Oppo has just announced the existence of the Find N, its first foldable. Information is scarce for the time being, but if Oppo gets this right, it could be the rival that the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3's been needing.
A press release (opens in new tab) issued by Oppo reveals a few juicy details about its new book-style foldable, as does a video attached to a related tweet (opens in new tab). The full rundown won't be until Oppo's INNO Day event next week, where we'll also be seeing details of the company's new smart glasses and NPU chip.
So does this mean that the Galaxy Z Fold 3's days atop our best foldable phones guide are numbered? That will depend on if Oppo can fix some of the problems that Samsung has yet to address with its flagship foldable phone. Read on to see what we think those are, and how Oppo could tackle them.
Cameras worth the price
Photography isn't the focus of either of Samsung's foldables. However, given how much you pay for the Z Fold 3 in particular, getting a fairly standard triple-sensor rear camera block isn't that good when you can get more, and better, cameras on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The under-display camera within the phone is a good idea on paper, but this is still a new technology that doesn't work too well compared to normal punch-hole camera notches.
There seems to be at least three cameras on the back of the Find N according to the teaser shot, and we may have glimpsed a punch-hole camera on the display briefly in the video. That's a decent start, but more is needed to properly surpass Samsung.
Oppo is no stranger to strong smartphone photography, as we've most recently seen on the Find X3 Pro. If Oppo could transplant that effective collection of cameras onto its foldable — rather than adding the bare minimum to cover its bases — it would have a much better argument for why the Find N is the greatest phone it's ever made.
This is a difficult one to fix, but it's probably the biggest problem facing current foldables. The size of a foldable's displays take a lot of power to run. This is the case with the Z Fold 3, which also has a fairly low battery capacity for its size. That didn't help the phone's longevity.
The Oppo blog makes no specific claims about battery size or battery life. If the company's serious about making the Find N a "groundbreaking efficient experience," greater battery life through a higher capacity or more efficient parts is a must.
A better hinge crease
While Samsung's basically figured out how to make a hinge durable enough, it's yet to fully address the effect that the hinge has on the display. The crease down the middle of the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is easily noticeable, and the sunken portion of the display makes swiping across it more difficult.
Oppo claims that it has "solved" the hinge crease with new hinge and display designs. There's certainly no sign of a crease in the Twitter video, but we know better than to take a slickly-shot promo at face value. We'll have to wait until next week to see how Oppo's done this, and if its claim is really true, but this is another area where Oppo could easily overtake Samsung.
Ease of use
This may sound like a minor thing in comparison to the hardware points we made above, but foldable phones can be quite unintuitive. For example, on the Z Fold 3, to use both the external and internal displays to their fullest potential, you have to set up two non-identical home pages. And for some reason, Samsung hid one of its smartest new features for the phone, a static taskbar for app shortcuts, within the menus and disabled by default. However, you only learn about these by rooting around in the Settings menu, not when setting up the phone
Lau promises in his blog that the Find N is "truly easy to use and can provide an innovative experience," both on the external display and internal display. Hopefully this means a more consistent experience across folded and unfolded modes, and a more up-front guide on how to get the most from a foldable. The Find N will likely be some users' first folding phone, and these people deserve a good on-boarding experience.
U.S. and U.K. availability
One of the biggest problems with previous potential Z Fold rivals is that they ended up being China-only releases. The Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold is one example, and the Huawei Mate X2 also failed to make it to the U.K., and also lacks Android apps, making it less appealing to most users.
All Oppo has to do to to start being considered a rival, putting all the above points aside, is just be available for purchase in Europe and North America. Oppo currently sells a number of phones in the U.K., so it's not too big a leap to believe its first foldable will come here too. It's not on the U.S. market currently though, but what could be a better introduction for U.S. buyers than a sophisticated foldable to draw attention the company's portfolio of devices?
For a deeper rundown, here's our take on how the Oppo Find N vs Galaxy Z Fold 3 battle could go down.