Oppo flew us to Shenzhen, China to go hands-on with their new flagship R15 ahead of its launch there. We came away impressed.
As someone who got on-board with Oppo relatively early on (relative to their Australian expansion), the R15 feels like a breath of fresh air. Sure, the R7, R9 and R11 have all been solid devices that have emulated some of the strengths of Apple's iOS products without forcing you to play along with the constrictive ecosystem. However, when your niche is 'As close to Apple as you can get on Android', it doesn't take long before you more-or-less catch up to your aspirations. Up until last year's iPhone X, Apple's products were beginning to feel a little too by-the-numbers and predictable - and so were Oppo's.
Then came the iPhone X. Apple's latest tour de force may have made iPhone's exciting again, but it also made Oppo's R11s look a little dated by comparison. Now, the R15 looks to close that gap.
[Related: Hands-On With The R15 Pro]
Boasting an edge-to-edge OLED display with a familiar notch sitting at the top-end of it, the device looks and feels like a major step forward for the brand - and one that feels like it's going to put them in a very competitive mid-tier position come the device's Australian launch.
Local pricing hasn't yet been confirmed - but expect it to arrive around July via all of Oppo's usual retail partners.
The R15 itself boasts a 6.28-inch OLED display with a 2280x1080 resolution, Helio P60 processor, 6GB of RAM, a 3450mAh battery plus 128GB of on-board storage and MicroSD support. Camera-wise, it's got a 20-megapixel f/2.0 shooter on the front and a dual lens kit on the back (16-megapixel f/1.7 + 5-megapixel f/2.2).
[Related: 10 Photos That Show What The R15 Pro Can Do]
Rather than the do a regular and plus-sized variant of the R15, Oppo have instead adopted Huawei's Pro moniker. At least, for markets outside of China. Within their homeland Oppo's special, upgraded R15 is branded as the "Dream Mirror Edition". It comes with ceramic back cover (rather than one made out of glass). It also comes with a slightly-faster Snapdragon 660 processor (the same found in the R11 and R11s). The R15 Pro also bumps things up from Bluetooth 4.2 to Bluetooth 5.0 and adds a IP67-rating against water damage to the equation.
Unfortunately, things are a still TBD as to whether the Pro / Dream Mirror edition of the device will make it to Australia. At this time, only the regular R15 has been confirmed.
In terms of the overall look, Oppo's R15 is easily one of the most visually-arresting efforts from the brand in some time. Yes, it's a little derivative of the iPhone X - but that doesn't mean it's a bad look. The R15 is available in five colors: red, white, black, red again and purple - and each of them brings a different sort of a visual pop to the equation.
While the notched interface might not win over everyone, it does feel like the small gains in screen-size do pay off in some capacity here.The R15 isn't quite edgeless but the bezels are super-thin - which is quite appealing. On the whole, it just looks like a really slick piece of tech.
While the lack of any wireless charging does feel a little conspicuous absence, the R15 really does still hit most - if not all - the usual bases. It's got Oppo's VOOC fast-charging. It's got a headphone jack. It's even got a slightly-improved take on the facial-ID feature found in the R11s. Like that device, you can unlock your phone by simply looking at it. Oppo say that this version of the feature does rely on a greater number of points-of-detail but it still isn't quite as secure as the face-scanning found in the iPhone X.
That said, Oppo do insist that this facial recognition feature is meant to compliment a traditional password or the device's fingerprint sensor - both does offer more security - rather than replace them outright.
[Related: A Behind the Scenes Look At OPPO Smartphones]
[Related: A Decade of OPPO Smartphone Designs Compared]
ColorOS is also picking up several new tricks this time around. First and foremost, the way that you navigate the OS has shifted from Android's trademark shortcut keys to iPhone X-inspired gestures. These work well and, while there is definitely a small-adjustment period, it doesn't take long before using them felt intuitive and fast.
Oppo are also promising some almost-Bixby-inspired smart assistant features for the platform. You can swipe right and it'll give you a feed-style interface that'll automatically incorporate things like appointments and deliveries.
Like Bixby Vision, you can also use the camera on the R15 to translate foreign languages in real-time and also search for items visually and then buy online. Again, this is very similar to some of the stuff that Samsung have been trying to explore with Bixby in overseas markets.
Interestingly, Oppo do say that this feature will come to Australia. However, the search-engine or online shopping platform that the feature will integrate with locally is still to be determined.
There's also a new AI component to the R15's camera. It's capable detecting 120 different kinds of 'scenes' and - depending on what it sees in those scenes - it'll automatically toggle itself between one of 16 camera modes designed specifically for that subject. In concept, this sounds pretty similar to the way that Huawei's Mate 10 and P20 work. However, we'll have to spend a bit more time with the phone before we can pick apart the differences.
Truth be told, we do have a little bit of skepticism towards this side of things. The R15 and R15 Pro look to offer up solid selfie-cams that most everyday users will probably end up pretty happy with. However, despite the addition of some sensor-integrated HDR tech, it does feel like Oppo are falling behind on this particular front. Compared to the things that Huawei, Samsung and Google have been doing in the smartphone camera space, the R15 doesn't really seem to bring anything hugely new to the table. Still, we'll reserve our full judgement until after we've spent a bit more time with the device and treat it to a proper review.
Are we excited?
Yeah. Totally. This really does feel like the major step forward for Oppo that the brand has needed for a while. It feels significant in a way that R11 and R11s didn't. We'll have to spend a bit more time with the device before we can render a verdict, but - depending on the price and the how the software experience holds up over the long haul - this may well be Oppo's most compelling handset yet.