Chinese smartphone maker OPPO can be credited with launching some very interesting smartphones. You might remember the OPPO Find X (first impressions) with a near bezel-less screen and triple pop-out cameras. Then, the brand released its Reno (review) smartphone with a shark-fin camera and 10X Hybrid zoom. However, in the volatile space of the Indian smartphone market, OEMs need to put out the best of specs at attractive prices to have a chance of swaying the customers. The strategy has worked remarkably for Xiaomi when it entered the market and now its competitors are also adopting this strategy.
OPPO’s F-series has always been on the mid-range side of things in India. The last phones in the series were the F11 (review) and F11 Pro (review) smartphones. Now we have a successor in the form of the OPPO F15 (I keep thinking about the fighter jet) although there is currently no pro version for the device. With largely unchanged internals, the F15 is trying to woo users with its quad-camera setup and premium looks. Priced at Rs 19,990, the F15 is encroaching on Realme X2 (review) and Redmi K20 (review) territory. But should you consider it over both these value-for-money propositions? I spent some time with the OPPO F15 and here are my thoughts.
While the OPPO F15 is a performer on most fronts, it is a device that would’ve been better suited for launch in mid-2019. The competition in the Rs 15,000 – Rs 20,000 price bracket is cutthroat, and it appears for now that Xiaomi and Realme’s offerings in the segment are better.
Design and display
Straight out of the box, one can see that the OPPO F15 is a great looking phone, or at least the colour variant I have for review, which is the Unicorn White. From the back, the phone looks similar to the Breathing Crystal Huawei P30 Pro (review). The dual-tone colour which shifts from white to purple, the quad-camera array and also the way the dual-LED flash is positioned on the F15 seems very similar to the Huawei flagship. That is not to say that it is a bad design choice but I would’ve expected OPPO to be more creative like it did with the Reno2 series. In any case, the F15 sports a plastic unibody design along with a shiny metallic frame. The phone is quite lightweight and easy to operate with a single hand. The camera array is arranged vertically to the right of the phone. The glossy back on the device, however, has the very common problem of being quite slippery and also a fingerprint magnet. Thankfully, OPPO has also provided a clear silicone case to slap on the phone.
Apart from this, we get the usual volume rocker buttons on the left side alongside the dual-SIM slot, while the power button happens to be on the right side. The Type-C port (finally), and thankfully a headphone jack are placed at the bottom along with the speaker grille. At the front, there is a waterdrop notch which is complimented by not-so-small bezels on either side of the screen along with a significant chin.
I’ve never had any qualms from OPPO’s displays and I see no reason to change my opinion with the F15’s as well. We get a 6.4-inch AMOLED FHD+ display with a 20:9 aspect ratio, which is quite immersive as it is colour accurate. I happened to have the Realme X2 with me at the time and I pitted both smartphone displays against each other, and found out that the OLED on the F15 was punchier and more vivid than the X2’s display. Brightness levels on the F15 are good, and I had no problem deciphering text even in brightly lit scenarios. All of the display features that the Realme X2 has are also present on the F15 as well, such as Nightshield, Low-Brightness Flicker-Free Eye Care (a fancy way of reducing flicker at low brightness) and adjusting the colour temperature. In conclusion, the OPPO F15’s display is one of the nicest you’ll see in the segment but don’t let that be the only deciding factor for your purchase.
As compared to last year’s OPPO F11, the F15 gets a significant camera bump. It offers a 48MP primary sensor with f/1.7 aperture, an 8MP wide-angle sensor which can double up as the macro sensor, a 2MP depth sensor and a 2MP monochrome. The ultra-wide sensor also being used for macro photography is a unique thing I haven’t seen before. This gives way to add an additional lens without cluttering up the camera bump. However, this extra sensor comes in the form of the monochrome lens for which the use case is pretty limited. The notch of the phone houses a 16MP selfie camera.
Let’s get to the main camera first. The primary sensor on the OPPO F15 is exceedingly good at daylight photography, something which has become a staple for most phones in the Rs 20,000 category. Like its competition, the F15 also uses pixel-binning technology to churn out four 12MP images and stitch them together to create a photo with better exposure and details. However, the 48MP option is buried under the aspect ratio option and because of that, not so accessible. Even so, the normal mode on the camera captures vivid colours, with good exposure calibration and dynamic range. The camera defaults to something called the ‘Dazzle Mode’ which I recommend you turn off by tapping the coloured icon on the top, unless you want your pictures to look something akin to an oil painting.
The wide-angle lens comes with autofocus which lends sharpness to the photo in most conditions while keeping the image distortion at the edges to a minimum. There does appear to be a significant change in colour temperature when compared to the main sensor with the wide-angle lens preferring cold hues. Finding the macro lens was a bit difficult until I found out that the ultra-wide doubles up as the macro. Perhaps it’s something that OPPO should make a separate button for. However, as an implementation, I believe this macro lens is perfect, or at least better than the Realme X2 and Redmi K20. The OPPO F15 manages to retain the colours of close-up objects and OPPO has specified that the distance to which the macro lens can keep the subject in focus is about 3cm. I did manage to get super close to the subject and was happy to see crisp and detailed photos. The monochrome sensor was something that I did not use extensively although it did churn out decent greyscale photos. I would have prefered a telephoto lens instead although the main sensor can digitally enhance the zoom by 2X and 5X.
Low-light performance on the phone was slightly lacking although when compared to its competition the F15 does a decent job. The phone has a dedicated night mode for clicking low-light photos although it does take a long time to capture the shot. Details appear to be lacking in quite a few photos I took although the subject was generally in focus and sharp. Noise was visible in dark spots in most of the low-light photos although that can be adjusted if you keep your hands extremely still. Flash photography works just as well but don’t use it if you prefer more natural-looking photos in the night. The 2MP depth sensor works as expected with portrait shots showing good background separation and focus on the subject.
The selfie camera on the phone is a 16MP sensor and is also fun to play around with, although low-light selfies on the phone are not the best. We also see the OPPO brand of face smoothening going on even when the beauty mode is turned off.
As good a camera system the OPPO F15 has, it is more-or-less similar to the Realme X2, which has a higher-resolution sensor in the form of the 64MP ISOCELL. While that does not necessarily translate into a better photo, it certainly does woo the customer more from a marketing point of view. The absence of a telephoto lens while including a monochrome sensor compound to the problem in my opinion.
Performance and software
This is a spot where the OPPO F15 appears to have hit a snag. While the phone has been announced in 2020, the internals it packs are dated to early 2019 and this creates a problem. It’s powered by the MediaTek Helio P70 chipset which was also seen on the previously launched OPPO F11 Pro, and also on the Realme 3 which is a device costing around Rs 8,000. You can see why a problem might arise, not because the P70 is a slow chipset but because better chipsets are being offered by the competition at the same price. The Realme X2 offers the Snapdragon 730G chipset while the Redmi K20 has the 730. Soon we are going to see phones with the Snapdragon 765 chipset. This makes it a problem for me to recommend the F15 even though the user is getting 8GB RAM and 128GB storage.
Tasks such as multi-tasking on various heavy apps, opening multiple tabs on Chrome and in-general navigating through the phone while several apps are running in the background will not be of any concern. Low to moderately graphics intensive games are also easy to run on the phone and did not cause any problems even during long term usage. However, for users who are interested in playing games such as PUBG Mobile or Call of Duty Mobile, there is a bit of a snag. You can not set the graphics to the high as it has been locked at medium for the phone. Gaming for long periods of time saw a noticeable drop in frames and overheating of the device.
In terms of authentication, the OPPO F15 offers an in-display fingerprint reader and a face authentication method using the front camera, out of which the latter is extremely snappy while the former could be a hit-or-miss. The earpiece, mic and speaker of the phone worked exactly as expected although this is something that all phones in the price range can get right.
I was surprised that the F15 doesn’t ship with ColorOS 7.0 out of the box. We get ColorOS 6.1 which is based on Android 9 Pie when Android 10 has been out for months. I have made my feelings clear about ColorOS 6.1 in my Realme X2 review. In summary, I feel that while ColorOS has improved over the years, and is certainly better than OPPO’s Chinese contemporaries. However, a phone being announced in 2020 should be coming with Android 10. I believe a software update in the coming weeks should see to that.
The OPPO F15 does not have something spectacular stored away in terms of its battery but it gets the job done just fine. The phone is powered by a 4,000mAh cell which supports the company’s proprietary VOOC 3.0 charging. In our standard video loop battery test, the phone managed to last 16 hours which is quite impressive. As for the regular usage of the smartphone, I managed to get almost a day and a half on regular usage which involved watching a lot of Netflix content, operating all my social media apps and an active 4G connection for most of the time. The phone charges to 50 percent in about 30 minutes while a full charge can take about 100 minutes or so.
The OPPO F15 would’ve been a great phone if it was launched last year. In 2020 users expect faster performance, better cameras and Android 10 out of the box if they plan on shelling Rs 20,000 for a phone. The hardware choices on the OPPO F15 are hard to justify when you have phones like the Realme X2 with arguably much better specs and also an imminent upgrade to Android 10. A case can be made about the F15’s premium looks, but the Redmi K20 is also quite a looker. Sure, the F15 is a great phone and also has capable cameras, along with good battery management. But it does not visibly beat the competition in any category as a whole and that is something very vital for a mid-range smartphone to make a mark. Let’s hope that OPPO comes out with a better ‘Pro’ version of this device.
Editor’s rating: 3.5 / 5
- Great design
- Reliable rear-facing cameras
- Good battery management
- Performance is an issue
- Monochrome sensor does not make sense
- No Android 10 out of the box
Photos by Raj Rout