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Oppo R11s review: borrowed beauty

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Oppo's R11s continues the company's proud tradition of imitating flagship phones from Apple, LG and Samsung, and selling them for half the price. At just $659 outright the R11s feels like a great deal, and it is, but peek beneath the surface and you'll find how the company has managed to cut costs over its competitors.

The hardware is classy. It has a sleek, wafer thin design that embraces the current flagship trend of removing bezels to create a handset that is almost all screen on the front. It resembles LG's gorgeous V30, but the material — particularly the metal back cover — feels lighter and a little cheaper in the hand. And where those other flagships have beautifully rounded edges, there's a sharpness to the R11 where the glass meets the case. That sounds absurdly nitpicky, but in the hand this makes the phone uncomfortable to hold without a case.

The display is a 6-inch ultra-wide 18:9 OLED, an impressive inclusion at this price, but again it lacks the brightness and vibrancy the best screens available in a handset. It's by no means bad, it just doesn't pop like Samsung's S8 or the iPhone X.

Included inside is a generous 64GB of storage, and there's a microSD card reader to expand storage further. Oppo is marketing the camera as a flagship competitor, and the camera is fine for the price, but nothing compared to the quality of the industry leaders; the iPhone X, Samsung Note 8, Huawei Mate Pro and Google's Pixel 2.

Oppo has had the fastest fingerprint readers available — so fast I honestly thought they might be fudging it, but testing with some random thumbs in my office convinced me it was the real deal — but going all screen on the front means the fingerprint reader has moved to the back of the device. The placement is higher than I'd prefer but still reachable with smaller hands.

Along with a fingerprint reader, Oppo has included facial recognition unlock as well. When it works it is ridiculously fast, and in my testing it worked more often than both Samsung and Apple's implementation. But it appears to be less secure than the iPhone's array of sensors, based simply on the front-facing camera. Still, a photo of my face was not enough to fool it.


Oppo's ColorOS continues to twist Android into the most blatant knock-off of iOS I've seen. Every built-in app, from Settings to Calendar to Music to the camera, are pixel-for-pixel copies of Apple's design for iOS 11.

How Oppo has avoided the wrath of Apple's lawyers is beyond me, but as someone who uses an iPhone far too much, this imitation has an uncanny valley feel to it. Everything looks almost, but not quite, right.

Even the "control centre" swipes up from the bottom, something I've never liked on iOS; I prefer Android's placement in the notifications drop down from the top of the screen. Of course Apple is moving the functionality to the top of the screen too, beginning with the iPhone X, but when your whole design philosophy is to copy you're always a year behind.

One benefit Oppo has consistently provided is including a screen protector, already applied, and a simple rubbery case in the box. This would cost the company just a few dollars, but it gives the phone protection from drops and scratches out of the box. It makes sense for lesser known brands to ship with their own cases — the phone case booth inside your local mall may have never heard of Oppo — but it's such a great customer friendly feature, that I wish all phone makers would copy Oppo here.