Oppo have managed to do it again with the F1s. A device with a cracking camera, front and back, phenomenal fingerprint scanner and more, at a price that is lower than most of its competitors. Oppo doesn’t plan on selling the F1s in the UK or Europe, though they provided me with an F1s to let me see the difference between it and the F1 Plus which they do sell here. With a smaller price tag comes obvious sacrifices, but were they the right ones? let’s find out.
Disclosure: Oppo provided us (Dom) with this F1s review unit for the purpose of this review. Oppo however, have no editorial control over the outcome of this review , all comments and opinions are that of the writer (Dom). This F1s was used on the Three UK network for just under 2 weeks (10 days) as my personal device, It received no System OTAs or security patches in this time.
Speeds and Feeds
-5.5″ 720p IPS display
-32GB on board storage
– Up to 128GB MicroSD expansion
-Dual Nano SIM and MicroSD expansion (not one or the other)
-3050mAh lithium polymer battery
-MediaTek MT6755 Octa-Core A53 SoC
For more specifications, check out the GSMArena page for the F1s
As with the F1 Plus, there is no denying where the F1s gets its design inspiration from, although being a lower cost design, the attention to detail on the F1s is less than that of the F1 Plus and the iPhones. Whereas the F1 Plus had a very sleek and slender appearance and in the hand felt very premium, the F1s does not, instead of a uni-body shell, the F1s has a metal back plate that covers the majority of the back, but it has plastic inserts for the top and bottom that work as antenna windows. This in and of itself is not a bad thing, far from it, the problem is with how its implemented, Oppo has realised that they couldn’t make it flush, so they’re chamfered the edges, the problem with this is that we now have a very obvious seam, not only visually, but it’s also tactile.
The F1s is also a little boxier than the F1 Plus. It feels a lot less premium, but it doesn’t cost a lot less. The F1s will retail for about $280, or what works out to just under £220. The F1 Plus is £299, and is better in every way, and I think this is why Oppo aren’t going to try to sell this in the UK. Continuing the look at the back, on the top plastic cover we have the 13mp rear camera and LED Flash (Single, not dual or Dual Tone), and in the middle, there is the Oppo logo, and on the bottom plastic insert, we have the regulatory information.
Looking around the perimeter of the phone it’s all a bit… bland. Up top is spartan apart from the secondary noise-cancelling microphone, the left side has the volume rocker, right-hand side gets the power button and Dual-NanoSIM tray and MicroSD slot, and down the bottom we have the 3.5mm audio jack, one of the two grilles (which I believe hides the primary microphone, the non-VOOC enabled MicroUSB port, and the main speaker grille. There is nothing wrong with these, they’re all just a bit meh. The buttons have nice travel and require just the right amount of actuation force, they exhibit very little wobble and don’t rattle when the device is shaken. Next up is the expansion tray which has a cool trick of being able to take 2 nanoSIM cards as well as a MicroSD card, the problem being that none of my SIM ejector tools work on this phone because the pin is so recessed, meaning that to take SIMs in and out, I’d need to use the included SIM tool, a problem I didn’t have with the F1 Plus.
Down the Bottom is where I had another issue, not only with design but also technology implementation. The MicroUSB port is orientated incorrectly, with the wide part up top, the speaker grille has 8 perforations, whilst the faux speaker grille hiding the microphone only has 5, taking away some of the symmetry, moving on the 3.5mm audio jack isn’t centred properly either, having more towards the back of the phone than the front. Oppo also tried to make it look a little more premium by adding a chamfer to the plastic border and it doesn’t work here, at least not on my Rose Gold (read, Pink) unit.
Lastly on the front we have the main attraction, the 5.5″ 720p IPS panel, down from the 1080p AMOLED panel on the F1 Plus, above it is the 16mp selfie camera, the ambient light and proximity sensor, the earpiece and LED notification light, and beneath it there is the recent apps and back capacitive buttons, which flank the physical home button which also doubles as a fingerprint reader. I have made my feelings about IPS vs. AMOLED screens known before, so I won’t drone on, but this is a decent IPS panel, and 720p at 5.5″ might be far too low for some people, for me, it’s actually not too bad, I have quite bad eyesight, so the lower resolution rarely bothers me, and it comes with the benefit of being easier to push and requiring somewhat less power (more on that later).
Capacitive and Physical buttons once again are not my favourite, and Oppo have done what Samsung does and reverse the order, meaning from left to right it goes : Recents, Home, Back. Instead of: Back, Home, Recents. A Small issue, but an annoying one nevertheless, also there is the problem for me of them being physical and capacitive, the mixture of both really irks me, and as a fan of on screen buttons, I’d really wish Google would make it part of the Google Play contract that On-screen buttons were mandatory, because it’s getting annoying now , that after 4 years of them being implemented, some have switched, some haven’t, some have switched, and have since gone back (I’m looking at you HTC). It needs to be standardised and the Google Play contract would be the easiest way to do that in my opinion.
The F1s runs a heavily modified version of Android called ColorOS (yes, they’ve dropped the U, eurgh). The version the F1s runs is V3.0.0i which is based on Android 5.1. Yes, Lollipop, Oppo is launching and selling a phone with Lollipop now that Nougat has been announced and is even being updated on Nexus devices. I happen to agree with Richard Devine from Mobile Nations that it is inexcusable to be shipping a phone in 2016 with a version of Android that is 2 years out of date, one of the other things that should be in the Google Play contract, if the device your shipping has a version of Android more than one version old, you can’t ship it. ColorOS is a heavily modified Android build, but it’s still Android, it still has Google Play and Google Mobile Services, which means that the heavy modification that Oppo does more often that not causes compatibility problems.
With extremely heavy handed battery and app management, if you get an app to run in the background for more than a few minutes after the screen has been turned off, good on you, It took me nearly a week to find the setting to stop it shutting my Pebble app down, same with Talon, my Twitter app of Choice, and you can forget about music in the background, Oppo is just as bad as Huawei on this.
Just as with the F1 Plus, Color OS on the F1s heavily draws inspiration from iOS. the lock screen, multitasking menu, settings, stock apps, camera app and more all heavily take cues from the Cupertino derived software. So Little has changed between the F1 Plus and this in fact that I feel that I could copy and paste the software section from the F1 Plus review and not many people would notice the difference. the only real difference that I’ve noticed is that while the F1s still doesn’t want my different SMS app to stick (unless I disabled the System SMS app) it is more than happy to let me keep a third party launcher, in this case, Action Launcher 3 from Australian Developer Chris Lacy.
The Software is buggy, it’s heavily modified, it causes havoc with backgrounding and I really just wish Oppo had loaded Project spectrum on this before it sent it to me, because I think I’d be much happier with this phone had it run a stock-ish build of Android Marshmallow with some Oppo tweaks, such as the fingerprint scanner and the app lock settings. It is staggering to me that Google allows manufacturers to actively sell devices with builds of Android that are 2 years out of date, there really is no reason for it to be this out of date. Xiaomi, for instance, goes even further with its customisations than Oppo does, but even MIUI8 is running on Marshmallow, and I’m sure it wont be long before there are beta builds using Nougat popping up on XDA, Oppo I feel has let its users down here, by shipping out of date software, with unknown security holes, it doesn’t show the end user what security patch it is using, none of this seems user friendly to me and as I said, I’d much rather Oppo had sent me an F1s using a beta build of Project Spectrum, because I’d likely much prefer that experience to this.
Camera has not always been a strong point for Oppo, but since the original Find Series, Oppo has been making strides. with te F1 series, Oppo has been focusing on the front cameras, hence the sub-brand of “Selfie Expert”. Oppo has equipped the F1s with a 16mp F2.0 camera which I believe is from Sony, and I believe to be the same unit as in the F1 Plus, and the rear camera on the F1s is the same deal, an unnamed 13mp camera that exhibits a lot of traits of the IMX214, the camera used in the Moto G3, Nexus 6 and others.
I’ll speak about the rear camera first, as there is less to say and it’s clearly not the focus on this device. the rear 13mp camera on the F1s is acceptable, nothing more, nothing less. the IMX214 (which I believe this to be) is really quite decent in daylight, struggles in low light and motion is something I wouldn’t recommend. With a tripod, I feel like the F1s could take really good photos, with ample contrast representation. The F1s also needs a fair bit of light to capture good shots, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking low light (or sunset) photos at the beach with the F1s because even with HDR mode on, the F1s doesn’t feel snappy enough to do it, despite running the same SoC as the F1 Plus.
That brings me to my main issue here, the ISP or Image Signal Processor on the MediaTek MT6755 just doesn’t seem up to the job of being in a camera focused device. HDR shots are slow, burst is pretty useless, and as I said, low light really isn’t a highlight of this particular phone. Which is odd when you realise that the F1s and the F1 Plus have the same processor and therefore ISP. Yes! both the F1s and the F1 Plus have the Helio P10, but the F1 Plus feels better in every circumstance, I don’t know what Oppo have (or rather, haven’t) done here, but I’m not a fan
Moving on to the front camera, things start to look a lot more promising, this is the Selfie Expert after all. With the 16mp F2.0 camera, Oppo have put in a good lens, some seemingly good optics and some heavy post processing to get decent shots out of the front camera. Like all Asian derived devices, there is a “Beauty” Mode, that basically smoothes your skin, lightens your face and ups the highlights, this comes with a variable slider to change the intensity of the beautification I had to remember to turn this off, lest I take one and look back at it a few days later and look on in horror as I looked like a wax model from Madam Tussauds. the F1s’ front camera has good contrast, relatively fast exposure,and it always seems to be in focus, despite lacking autofocus, as I said, the front camera is obviously the focus on this device, and just spending a few minutes checking out the shots, nd anyone could tell you that.
With a 3050mAh Lithium-Polymer battery, you’d expect the F1s to have astonishing battery life, and you’d be correct!. the F1s was routinely able to get me through a full day and three-quarters of the next day without me having to top up in between, this is actually one of the few areas where the F1s improves upon the F1 Plus instead of regressing. Instead of the 2850mAh Battery in the F1 Plus we get 200mAh larger pack here, couple that with the lower resolution screen and the lower power SoC, we are able to get pretty great battery life here.
As I always do, I ran the Geekbench battery benchmark twice on the F1s , once with leaving the screen on, and the other letting the screen dim to as low as possible, and the results surprised me. Without letting the screen dim, the F1s got 6 hours and 16 minutes, with an arbitrary score of 2512, but when I let the screen dim, the F1s posted a whopping 9 hours and 40 minutes, equating to a score of 3638. Clearly the IPS screen on the F1s is far from the most efficient IPS panel in the world, Whilst I would prefer an AMOLED panel, they would have likely put an older generation OLED panel in, which once again is less efficient, but also older OLED panels have a much worse time for dealing with pixel burn-in and also colour accuracy, whilst newer generations of OLEDs from Samsung and sometimes LG rival and in most cases exceed the highest end IPS LCDs, at the lower end, its a much more different story.
My Biggest problem with the F1s is with charging, with a 3050mAh battery pack the F1s would take an age to charge, introducing VOOC… except I won’t introduce VOOC, because Oppo for whatever reason decided not to include it on the F1s, so no quick 10 minute top ups, I need to plan my charging more strategically with the F1s, and it’s really hard coming from the F1 Plus where If I forgot to charge it that night, a quick 10 minute charge whilst making my morning coffee would give me that days charge and it wouldn’t even get warm, I really, really, really wish Oppo had included VOOC on the F1s, because It’s a differentiating feature for their brand, and a large battery takes it’s time to charge, give me something Oppo.
With a Helio P10, you’d think the F1s would perform similarly to the F1 Plus, it’s older, more expensive brother that also shares the same SoC, but you’d be wrong, very wrong. Despite having a Helio P10, 3GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 32gb of eMMC5.1 storage, the F1s just feels a bit off, I can’t decide if it is just unoptimised software or if there is another problem further down the pipeline, but every single test I performed, side by side, the F1 Plus was faster.
I don’t want to scare you off and say that the F1s is slow, because it’s not by any means, and if I didn’t have access to an F1 Plus to test them side by side, I’d probably say they were evenly matched, but the problem is that I do have an F1 Plus to compare it against, a device with the Same SoC and a higher screen resolution, that performs better than this does, and not much higher of a price tag. in day to day use, I never felt that I was waiting for things to load that took exceptionally long, they took about as long as some other 8 core A53 based smartphones did, and that’s fine, but I’ll say it once again, when I have the F1 Plus here, with the same SoC and a higher resolution screen, which is harder for the GPU to run, that runs faster than this, something is awry.
For those not up to date on their SoCs, the Helio P10 is an Octa-Core SoC (System on a chip) it has 8 ARM Cortex A53 CPU cores, and a Mali-T860MP2 GPU all of this is manufactured on TSMCs 28nm HPM bulk silicon node. Is the P10 perfect? no, but it’s also not particularly new, in fact, it’s successor the P20 was announced months ago, although no one has used it yet as far as I know. As far as Octa-Core SoCs go, the P10 is the best of the bunch as it stands, it doesn’t have extremely high thermal envelope, the GPU is powerful enough, and the radios and ISP MediaTek include aren’t garbage either, but If I’m honest with you, I think Octa-Core A53s have had their day. ARM announced the A35 a few months ago, a smaller,more efficient A53 with marginally worse performance for significantly lower power, a Dual A35 with a Dual A73 SoC with a potent GPU could be great, but no one seems to want to make one. The P10 is better than the garbage Qualcomm put out under the 61X brand last year, and that’s great (albeit not hard) but I think we need to strive for better in the next few years.
I’ve included a few benchmark results below so you can see for yourself what the number are, but as always, take them with a grain of salt, and no benchmark is a substitute for what it actually performs like.
Radios and Connectivity
The F1s was underwhelming for me here. Radio performance was nothing impressive, especially after coming off of the F1 Plus and the Huawei P9, the F1s was just okay, as with many things on the F1s the radio performance and connectivity was just acceptable. there are no crazy high-end LTE modems, no MU-MIMO WiFi, no NFC and no crazy high-end USB ICs (Integrated Circuits) the F1s is just so ordinary. The LTE connection seemed no better than the Honor 5c, a much cheaper device at £150.
the lack of NFC is also a blow, because it means that although there is a fingerprint scanner, you can’t use it for android pay to pay for things at contactless terminals, like OnePlus with the OnePlus 2, adding a fingerprint reader and no NFC seems like an asinine move that they’ll likely regret and add into the next model. The MicroUSB connector also seems like an annoying inclusion, on the F1 Plus I allowed it because, at the time, there was no USB-C implementation of VOOC (now there is, with OnePlus’ Dash Charge) but on the F1s, with no VOOC, MicroUSB just feels like a “well, we had them lying around, so we used them” move, USB-C ports with a USB 2.0 backplane would have been preferred here, they could have included a type C port and used the USB-IF Power Delivery spec fast charge, which is royalty free, so there would have been a fast charge capable port that would have cost them very little, once again, it just seems like a baffling move.
Fingerprint scanners, once a feature of the ultra high end, we can now find them on devices sub-£200, which is great, the $280/£220 F1s has a great fingerprint scanner, just a tad slower than the iPhone 6s’ TouchID 2, about on par with the Galaxy S7 fingerprint scanner, but it’s not in the same league as the F1 Plus’ scanner. Despite being the same sensor, and FPC1245 from Fingerprint cards, the F1s is slower to scan, slower to unlock, more prone to misses and failures and more, whilst it might be the same sensor as the F1 Plus, it’s far from the same experience.
Conclusion – F1s
So what do I say here? usually I say whether or not you should buy it and I give you a link, but Oppo aren’t planning on selling it here, and I honestly think it’s a good choice they didn’t, at roughly £100 less than the F1 Plus, the only thing that it is better in is the battery capacity and battery life with a lower screen brightness setting, the F1 Plus has a better fingerprint scanner, better cameras, better SoC, better charging system, better screen and more, and it only costs £299, you also get 4GB of RAM and 64GB of Storage, you get a lot in that £100 upgrade, and honestly I can’t recommend anyone buy the F1s, with its outdated version of Android, there are much better purchases at the £200 price point, and Whilst I loved the F1 Plus, I can’t really say the same about the F1s.