The smartphone market is saturated and innovation is the key for each manufacturer to stand out in the competition. Besides Apple and Samsung, Chinese OEMs have been at the forefront of innovation, and one of them is OPPO, which is leading the charge with innovations in optics and fast charging technologies. In its dedicated approach, through the years, OPPO has been ahead of the curve owing to its focus on R&D and commitment to excellence, which has especially found brand loyalists in millennials and young adults.
Despite this progressive image, not all is as exciting as meets the eye. Just like the other manufacturers, OPPO also cuts corners after all the innovative and consumer-centric methods in its assembly lines. Therefore, before committing to an OPPO smartphone you must weigh the following pros and cons and then make an informed decision.
5. Pro: Earnest brand name
As a company that started off its technology journey with manufacturing machines that played Blu-rays and digital MP3s, OPPO has come a long way. It is now a regular feature in the top five biggest smartphone developers globally (via: Counterpoint), this without a stake in the US market. After making a strong footing in the home market, OPPO made immense inroads in India to become a regular in the top five biggest smartphone sellers in the nation (via: IDC).
Having aced the Asian market, OPPO’s journey continues to be extraordinary. It’s now making its presence internationally, offering customers in Australia, UK, and Europe great handsets that boast innovative features and stable hardware, software integration. OPPO has built an image where the brand’s stylish phones, impressive cameras, and fast charging options make them a popular choice for customers longing for feature-rich phones at a reasonable price.
4. Pro: Impressive optics is a forte
Known best for its innovation in mobile imaging sensors, OPPO has pioneered numerous camera technologies. To its credit is the first-ever under-screen camera, motorized camera (OPPO N1, shown in the video below), AI-beautification feature, and even 10x hybrid zoom camera. In the market where being different is hard to achieve, OPPO has managed to deliver customers a different flavor with its mobile cameras.
The Chinese OEM has never shied away from being vocal; from telling consumers about its camera capabilities to “Capture the Real You.” This approach has propelled OPPO into a space where it has cut out a niche for itself that it is growing with its consistent bent for innovation.
OPPO has developed mid-range smartphones with camera capabilities to match that of the flagships, and the company continues to innovate at an accelerating pace. Latest in the direction is the company’s MariSilicon X chip that separates the tasks of an ISP (image signal processor) and an NPU (neural processing unit) from the SoC to enhance the camera’s AI abilities, better handle RBGW colors, process RAW images in real-time, and do a lot more to help improve on OPPO phone cameras significantly.
3. Pro: Knows customers well
Long battery life and good processor have been the most desired smartphone features but the growing fad – in young adults – for documenting their lives on social media platforms has propelled better camera as the third most important feature to determine smartphone selection. This is why mobile camera innovation is a prime focus for OPPO.
The company understands its target customers and with young adults in focus, its budget and mid-range smartphones pack excellent cameras – at times with gimmicky features – to lure the Instagram and Snapchat population. This approach is visible through the company’s aggressive marketing strategy as well; its campaigns are very focused on the requirements of the youth and millennials, particularly the selfie and social media obsessed.
With its claims of being the “Selfie Expert” and offering cameras to “Capture the Real You,” OPPO is a go-to brand for young adults. Undeniably, all brands have an excessive focus on mobile cameras, but it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say, OPPO has excelled in the department with best-in-class sensors on mid-range and affordable smartphones.
2. Pro: Despite odds, has specifically chosen market
Combining excellent cameras, impressive specifications, and good battery backup, OPPO smartphones are cut out for youngsters. Thus, markets with a higher youth population are its primary target, and its ranking in the big five smartphone producers in India (one of the youngest populations) suggests, it is doing many things correctly (via: Business Standard). Though the US is a very attractive market for OPPO, the company has managed to grow leaps and bounds without an entry into the American shore.
OPPO believes, United States is the toughest market to break into, owning to the network operators there, who command 90 percent of market share and have specific requirements from phone manufacturers. The Chinese brand is unwilling to commit to it, either for its own cause or to ease competition for OnePlus (its sister concern) that enjoys good relations with carriers in the US.
OPPO instead has a deep penetration in Asia – right from Japan to India, and from China to the Philippines. The company since 2019 is more focused on Australia, UK, Africa and Europe and is constantly expanding business in these markets now.
1. Pro: Ahead in the design race
OPPO is not only about camera innovations; in fact, the company lays substantial focus on imagining new designs and the future of smartphone form factors. Its never-ending quest for innovation, to offer affordable technology to a larger userbase, reflects in over 65,000 patents the company has to its name.
OPPO does not specialize in manufacturing processors or displays, yet many of these patents have walked over in form of an ultra-thin smartphone, a rollable phone design, and now even as a worthy foldable phone. The company is matching competition in all innovations and is staying ahead of the curve by playing well with its biggest forte.
5. Con: The fast-charging peril
With the growing popularity of gaming and video apps that consume batteries quicker, the race to fast charge mobile batteries has reached a new high. The Chinese OEMs including OPPO have been at the forefront of this innovation, which focuses on features like 125W charging speeds. Though there is no harm in topping up phone batteries in under 20 minutes in many cases, there are instances of such fast charging speeds degrading the battery at a faster pace.
OPPO claims its VOOC Flash Charing is reliable and incredibly quick, but such volatile speeds do have their perils. Charging speeds of up to 65W may still make sense in comparison to 100W plus gushes of power which are bound to strain the onboard batteries more than expected.
4. Con: ColorOS as an experience
Running each OPPO smartphone is the brand’s own version of Android: ColorOS. Software is a big part of the overall phone experience, but this Android skin revamps the entire stock Android feel and features. This unique experience is immensely personal for many customers, but for someone trying to make a leap from a different brand, it is pretty polarizing as the overall look and feel is different from traditional Android. The OS skin provides users a lot of customization options through easy-to-use applications to make the OPPO phone feel more personal, but this comes at a cost of bloatware, stability, and inconsistent updates.
The software experience on OPPO phones is likely to change as the brand has signed up to work closely with OnePlus to likely create a new Android skin that should eventually replace ColorOS and OxygenOS. At least then we hope the experience with OPPO phones will be closer to stock Android, but for now, the stability issues that OnePlus customers are citing, the situation isn’t really in control as the transition happens.
3. Con: Little check on cost inflation
Advertising and campaigning hard is OPPO’s DNA. The brand campaigns rigorously for the littlest of modernization. At times it’s imperative but the claims like “best selfie camera” and a few others, are only stratagem. Huge advertising, in OPPO’s case, ultimately quite likely translates into higher smartphone prices. OPPO has managed to keep the entry-level market from this shadow of price hike, but if you want to buy a high-spec OPPO phone, your pocket should be deep.
Moreover, the OPPO phones are higher priced than the competition because the company lacks an in-house processor. This means OPPO has to rely heavily on semiconductor suppliers like MediaTek or Qualcomm for chipsets to power its phones. The Chinese company, like many of its compatriots, is reportedly working on its own in-house processor. The supposed chipset based on the 3nm chip manufacturing process is to be developed in association with TSMC and is expected to debut in 2023 or 2024.
2. Con: A conned approach
The cluttered smartphone industry is a cruel one. Aspects of fair play are often smashed out of the park and no single name is to be blamed, it’s a collective approach. In that accord, questionable smartphone marketing has been a reported issue ever since the inception of smartphones. Benchmark cheating is certainly part of this arena of issues, and OPPO has a bit of a tarnished name in the category.
There is no problem with this if users don’t notice any performance-related complications and companies don’t advertise the effects made possible by cheating. OPPO has not always been transparent about its approach of limiting power at the user’s disposal, and that’s something that needs a change.
1. Con: Dubious update policy
In comparison with Apple that promises up to five years of OS support, the Android update ecosystem system is not very robust. Outside of Google and lately Samsung, which is offering three years of OS and four years of security updates; no other manufacturer excels in this space. OPPO’s software policy confirms that the company will offer three years of OS updates, but this claim is pretty dubious. This privilege only extends to select flagship models but the firm has only 2 year or single update policy for mid-tier and budget phones.
OPPO’s idea of trying to copy Samsung’s approach to increasing support for a range of devices is more of a publicity stunt than real value for customers. More consistent and longer Android update support should be a prime agenda for companies since people now hold their phones for longer and should therefore have a clearer policy from brands specifying how long their handset should feel nice and up to date.
OPPO hasn’t quite been able to overpower the Chinese brand image like Xiaomi or even OnePlus have done for themselves. The brand is still undercutting the competition with sales of budget and mid-range phones in the emerging markets, such as Africa where it sells over 90 percent of its smartphones for under $400 (via: Statista). Despite this, OPPO continues to grow.
OPPO has become one of the fast-selling brands with young adults around the globe as its primary customers. This approach to tap a particular market segment has helped cement the firm’s image as a genuine and reliable smartphone company, a company that’ll likely continue to expand for many years to come.
This is the real voice behind Google Assistant
When using Google Assistant, most of us don’t even consider who the voice is coming from — after all, it’s artificial intelligence, not a real person. Our virtual assistants, be it Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant, are always at our beck and call, but we (for the most part) remain well-aware of the fact that they’re just lines of code and intricate algorithms. But how would you feel if you knew that Google Assistant has a very human backstory?
In an interview with The Atlantic, James Giangola, the lead conversation and persona designer at Google, spoke about the Assistant at great length. When the team set out to create its AI-based assistant, they knew that the line between a cool, futuristic feature and a mildly creepy if uncanny voice bot is very, very thin. Google Assistant was never meant to seem human — that would just be disturbing — but she was meant to be just human enough to make us feel comfortable. To achieve that elusive feeling of somewhat reserved comfort, Giangola and his team went to great lengths to perfect the Assistant.
You’d think that just hiring a skilled voice actor would be enough, but there was much more to consider than just finding a pleasant voice. James Giangola set out on a quest to make the Google Assistant sound normal and to hide that alien feeling of speaking to a robot. In order to do this, he made up a lengthy backstory for the Assistant.
A robot with an extensive backstory
When searching for the right voice actress and then training her later on, The Atlantic notes that James Giangola came up with a very specific backstory for the AI. He did so because he wanted Google Assistant to appear real, and in order to give it a distinct personality, he gave the voice actress a lengthy background on the Assistant. First and foremost, the Assistant comes from Colorado, which gives her a neutral accent.
She comes from a well-read family and is the youngest daughter of a physics professor (who has a B.A. in art history from Northwestern University, no less) and a research librarian. She once worked for “a very popular late-night-TV satirical pundit” as a personal assistant. She was always a smart kid, she won $100,000 on the Kids Edition of “Jeopardy.” Oh, and she also likes kayaking. Let’s not forget: She’s not real.
The need to create such a specific backstory may seem questionable, and it actually was questioned by James Giangola’s colleagues. However, Giangola was able to prove his point during the audition process. When a colleague asked him how does anyone even sound like they’re into kayaking, Giangola fired back: “The candidate who just gave an audition — do you think she sounded energetic, like she’s up for kayaking?” And she didn’t, which to Giangola meant that she wasn’t the right voice.
Google aimed for ‘upbeat geekiness’
Aside from nailing the exact tone of her voice, which The Atlantic described as “upbeat geekiness,” the Assistant had to be trained to sound human not just by voice, but also by speech patterns and rhythms. In the interview, James Giangola talks about some of the different small changes that were made to take the Assistant from robotic to almost natural.
To illustrate the example, Giangola played a recording in which the AI had to contradict a user who wanted to book something on June 31. It had to be done in a delicate, natural-sounding manner that still delivers the required information. When prompted, the Assistant replied: “Actually, June has only 30 days,” achieving the level of vocal realism Giangola was looking for.
Although the Assistant’s intricate backstory may seem overkill, it seems to have helped Google find the right voice actress. According to Tech Bezeer, the main voice of the Assistant is Antonia Flynn, who was cast back in 2016. However, Google is not very forthcoming with information about who exactly voices each version of the Assistant, so this needs to be taken with a grain of salt. The information originates from Reddit, where a user was able to track Flynn down based on her voice, but only Google knows whether she really is the friendly AI inside our mobile devices.
Microsoft’s post-Windows Phone vision leaks, but don’t get your hopes up
While Microsoft’s Windows Phone ambitions are well and truly dead at this point, there was a time when the company was plotting a follow-up to the ill-fated mobile operating system. That follow-up was known internally as Andromeda OS, and it was being developed as the operating system for the Surface Duo. Sadly, Microsoft’s plan to create a version of Windows for dual-screen devices never saw the light of day, but today we’re getting a look at an internal build of Andromeda OS and what could have been.
That look comes from Zac Bowden at Windows Central, who managed to get a build of Andromeda OS up and running on a Lumia 950. Even though Andromeda OS was intended for the Surface Duo, Microsoft apparently conducted internal testing on Lumia 950 devices, making it a solid choice for this hands-on.
In both his write-up and the video you see embedded below, Bowden is very clear that this is not some leak of a work-in-progress mobile operating system. Andromeda OS is dead and not in active development, so there’s no real hope of seeing a more fully-featured version launch on Microsoft’s mobile hardware at any point in the future. Despite that rather grim reality, this is a good look at the progress Microsoft made before it ultimately decided to ship the Surface Duo with Android.
Though the hands-on shows us an operating system that is very rough-around-the-edges and somewhat clunky, it’s immediately obvious that Microsoft planned Andromeda OS with inking capabilities at the center. For instance, the lock screen doubles as an inking space, allowing users to jot quick notes down on it that persist until they’re erased or the lock screen is cleared entirely.
Just as well, unlocking the device takes you to a home screen that also doubles as a journal. As with the lock screen, you can use this page to take notes, but you can also do things like paste stuff from the clipboard or insert an image for markup. Having the phone unlock to what is essentially a blank canvas instead of a home screen full of app icons is an interesting idea and one that we’re probably never going to see on other devices.
Andromeda OS also features a Start menu reminiscent of Windows Phone, which means that it has those familiar Live Tiles. Bowden also shows off the various gesture controls included in Andromeda OS, swiping from the left to summon the aforementioned Start menu and from the right to bring up Cortana and notifications. Swiping down pulls up the Control Center, which will look familiar to those who are currently using Windows 11.
We’re also given a brief demo of what Andromeda OS might have looked like on an actual dual-screen device, but since that demo is also on a Lumia 950, we sadly don’t get the full experience. Still, it’s interesting to see what might have been before Microsoft decided to can Andromeda OS entirely and switch to Android for the Surface Duo.
While there’s no chance we’ll see this project revived for future Microsoft hardware, there is always the chance that some individual features could make their way to the Surface Duo. Even then, it’s probably best to appreciate this as a relic of the past rather than something that might inform Microsoft’s future efforts, as disappointing as that may be for those who miss Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile.
Google just got terrible news in Europe – and it could get much worse
Google was just hit by some very bad news coming from Europe, but the news may be even worse for website owners than for Google itself. In an unprecedented case, the court in Austria has just ruled that Google Analytics is in violation with the European data protection laws. As a result, Google Analytics has been made illegal in Austria.
It all comes back to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) observed in Europe. Implemented in 2018, GDPR was created to give European citizens more control over their personal data, both online and offline. Unfortunately, the GDPR and US surveillance laws just do not mix.
According to a decision made in 2020 by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU,) policies that force website providers in the US to provide personal user data to authorities are against the GDPR. While this may not seem that related to Google Analytics at the first glance, it very much is. Some of the information readily collected by US providers is in direct violation with the GDPR, which in theory means that these websites would have to stop collecting private information in order to legally operate within Europe. In practice, it seems that not much has changed since 2018.
Google Analytics is now completely illegal in Austria
Prior to 2020, a law called the Privacy Shield was in place that allowed European data to be transferred to the United States. However, the shield was invalidated by the CJEU on July 16, 2020. Since then, US-based websites were not allowed to transfer the data of European citizens to the US. Of course, this only applies to data that falls under the GDPR, which only includes identifiable information about any given person. However, according to FieldFisher, this also includes IP addresses, as that is regarded as an “online identifier.”
Regardless of the 2020 ruling made by the CJEU, many providers continued to send personal data to the US — including Google Analytics. As stated by Max Schrems, honorary chair of NOYB, an European non-profit focused on digital rights, “Instead of actually adapting services to be GDPR compliant, US companies have tried to simply add some text to their privacy policies and ignore the Court of Justice. Many EU companies have followed the lead instead of switching to legal options.”
The Austrian Data Protection Authority has now followed up on what the CJEU ruled back in 2020 and made the use of Google Analytics completely illegal. The ruling comes into effect immediately, so all the websites that service Austrian citizens need to act quickly in order to not be fined for violating the local laws.
What will the new court ruling change?
Many companies that operate in Europe will now have to decide between continuing to use Google Analytics and swapping to an alternative website traffic tool. Refusing to comply may result in hefty fines. However, it could be that providers will continue to ignore the European laws and risk the fines: After all, not every such business will be caught or reported. If caught, the price could be high: NOYB has described a case where the Irish Data Protection Commission issued a fine of 225 million euro on WhatsApp for violating data protection laws.
Ultimately, US-based companies will have to think of workarounds for European privacy laws. Simply hosting customer data in Europe would be helpful, although this would of course limit the type of data that can be freely collected and distributed. For the time being, websites that continue to use Google Analytics will need to obtain consent from each visitor prior to collecting any data.
The choice to ban Google Analytics in Austria may be the first step in a larger revolution. Other countries in the European Union are likely to follow, so while Austria may be the first bit of bad news for Google, there is likely much more to come.
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