Oppo’s ‘selfie expert’ F-series smartphones have been relatively popular in India, so much so that over the years, the company has focused most of its marketing and promotional efforts on this feature alone. There’s also the A-series that’s often refreshed in India, but others like the R-series have been ignored Internationally, the top-end phone from Oppo right now is the R15, which doesn’t seem to be launching in India anytime soon. However, we have the next best thing here in the form of the Oppo F7.
The latest selfie-centric model has a lot in common with the R15, such as the new MediaTek Helio P60 SoC, a high-resolution front camera, and of course, a notch. The Oppo F7 is also priced pretty aggressively, starting at Rs. 21,990, which actually undercuts the Vivo V9 (Review), another recent mid-range competitor. We were quite happy with Oppo’s last offering, the Oppo F5 (Review), so let’s see if the F7 can match or even exceed our expectations.
Oppo F7 design
We’ve usually been happy with the build quality and design of Oppo’s F-series smartphones, but the company is taking a new approach with the F7. Instead of the usual metal back panel, Oppo is using an all-plastic body. On one hand, the phone is very light at just 158g, but on the other, it doesn’t feel very premium anymore. Oppo has tried to remedy this with a glossy coat of paint for the sides, which looks alright on the Diamond Black and Platinum Silver versions, but not so much on the Solar Red variant that we had for review.
On the back, Oppo has used a piece of polymer composite material. In our initial impressions of the Oppo F7, we found the rear panel to scratch pretty easily, however this wasn't a problem with the retail unit that we received for review. That said, it’s not impervious to dents, and applying slight pressure with even a SIM eject tool caused a visible abrasion.
On the front, we have a 6.23-inch in-cell IPS display with a resolution of 1080x2280 pixels, and Gorilla Glass 5. Due to the notch at the top of the screen, the Oppo F7 falls into the 19:9 aspect ratio category. The company has used this space quite cleverly, which we’ll get into in the next section. The display doesn’t curve at the sides, and there’s still a bit of a chin at the bottom. Within the notch, Oppo has made room for the earpiece, front camera, and a couple of sensors, but the notification LED has been dropped. This phone ships with a screen guard preinstalled, which is quite annoying as the edges aren't aligned with with the edges of the display, so it rubs against your fingertips every time you try to pull down the notifications shade or swipe from the sides.
The buttons are easy to reach. At the bottom, we have a single speaker grille, a Micro-USB port, and a 3.5mm headphone socket. The speaker grille gets blocked by your palm easily when you’re playing a game or watching a video in landscape mode. We’re still disappointed about the lack of a Type-C port here, and we reached out to Oppo for an explanation as to why this decision was made. In an emailed statement, the company said "A large number of users are using the current USB ports so this would be more convenient for users".
The SIM tray is placed on the right, and can hold two Nano-SIMs and a microSD card (up to 256GB). There’s a fingerprint sensor at the back, along with a single camera. In the Oppo F7 box, you get a 10W charger, a USB cable, a silicone case, and a headset.
Oppo F7 specifications, software, and features
The Oppo F7 uses the new MediaTek Helio P60 octa-core SoC, which is the same one used in the Oppo R15. It’s based on ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture, marrying four high-performance ARM Cortex-A73 cores with four power-efficient Cortex-A53 cores. It's manufactured using a 12nm FinFET fabrication process, and has an integrated Mali-G72 MP3 graphics processor. More importantly though, this SoC also has dedicated AI processing logic which promises more secure facial recognition and real-time HDR, two features that Oppo has implemented in the F7.
For long, MediaTek has generally been associated with low-cost smartphones, although the Helio series has performed much better. The new P60 is actually more powerful than even Qualcomm’s competing Snapdragon 626 and 636 SoCs. We got a score of 135,279 in AnTuTu 7, and 37fps in GFXbench's T-Rex test.
The Oppo F7 version that we tested has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, but the F7 is also available in a version with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which is priced at Rs. 26,990. Other specifications include dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-OTG, FM radio, and 4G VoLTE. The F7 also features an ambient light sensor, accelerometer, proximity sensor, Hall sensor, and a gyroscope. There's a non-removable 3400mAh battery.
The new Oppo F7 ships with Android Oreo 8.1 out of the box, but it’s hard to recognise it with all the customisations that have been made. Oppo’s ColorOS 5.0 UI has some familiar gestures and tweaks from past iterations, along with some new ones. First off, we have to say that we’re not big fans of the new default theme. The icons are unnecessarily chunky and make the UI feel dated. The Theme Store app doesn't offer many choices, and we only found a couple of options that were good enough to use. Another annoyance with the UI is the fact that you can’t swipe a notification away. Instead, you have to swipe left and hit ‘Delete’, which just adds an unnecessary step to the process.
The fingerprint sensor works well and is quick at authentication. It can also be used for unlocking apps, and a secure space within your phone’s internal storage. Oppo is making a big deal about its new face unlock implementation, which is said to map and recognise 128 points on a registered face. In practice, we found that it worked pretty well, and was quick most of the time.
There’s a ‘raise to wake’ option, and in low light, the screen gets brighter in an attempt to illuminate your face. We weren’t able to fool it with a 2D picture, and it worked even when we had sunglasses on. The latter is possible because the Oppo F7 doesn’t scan your eyes, which makes it slightly less secure. Other phones such as the Vivo V9 require your eyes to be open for face recognition to work.
You can ditch the on-screen navigation keys in favour of gestures, if you want an iPhone X-like experience. Once enabled, you get little horizontal markers at the bottom of the display as a placeholder. A swipe up takes you to the home screen, while swiping upwards and then holding for a few moments brings up the app switcher. You can swipe up from either the left or right edges to go a step back. There are different gesture styles to choose from, depending on your preference.
As we stated earlier, Oppo has implemented some nifty shortcuts that take advantage of the screen space to either side of the notch. If you enable the Fullscreen Multitasking feature, you can access features called Quick Apps and Quick Function. Quick Apps lets you add shortcuts for some apps to the right of the notch, and on the left, there will be controls for beginning a screen recording, taking a screenshot, and toggling DND mode. These can be accessed when the phone is in landscape mode, by swiping inwards from the notch area.
We found that the shortcuts were accessible when watching YouTube videos, and even streaming through apps like Prime Video and Netflix, but not in most of the games we tried (only Asphalt 8: Airborne showed them) and when watching local video files in MX Player or the stock video app. In apps that support it, the Quick Apps feature lets you access apps within a floating window so you can do things like send a message without exiting the app you're in. The notch area is also used as to alert you when there’s a background app that’s using the microphone, or if a split-screen app is running in the background.
Security features include a secure keyboard, which renders as overlay on top of Gboard and is claimed to keep your keystrokes private, although it feels a bit clunky. You can spoof your identifying information such as contacts, if apps require permissions to access them in order to work. Kids Space lets you limit the apps your little ones have access to when you hand them the phone.
Oppo Cloud gives you 5GB of free cloud storage for backups, while Game Acceleration is supposed to adjust system resources for better gameplay. You get a tonne of toggle switches in the notifications shade, including shortcuts for Google Now, the camera, screen recording, and Oppo share, which can be used to send files over Wi-Fi to nearby Oppo phones. Stock apps include Oppo’s own app store, a file manager, and an app for migrating data over to another phone.
Oppo F7 performance, cameras, and battery life
The low weight of the Oppo F7 makes it very comfortable to use every day. However, the glossy back and sides make it a major fingerprint magnet so it’s a real pain to keep clean. We’re not big fans of the new design, and we think the older F5 still looks and feels more premium. We didn’t have any trouble with 4G reception and call quality is good in all the areas we tested it in. We’re also happy to report that the F7 runs fairly cool in most use cases. Even when gaming outdoors on a hot day, the back of the phone only got a bit warm at best, which is great.
The speaker doesn’t get too loud when playing media files, but alerts were quite audible. Most of the apps we tested worked well with the 19:9 display. In apps that don’t have native support, you get a little prompt to stretch them to fullscreen. Some of the themes in Oppo's Theme Store weren't notch-ready and had alignment issues. In some games, on-screen items can be obscured when running in fullscreen mode.
The headset looks a lot like Apple’s EarPods but they don’t sound all that great. The Oppo F7 has an audio enhancement feature called Real Original Sound developed by Oppo and Dirac. It helps lift the mids and low-end frequencies a bit, but it isn’t very noticeable with the bundled headset. You can also create a custom EQ preset. There’s a Headphones Monitor toggle that is said to provide a “live karaoke experience through the headphones,” but we didn’t find much use for it. The phone handles most popular video and audio codecs, but it struggled to play 4K video files smoothly.
Being an F-series phone, there's a lot of focus on the front camera of the Oppo F7. Oppo has picked a 25-megapixel Sony sensor, with an f/2.0 aperture. The F7 also boasts of AI Beauty and Sensor HDR capabilities. AI Beauty only works with the front camera, and lets the algorithms do the work of judging how much beautification is needed. Most of the time, we found that it worked quite well, but there were instances when it went a bit wrong. You can manually choose the level of beautification too, along with various filters. It also now works with other parts of your body too, like your neck. Sensor HDR gives you a preview of the final shot before it’s actually taken. In practice, it works well with barely any shutter lag. There are some AR stickers too, which are fun to play around with.
Image quality is very good in daytime shots, and the camera manages to retain good detail and colour even indoors. The screen flash is fairly effective, and even in low light, we managed to get bright and clear selfies, with little to no noise on our subjects' faces. There’s a depth effect mode, which does a decent job with edge detection, and the level of blurring is usually managed well. You can even use a palm gesture to take shots.
The rear camera has a 16-megapixel sensor with an f/1.8 aperture, which manages to capture decent details in stills, provided there’s sufficient light. Focusing is quick during the day, but does dip a bit in low light. Macros are also handled well, with nicely saturated colours, and the same holds true to an extent even in low light. Landscapes at night lose a bit of detail, and objects in the distance lack good definition if you zoom in.
The camera app allows 2x zooming (except in Panorama mode) but we don’t recommend this as it’s essentially just digital zoom, in which you lose out on clarity. Expert mode lets you tinker around with the ISO, shutter speed, etc, and you can also switch on Ultra HD, which stitches four consecutive shots into a single higher-resolution frame (6212x9216 pixels). The Super Vivid toggle switch bumps up the contrast, which is useful when shooting close-ups of food etc, but it can make landscapes look artificial, especially when combined with HDR.
Oddly, the phone doesn’t support 4K video recording, as the maximum resolution is 1080p. There’s no electronic stabilisation either, so it’s best not to move around too much when you shoot. Even slight hand shakes are noticeable in the final output, and even with ample light, we noticed a bit of focus hunting when panning. You don’t get additional modes for video either, such as slow-motion. The camera app is easy to use and that’s because the layout is heavily inspired by iOS.
Battery life one of Oppo F7’s strong suits, and during regular usage, we had no trouble getting about a day and half worth of runtime on a single charge. With heavier usage, battery life does reduce, but the Oppo F7 should still comfortably last you through a full day. Charging is a bit slow as even with the 10W charger, we only managed get to about 23 percent in half an hour.
The F7 doesn’t support Oppo’s VOOC flash charging standard. We also didn’t like the fact that ColorOS doesn't have a battery usage graph, which is typically found in the Settings app. There’s no option for battery management in the Phone Manager app either. You get a simple Power Saving toggle switch, but there’s no way to customise that mode.
The Oppo F7 is a good upgrade over the F5 in terms of battery life and SoC performance. The selfie camera is also easily one of the best in this phone's price range, and new additions like the Sense HDR mode and AI Beauty work well most of the time. We’re not big fans of the aesthetics as it’s a task to keep this phone looking good. The plastic body also takes away the premium feeling that most previous F-series phones prided themselves on. ColorOS doesn’t have a fresh enough design either, and Oppo might have gone a bit overboard with the customisations, which we don’t appreciate. Oppo has used the area around the notch well, so it’s not simply there for aesthetic value.
Between this and the Vivo V9, we’d recommend the Oppo F7 as it is better in terms of battery life, camera quality, and CPU performance. If you need something more feature-rich, there’s also the Moto X4 (Review) at around the same price, which has much better build quality than both the Vivo and Oppo models, and even has waterproofing.
Do Oppo F7 and Vivo V9 show what to expect from OnePlus 6? We discussed that on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.