The formula for the smartphone to top all others is the industry's elusive philosopher stone. Being complete newbies, but keen as a bean, Oppo's take is perhaps the weirdest. Yet it seems to work.
The standard ingredients include the latest chipset, a robust screen, and a high-megapixel camera. But why not try something crazy like a rotating camera that can do the best selfies in the industry? That seemed to be last year's brief. This year the module is motorized and can rotate all by itself. The camera has also seen a substantial upgrade.
Last year's Oppo N1 had a rotating 13MP camera, a 5.9" 1080p display and a CyanogenMod ROM, as an alternative to Oppo's very own Color OS. This year the camera is 16MP, the sensor and pixel size have gotten bigger but that's about it as far as bigger goes. The phone is tangibly more compact, which has a simple explanation: a slightly smaller 5.5" 1080p IPS display.
There's no CM this time but Color OS is in at version 2.0 bringing Android KitKat and this time there is no longer an app drawer.
Among the other things that make the N3 a better phone is a new chipset (Snapdragon 801 over the S600 of old) and a fingerprint scanner on the back where the O-Touch pad used to be.
What was good about the Oppo N1 is even better here - the body is still a lovely blend of high-quality matte plastic and aluminum. The frame that runs around the phone breaks for a bit toward the bottom where a notification LED forms what Oppo likes to call Skyline Notification 2.0.
Oppo did well with the successor, building on the strengths of the N1, and ditching some of the things that were a little over the top (the huge footprint and 5.9" aren't everyone). Can Oppo finally step out of Asia with a global winner?
Well, for one, the N3 is yet to be available on the shelves of walk-in stores around the world. You do get shipping to most locations outside Asia and an international warranty to go along. But most people don't feel comfortable buying their phone from outside the country, let alone across continents.
Then there's the issue of carrier subsidies - many people get their phones on multi-year deals from their carriers without worrying about pricey upfront obligations - this isn't an option with the Oppo N3. Another thing to note is the asking price of $649, which sure looks steep. Most of the points above are valid for pretty much every smartphone to come out of China these days - few of which can match Oppo's vision and creativity.
In and of itself, the Oppo N3 is a great smartphone with a quirky but potent-looking camera propped on its forehead. As a successor, it's all an Oppo N1 user can ask for - the screen is smaller but we think it suits the device better, the chipset has seen a big improvement, and the camera (the focal point of the package) has improved the most.
OK, the N3 has our full attention. Off to unboxing and a hardware checkup after the break.