I wouldn't be surprised if Oppo's N1 Mini is overlooked in the hurry and scurry Xiaomi's Mi3 has created. For this yet another Chinese start-up that launched its costlier N1 model earlier this year is unperturbed by the cut-throat price war, which began with the entry of cheap offerings from Indian rivals. Oppo's smartphones, however, are not a utilitarian collection of specifications, as Businessworld's Mala Bhargava has pointed out. Having said that, there are still reasons why despite the N1 Mini not being unwieldy as the N1, it might not be such a puller. Let's see why.
Body and accessory
Like N1, like N1 mini: That is, as far as looks go. It's the same hard, white, matte-finish plastic body with an arched back that feels every bit premium. The steel rims around the edges add to the class.
The thin bezel makes the screen look bigger than it is. It fits snugly in your hand and the smaller size and round edges make it easy to handle. The plastic body has a good grip. Though it's not light, it doesn't feel clunky. The rotating camera - Oppo's claim to fame - is on the top edge. The Mini has dropped the quirky touchpad on the back, called O-Touch, that lets you scroll or tap without blocking the screen on the front. The O-Click remote control for the phone remains, however. The touchscreen did not show any lag, though a lower Snapdragon series processor does mean trading down from the N1 on speed and performance. Wonder why it's still so steeply priced.
Display and user interface
Though the screen resolution has been whittled down from the N1, the display is still well balanced and sharp with good viewing angles. Oppo's Color OS, built on the Android Jelly Bean operating system, makes the user interface with its myriad themes a pleasing departure from most customised ones. For instance, I liked the theme based on the Singaporean artist Xiaobaosg's Panda Revolution series, in which he has replaced people in the American, Soviet and Chinese Cold War era propaganda posters with pandas with a humbling and hilarious effect. Given that we've become used to listening Beethoven's Für Elise - without knowing - through ringtones, this is an aesthetic Eastern addition. The lower resolution (it's still high-definition though fewer pixels an inch) becomes an issue only when you start thinking about the price Oppo is asking for the Mini. Bad strategy, I must say. The Color operating system is the full version with its ROM cleaner and user information pop-up and the gesture-based shortcuts we saw in the N1. As great as ever, even though it's only marginal.
Audio-video and battery
Unlike most mid-range Chinese models, sold by Indians or foreigners, the Mini's audio quality is decent - with or without headphones. You might even manage to figure out the various instruments in a soundtrack. The rotating camera gives you the same quality for selfies as for others' photos. While the detailing was pretty good, the camera was a bit slow in focusing on and capturing the image. The battery disappointed, as the phone needed two rounds of charging a day with only the social networking apps and internet running along with music for a few hours.
The N1 Mini looks and feels premium, though on matters technical it lags far behind its rivals. Given the competition, the Oppo N1 Mini, at Rs 26,990, needs to be priced better if it wants to stay in the game.