Oppo Reno2 Z review

With the ongoing price increases from Apple and Samsung and huge uptick in online tech sales out of NZ, I’d expect Oppo to be a big player here within 5 years, as the tech speaks for itself.

Oppo seem to have a new phone out just about every month, and everything I hear about them is good.

Despite the press, I wasn’t sure what to expect from a $700 smartphone – I’m used to being treated mean and kept keen by my big brand $1200 phones, so a 40% reduction in price should mean a 40% reduction in features, right?

Let’s see.

First impressions

At about 6”x3”, the Reno 2 Z just slightly outsizes the iPhone 11, an intimidating thing to hold in the hand, and boasts an equally intimidating five cameras – 48MP & 8MP & 2MP & 2MP at the back, and a very cool 16MP front camera that I’ll talk about a bit later. The front features gorilla glass, a very slim bezel and no navigation buttons. So far so good. Also, luminous black is a fantastic name and whoever thought it up should be promoted.

On with the phone and welcome to ColorOS! Would you like to transfer data from an old phone? Why yes, I think I would. Starting this process at the end of CyberSmart week I did make a few faces at an app not published on the Play store asking to make and record phone calls, but then made the realist call that Facebook and Amazon already have that information so best not to think about it and press that ‘allow button’.

Jokes aside, I am here for the rising popularity of data-transfer facilities as I dread sinking a hour into downloading and signing into my favourite apps whenever I swap phones.

Without navigation buttons I expected the fingerprint scanner to be located on a sensor at the back of the phone, but Oppo have a hidden fingerprint lock. While very cool, this does require me to lift, shift or tap my phone to activate, which does add a second to my unlock experience.

Something refreshing to see was the opt-out app encryption feature, which allows me to require a PIN or fingerprint to view my banking apps, photos and text messages, even in the ‘open applications’ view. I’m not worried about snoops, but there’s a difference between that and being able to hand my phone over to my mother without revealing birthday plans or feeling free to walk around with NFC turned on.

Life in Color(OS)

Having cloned and encrypted, the next step for me and I imagine many of you is to c u s t o m i s e . So I rearranged my apps and took a trip via widget junction to the theme store, and my oh my what a store it is. I couldn’t tell you if it’s a side effect of a very malleable operating system or the aesthetic focus in high-sales regions for Oppo, but the theme store is gorgeous and very navigable. Within about 10 minutes I had selected two and ended up applying “Cat is pitiful” by Zooking, which is adorable.

Next up has to be the camera(s). I don’t really understand the way the quad camera works, so the limit of my understanding is this: the 48MP rear camera provides high detail and 10x zoom. The 8MP rear camera has an ultra-wide lens for ultrawide pictures. And the two 2MP rear cameras do something that makes 3D photos and dynamic blur possible. All in all it’s really cool, and enables me to take some nice pet photos.

It also adjusts for the dark surprisingly well, though you sacrifice some quality to do so – the below was taken in the Wellington CBD directly before editor Brian and I watched a film [Editor’s note: as I recall, it was a horror film.]

What really excites me though, is the front camera. This thing looks like an iris scanner from a scifi film except the scifi film is in my living room and it scans my irises to open my email instead of a secret lab.

Another thing that feels different on ColorOS is app navigation. You can reorder apps, add widgets and create folders on the home page(s) much like any other mobile OS, but the background page (swipe up page? It must have an actual name) is a library view of all your apps, a suggestion list of five apps and a finder bar that you can use to search the rest. I’m not sure how the app suggestions work, it appears to be a mixture of last closed, frequently used together and most used. But it’s pretty good. After day 3 or 4, I was only using the app list to find things like mobile games and utilities.

On and On (and on and on)

The battery life on this phone deserves its own section because I have felt so free the last two weeks. My regular use pattern involves a bit of Spotify and meme harvesting, and after two days I’m at about 35% battery. If I were more gutsy that means I could get a third day in between charges.

I also trialled a heavy use pattern – non-stop spotify between 7 and 6 two days in a row, mostly via Bluetooth headset, a few conference calls and a customer service call, plus my usual scrolling and mobile solitaire. By 8pm on the second day it was at 17%. Insane.

I’ve also had to break myself of the overnight charging habit, as it’ll charge up about 50% over an hour. I’ve found that smaller feed charges work for me – I’m usually not looking at my phone while I’m catching up on emails or making dinner so they’re a good time to top up. This translates into a pretty seamless battery experience, and I’m not worried about my impending 32-hour long haul trip the way I might be otherwise.

The (tech) Crunch

Reading over my review, it’s almost a rave. Add me to the list of Oppo fans. But it does beg the question – with an aggressive release schedule and pricing model, why isn’t Oppo bigger? The answer seems to be that they’re trying.

Oppo released their first smartphone in 2008, and spent the next 10 years building up their fanbase within China before moving production to India to focus on the south-east Asian market. They’ve become the top selling smartphone brand in China and have secured branding rights for the Indian cricket team from 2017-2022. In those markets, the growth is
fairly unrestrained. Over here there are a few barriers – we’re in an oligopoly of phone sellers and resellers, so it’s hard for an outsider to break in, and our own perception of the unknown quantity as being of lesser quality only adds to that.

With the ongoing price increases from Apple and Samsung and huge uptick in online tech sales out of NZ, I’d expect Oppo to be a big player here within 5 years, as the tech speaks for itself.

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