorter learning curve. The camera delivers beautiful images of portraits, and most scenes are well processed to be shared without adjustments.
The retail price of S$749 pushes OPPO R15 towards the flagship range, yet the processor is not the premium model. I find it hard to recommend based on price-value, but I like the relative simplicity of the AI camera and its image output that requires little tweaking. For consumers who struggle to produce nice-looking photos, the OPPO R15 is probably what they need.
Both OPPO R15 and R15 Pro will be available in Singapore from 26 May 2018.
OPPO R15 Specs
- Processor: MTK Helio P60, Mali G72 MP3
- OS: ColorOS 5.0 (Android 8.1)
- RAM: 6GB
- ROM: 128GB
- Expandable Storage: up to 256GB
- Image sensor: Sony IMX519 1.22 um
- Front camera: 20MP f/2.0
- Rear camera: 16MP f/1.7 + 5MP f/2.2
- Battery: 3450 mAh
- Bluetooth: 4.2