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What the Tech: Are Oppo’s striking new designs really the future of smartphones?

Oppo has unveiled some interesting-looking new phone tech, but are these new designs really going to shape the future of our mobiles?

From the start, Oppo has been a design-orientated brand, with looks being almost as important as function. However, this manufacturer has taken this philosophy to a whole new level based on the designs that we’ve seen ahead of the Oppo Inno Day that’s coming up on 14 December.

First of all, there was a retractable camera that allowed a massive telephoto zoom lens to be housed inside the device, along with adding the attractive design touch of adding some moving parts to the back of the smartphone, giving a shade of interest to a handset which would otherwise just resemble all the rest.

Then, as if trying to one-up itself, Oppo then released promotional material for the Oppo Find N, which is a foldable smartphone that is its answer to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3, closely resembling the book-like premium phablet. 

These designs were impressive enough just to look at, so we can’t wait to get our hands on them and actually try them out. 

Yet while the two innovations have certainly drawn plenty of attention, will they last and endure as an incontrovertible part of the smartphone’s future?

For one thing, as was even acknowledged in the video promo, the pop-up camera has failed to conquer the smartphone world in the way some hoped that it would. Maybe it’s a question of taste, or maybe customers are concerned that such tech is vulnerable to damage (whether true or not), pop-up selfie cameras very much lived up to their name when they were first introduced to some smartphones in the recent past; no sooner had they popped up, than they disappeared. 

That said, I think that the new retractable camera is more likely to have staying power, mainly because of its functionality. The purpose of pop-up cameras in the past was to avoid a notch or holepunch at the top of a smartphone screen to house a selfie camera. In the end, customers felt that this was actually no great hardship, and continue to buy such phones today; even the all-singing, all-dancing iPhone 13 Pro Max has its screen interrupted by a large notch.

In this instance however, the trade-off would be for a much-improved telephoto lens. We’ve found the lack of a genuinely impressive optical zoom to be a flaw in several recent flagship devices, and so this innovation could solve a genuine problem rather than one that seems not to phase customers.

As for the foldable phone, it’s harder to predict how the future will pan out for such devices. While we had some praise for the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 and the Galaxy Z Fold 3, it has to be said that they’re still prohibitively expensive and haven’t yet cracked the market wide open.

It’s reassuring that Oppo has publicly stated beautiful design and excellent functionality as its two priorities for the device, seeing as those features have been missing from some of the earliest iterations of foldables, but most of all it’s encouraging to see other brands enter this market, to add a little more competition into the mix. That might be the only way that innovative devices such as these do eventually become affordable for average joes. 

There’s been plenty to feast our eyes on even before Oppo raises the curtain on its Inno Day, and as the year comes to a close it is undoubtedly hartening to see that innovation and change are still in store for the smartphones of the future.


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