A few years ago, if you’d told us we’d be buying phones based on how well they captured our narcissistic love of our own faces, we’d have laughed in yours. Then gone back to preening ourselves in the mirror.
And yet here we are with the F1s, the phone Oppo dubs the “Selfie Expert”.
It’s not like this is some novelty phone from a brand built on gimmicks – somewhere along the line, Oppo quietly became a major smartphone player, as proved by the F1 and the F1 Plus earlier in this year.
So what’s the story here — Is the F1s all just slick marketing? A glorified F1 Plus? Is there actually a good smartphone behind that crazy camera tech? Let’s see if Oppo’s latest offering meets the mark.
Oppo F1S DESIGN - HAVEN'T I SEEN YOU BEFORE?
At a glance, you’d easily mistake the F1s for an F1 Plus - or an iPhone 6s if you’re standing farther away. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll notice some subtle design improvements that give it a more refined style.
That metal unibody has curves in all the right places, along with a gold-rimmed home button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner, just below the 5.5in glass screen. More on the scanner in a bit.
You get two speakers at the bottom and the rear camera lies almost flat to the body of the phone. Oppo has also done away with the prominent antenna lines from the F1 Plus, leaving a very simple, very suave chassis.
It all fits comfortably in your hand and doesn’t feel as bulky as other 5.5in phones, plus it’s got a nice weight to it - light, but not so that it feels cheap. And yes, it’s thin enough to slip comfortably into a pair of skinny jeans.
Most phones put the camera with the highest pixel count on the back, but not the F1s. It’s got a 13MP, f/2.2 snapper on the rear, but a 16MP, f/2.0 sensor on the front. You’d better believe you’re going to get the selfie experience of a lifetime.
I generally despise taking photos of myself and default to pulling a silly face whenever I find myself caught in front of the lens, but lo and behold, I was actually starting to see the appeal with the F1s.
Such crispness! Much clarity! Self-portraits on the F1s turn out sharper, clearer and brighter than on any other mid-range phone I’ve tried. The colours were also natural with a good amount of saturation.
Beauty 4.0, the picture-tweaking mode that offers seven levels of “beautification” and two skin tone modes to ‘improve’ your selfie game even further, should really come with a light touch warning. Levels 1 and 2 will give you a brighter complexion and rosy hue, but anything higher will turn your face into a smudge with eyes. Proceed with caution.
The rear camera more than holds its own in most shooting scenarios, too. While the F1 and F1 Plus were above average shooters, the F1s seems a fair bit better. That said, both cameras struggle once the sun goes down. Noise levels creep up and details drop. Only the rear camera has a flash, so you’ll want to use that more at night.
The camera app is almost a dead ringer for the iPhone. It’s pretty straightforward to use, shoots fast and has hardly any shutter lag.
You can shoot timelapse, panorama and double exposure, create GIFs and flick into Expert mode to control shutter speed, ISO and white balance, and even save in RAW format. The resolution, however, is limited to square, rectangle or full-screen. Video can be recorded in 1080p, but take note that it lacks a slo-mo mode.
After all that marketing from OPPO, I definitely came into this with high expectations for the much-lauded camera. And wouldn’t you know it, the F1s actually delivered.
OPPO F1S PERFORMANCE - UNDER THE HOOD
It might look like it’s running iOS, but the F1s is actually powered by Oppo’s own Color OS 3, a colourful, Apple-inspired take on Android 5.1.
That means you get a home screen full of neatly placed icons and minimal bloatware, but it’s also a big departure from the stock Android look that we know so many of you are big fans of.
Android 5.1 isn’t exactly cutting edge any more, either. We’re not expecting Android 7 Nougat just yet, but it still feels like a missed opportunity to launch on the latest available version.
Software is something Oppo is going to have to start paying more attention to if they want to start standing up to bigger brands.
That said, everything is well optimised, transitions are seamless and apps spring open very quickly. The octa-core MediaTek CPU and 3GB of RAM help it handle tasks surprisingly well and cope with everything from videos to games smoothly.
Also, let’s face it, anyone after hardcore performance wouldn’t consider a mid-range phone anyway, so the F1s more than serves its purpose here.
The 32GB of storage should leave you plenty of room for a photo album full of selfies, but you can give up one of the two nano SIM card slots if you want to add a microSD card for extra room later.
OPPO F1S BATTERY LIFE - DAY TO NIGHT
On paper, a 3,075mAh battery doesn’t seem like much - considering similar sized phones are topping out at 3,500 or even 4,000mAh.
Numbers aren’t everything, though. I just about managed to tick over 24 hours sending emails, browsing, Whatsapping, watching the odd YouTube video, and of course taking selfies, before having to charge the phone.
If your phone is attached to your hands at all times, you might find battery life more of a problem, but for most people, the F1s can hold its own.
When you eventually do run out of juice though, you’ll be in for a wait. Oppo sticks a 10W charger in the box, but it takes a painfully long time to top up - taking just shy of four hours to reach full capacity.
With the likes of OnePlus managing a near full recharge in 30 minutes, a slow recharge leaves a mark on the F1s’ rap sheet.
OPPO F1S FINGERPRINT SCANNER - TOUCH AND GO
Modern phones need a fingerprint sensor to be worth the microchips they’re made from. The F1 didn’t have one, but Oppo’s fixed that for the F1s.
A light press on the home button unlocks the phone instantly, with no noticeable lag or latency. It’s not hard to believe OPPO’s claim that this is one of the fastest scanners around, especially when you stack it up against an 18-month old iPhone 6.
It’s got other uses too, although they’re a bit gimmicky. Assign another one of your digits to a contact and you’ll launch straight into a phone call when you press the home button.
Do you need it? No. Was it cool being able to dial a friend with my pinky finger? Hell yes. And besides, what are smartphones for if not to cater to extreme laziness?
Oppo F1S Verdict
The running theme from my time with the F1S? Pleasant surprise.
It’s just one of those phones you think might be a bit of a let-down, but it ends up over-performing in nearly every area. Whether that’s down to my own expectations or the phone’s capabilities is up in the air, though.
Either way, it’s easily one of Oppo’s best phones to date.
Sure, it loses points in the software department, but still runs smoothly and looks like great value at this price.
If you love taking photos - and especially selfies, you’re not going to find another phone with a 16MP front camera that works as well as this.