There was a light drizzle patting the windows high above Sydney at the Sky Tower (née Centrepoint Tower) as Oppo officially “soft” launched its smartphone business into Australia.
The Chinese brand, originally founded in 2004, already has a presence in the home theatre market via Melbourne distributor Audio Dynamics but this was the first time the company opened itself to the media to debut a tight range of smartphones targeting the entry, mid, compact and high-end markets.
Beginning with a short video showing sharp-toothed sharks breaking through the surface to chomp at imaginary prey, Oppo’s launch commenced with TV personality Ben Hewett introducing Australia as the company’s first western market.
“Young means you are growing and we are really excited by what we are doing in Australia,” Hewett said, before handing over to Michael Tran, head of Oppo marketing in Australia.
He said the company had grown from its roots in MP3 players, releasing its first smartphone in 2008, to become “leaders in technology across Asia-Pacific”.
“We are very proud that since the very beginning our products have pushed the boundaries, including the world’s thinnest phone and the first Full HD phone,” Tran said. “As with any reputable business, customers are our core and we are always listening to customers’ feedback.”
To facilitate this, Oppo is opening a hotline for customers to call in should they have any problems with their new devices.
Tran said Oppo is now the fourth most profitable smartphone brand in China. From this solid base, the company has branched out to Australia, with Europe and the United States expected to follow. Australia was chosen for the first debouching because, Tran said, local values mirror Oppo’s company philosophy.
Oppo is launching with four handsets, which will be sold outright on its website from today so customers will need to bring their own SIM card to the experience. There’s the entry-level 4G Neo 5 for RRP $219, the N1 mini compact for RRP $539, the mid-tier Find 7a for RRP $629 and the flagship Find 7 for RRP $719.
The Neo 5 has a 4.5-inch screen with a 5-megapixel camera and an 854 x 480 resolution. It has 4GB of storage, expandable up to 36GB, and 1GM of RAM for its 1.2GHZ quad-core processor. As these specifications reveal, it is a decidedly entry-level handset, but it does have 4G for superfast connectivity and it is priced to appeal to either reluctant smartphone upgraders, the very price sensitive or parents looking for a good, cheap first smartphone for their young children.
The N1 mini fits into the burgeoning small form factor niche — a rejection of the phablet trend — seeing consumers looking for a fully-fledged smartphone experience but in a squashed handset; one that can comfortably fit into the hand or be slipped into a purse. It has a 5-inch screen with a 1,280 x 720 display and a 13-megapixel camera with 4K video recording. The quad-core 1.6GHz processor with 2GB RAM gives it plenty of grunt and there’s 16GB of on-board storage. The most distinctive feature of the N1 mini is its swivel camera, that can rotate up to 195 degrees on a horizontal axis. This means the narcissistic social media addict (ie, all of them) can take selfies using the high-quality rear camera, rather than the traditionally down-specced front-facing camera.
The Find 7a has similar features to the Find 7, described above, but with a slightly smaller battery, a 2.3GHz processor and 1,920 x 1,080 display.
“We believe Oppo has what it takes to be a serious competitor and to set the trends,” Tran said. “This is a soft launch. We are working with operators…and we have a huge pipeline of devices coming to market from China.”
Tran said that, for time being, consumers will only be able to purchase Oppo smartphones online. There are machinations going on in the background with both mobile carriers and retailers, though Tran was understandably tightlipped about which telco and retail brands were involved in these discussions.
“Currently you can purchase our devices online,” he said. “Carrier sales is something that we are looking into at the moment; selling through carriers is definitely something that we want to do. Discussions are also being had with retailers.”
Tran was adamant that Oppo is here to grow the overall smartphone market by offering highly-featured smartphones at accessible prices. He said Oppo’s strategy was not based around price or undercutting rivals, and it was noted by Appliance Retailer regular contributor Peter Wells from Reckoner that the word ‘disruptive’ wasn’t mentioned once.
This is a longterm play for Oppo and the company has no illusions about how crowded this market is becoming, with Apple and Samsung the dominant value and volume suppliers, LG and Sony fast improving, Motorola set for a new era under Lenovo’s stewardship and Chinese brand Huawei opening out its pockets to buy mindshare through marketing exercises.
When asked about the prospect of Oppo branching out into new categories, such as tablets, Tran said the focus was squarely on smartphones, at least for the short term.
So where will be Oppo be in five years?
“Oppo in five years?” mused Tran. “We’re going to be leaders in technology. The Australian market will embrace us and we’re bringing out innovative products: it’s exciting for us. We see ourselves as a premium smartphone brand. I hope Australia will really like our devices.”
And then Tran quickly corrected himself: “I know they will!”
At the time of publishing, the oppomobile.com.au website was showing a “New Website Coming Soon” message. Tran said the new site will up an operation later in the day.