The Oppo F1s is a great buy on a budget, especially if you're after a phone with a larger display. It has most of the high-tech features you'd expect in a modern smartphone, punching well above its weight with a fast fingerprint scanner and 3GB RAM.
Outright Cost: $349
As the old saying goes, if you can't beat them join them.
You'll feel like you've seen it before, because you have, sort of. The new Oppo F1s is a phone that inspires double-takes and closer scrutiny, thanks to a design that is so much like the iPhone 6 (and 6s and 7) that we can only wonder why the busy Apple legal team hasn't chased Oppo with a cease and desist.
In a lot of ways you can say that all smartphones look the same; big screen on the front, a camera on the back, buttons along the edges. But the Oppo F1s takes its inspiration even further. Our review unit has the same pearlescent white plastic on the front and gold-coloured brushed aluminium across the back that you'll find on newr iPhones. It has the same speaker grilles on the bottom of the handset, next to a headphone jack and charging port in the same positions as you find them on Apple's handsets.
And you know what? We like it. The design is sharp and has a premium feel, and it drives home the central message of this phone — that it is a lot like the market's favourite phones, only much, much cheaper.
The similarities go further still, with the look and feel of the user experience borrowing heavily from Apple's iOS — despite running on Google's Android OS. Oppo calls this 'Color OS' and it removes many of the familiar elements common to Android phones and replaces the layout, and many of the icons, with tweaks cribbed straight from the iPhone.
Like the design, this may sound like a bad thing, but we'd beg to differ. We often hear that people are concerned about the learning curve when switching from an iPhone to an Android phone, and surely Color OS makes for an easy middle ground. The advanced settings are still more like Google's phones and will take a little getting use to, but iPhone fans should find the everyday experience with the Oppo F1s like speaking with an old friend.
There's a lot of phone here for the money you'll spend. For its pocket-pleasing $349 price tag, you get a phone with a sharp, colourful 5.5-inch screen, an Octo-core processor, a big 3GB RAM and a generous 3075mAh battery. There's 32GB onboard storage for apps and videos, plus a 16-megapixel camera on the back and a 13-megapixel camera on the front.
For as much as you judge a phone by how it works and not by the facts and figures on the specs sheet, this is an impressive array of hardware in a budget-priced model.
The 5.5-inch screen is particularly worthy of praise. Despite a lower resolution than many other more expensive models, the screen in the F1s holds its own. As phone reviewers we see screen with millions more pixels crammed into a similar sized space, and yet you'd be hard pressed to spot the difference with the Oppo. Text and images are sharp, colours are bright and the whites are pretty white. It has good off-angle viewing and looks great outdoors. It's a real winner.
Also great is the fingerprint scanner built over the Home Button on the front of the phone. There are, of course, several phones with this feature these days, but the Oppo F1s is one of the cheapest. Better still, the F1s is one of the fastest. When we turn on the phone using the power button, the phone unlocks in the same action, making the unlocking process practically invisible.
What's not so good
Criticising a phone at this price point is a difficult task, especially when it is a phone packed with as many great features as the Oppo F1s. As you can probably tell from the review so far, the F1s is a winner, but there are a couple of drawbacks here, many which are common to cheaper devices.
The cameras are both serviceable, but neither is great. The digital shutter and post-image processing are both noticeably slower than you see in better cameras, and the resulting images require a steady hand to stay in sharp focus. Colour reproduction is good, though, with nice, natural looking colours that are neither washed out or oversaturated.
The Mediatek processor in the F1s does a good job of handling the everyday tasks, but it's definitely not the fastest phone we've encountered. Some apps take a short time to open up and the web browser can feel a bit sticky at times. Not major problems in the scheme of things, and certainly not something that should deter you from taking a look at this great phone.
Who's it for?
At this price, the Oppo F1s is a generous combination of size and performance, and will appeal to anyone looking for a fully featured handset but on a budget. Outright phone purchases are becoming more and more popular, and this is exactly the sort of phone that will encourage this even more.
The F1s is also a great phone to lure iPhone fans to the Android platform. Oppo's Color OS is so much like iOS is style and layout that many will find it is an easier transition than it might be moving to a Samsung or HTC.
What else can I buy?
Moto G4 Play
Another WhistleOut favourite in this price range, the latest Moto G4 is a great phone at a great price. You get a 5-inch screen, a big 2800mAh battery, 16GB storage and a microSD card slot for a memory card. Motorola also points out that the G4 Play has a water repellent coating, to save the phone from splashes, though this shouldn't be confused with real water resistance.
The new Sony Xperia XA is exactly what you want in a budget phone. In many ways, the XA is just a like a mini version of the bigger Xperia X. The internal components are different (and match the cheaper price) but you get some of the best parts of the Sony mobile experience, like a great camera and quick-charging battery tech.
If you have a few hundred extra to spend on a phone, you might consider the iPhone SE — Apple's most affordable smartphone. It offers basically the same performance you get from the bigger iPhone 6s models, but in a petite package with a 4-inch screen. Perfect for anyone who loves using their phone with one hand.