The Oppo F1 is a phone with a mission. It wants to trick people into thinking you spent £300 (US$450, AU$550) or more on a handset when you actually only forked out £160 (US$249, AU$285).
It does a good job too. Thin and with lots of metal on show, it comes across as quite a bit more expensive than the Moto G, even though it’s actually around the same price.
If you want a budget handset that people won’t instantly recognise, the Oppo F1 is a top choice. And in the UK at least, it’s much easier to get hold of than most Oppo phones TechRadar has reviewed to date.
But there is also now competition in the form of the Oppo F1 Plus. The F1 Plus is now available around the world and we gave it three and a half stars out of five – so it’s worth reading our review and checking you don’t want the Plus instead of the Oppo F1.
If you do want the Plus instead, be warned it’ll cost quite a bit more at £299 (AU$599, around US$430).
How do you make something cheap seem expensive? That’s a tough one for many designers, because if you get it wrong you might end up with a phone encrusted with plastic diamonds that you couldn’t even sell on eBay.
Oppo has nailed the ‘cheap expensive’ look here, though. It’s all about putting in 20% of the effort/cost for 80% of the returns.
The prime Oppo F1 tactic is using champagne-finish gold metal for the back, but sneakily switching to plastic for the sides. You get the feel of metal, but Oppo doesn’t have to go to the trouble of cutting any ports into metal, which costs a fair bit to do right.
When I first opened up the Oppo F1 and had a close look at it, I experienced a twinge of disappointment when I realised that this was how Oppo managed to make a metal phone at this price.
However, a month on I still appreciate the feel of the metal back. Just don’t enter into this relationship expecting something that feels exactly like an iPhone 6S.
It’s not too far off, though. It has none of the chunk factor of some other good budget Android phones, and there’s a smooth curvature to the sides of the Oppo F1 that means it doesn’t feel boxy. The display is even covered with 2.5D Gorilla Glass, which is toughened and has a smoothed-off edge.
The Oppo F1 is out to deliver on a whole load of s-words: skinny, smooth, sleek. It also looks great, at least from the back – I wouldn’t have flinched if someone told me the phone cost £300/$400.
The Oppo F1 isn’t quite as pretty from the front, though – viewed face-on the handset exhibits a slight boxiness that doesn’t affect the rest of the phone. And, like the OnePlus X, it has soft keys but they don’t light up.
Still, this is one of the nicest-looking cheap handsets out there, only obviously upstaged by the OnePlus X, which costs roughly the same in the US and just £30 more in the UK, yet uses almost no visible/proddable plastic. Competing with OnePlus in the pricing stakes isn’t easy, though.
Finishing touches that help the Oppo F1 ‘fake it to make it’ include a non-removable back and a SIM card tray like you’d see in an iPhone; a lot of cheaper devices still use peel-off back covers that hide a less fancy SIM slot.