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Oppo adds a motor and fake leather to the N3's swivel camera (hands-on)

The successor to the Oppo N1 skips a number and comes with an updated design and features -- including a motorised, rotating leatherette camera. No, really.

Aloysius Low Senior Editor
Aloysius Low is a Senior Editor at CNET covering mobile and Asia. Based in Singapore, he loves playing Dota 2 when he can spare the time and is also the owner-minion of two adorable cats.
Aloysius Low
4 min read

With hardware being very much commoditized and top-of-the-line phones mostly sharing the same chips (hooray, it's another Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 flagship!), manufacturers are looking outside of the box to stand out.

Some add fingerprint sensors, others plump for lavish 1440p screens, but Oppo's N3 has one thing most other phones can't boast -- a 16-megapixel motorised swivel camera that doubles as a front and rear shooter.

Oppo's N3 has a camera that swivels by itself (pictures)

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Hardware-wise, the N3 packs a 5.5-inch full HD display (that's 1,920x1,080 pixels), a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage, a 3,000mAh battery and 4G LTE connectivity. The phone will be available globally soon direct from Oppo for $649, which converts to around £400 or AU$735, unlocked and without a contract.

That price is more than you'd expect from a Chinese smartphone maker, but you're paying for a unique feature that's currently not on any other smartphone on the market.

From N1 to N3

So there was the Oppo N1, but what happened to the N2? Well, there isn't one (or 2, rather) -- the Oppo N3 is the direct sequel. Company representatives explained that it doesn't use even numbers for its products in China -- and I'm guessing this could also be due to how Chinese companies prefer to avoid the number four (since the pronunciation of "four" in Mandarin sounds like "death").

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Design and hardware

The N3 looks much the same as the N1, though there are tweaks to the design. The most obvious of these changes would be the faux-leather material used in the swivel camera mount. I'll be honest here -- I hate it. It clashes with the rest of the phone's clean matte surface and doesn't add anything to the character of the N3.

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The swivel camera has been improved with a motor, and it will automatically swivel around when you tap on the front camera button in the camera app. You can slide your finger on the screen or fingerprint sensor (located at the back) to operate the camera. There's an auto-panorama feature that automatically takes a panoramic picture. Check it out below for a quick look at the camera in leatherette-swivelling action.

Due to pre-production software, I wasn't able to evaluate the performance of the 16-megapixel shooter, and I look forward to doing so when I get a review unit next month.

Oppo has added a band at the sides, and while it does look stylish, it ends up digging into your hand, making for an uncomfortable grip. The phone appears to taper downwards, making the bottom look thinner than the top. And annoyingly, the N3 is actually thicker than the N1 -- 9.9mm versus the 9mm of the N1.

Located at the bottom of the phone is an odd-looking hollowed-out curve -- that's Oppo's Skyline notification, which first appeared on the Oppo Find 7. The notification lights can now be seen even when the phone is placed with the screen facing downwards, as it now visible on both sides of the phone, leaving you unable to escape notifications anymore.

The Oppo N3 has dual-SIM capability -- one micro-SIM slot and one nano-SIM slot. As I understand it, the nano-SIM slot can be replaced by a microSD card slot depending on the model.

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Software and other features

The Oppo N3 comes with Color OS 2.0, running over Android 4.4 KitKat. The OS has been improved from the original, but Oppo hasn't taken the plunge to commit to a flatter interface. That said, you can download themes from the Theme Store and change its look.

Oppo has made the N1's gesture feature much more usable. Instead of swiping down from the top-left corner and taking up the whole screen, the gesture window can now be activated by swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen, which takes up about a third of the display. This makes it much easier to use and you can set up patterns to launch things like the camera, the flashlight or an app of your choice.

The O-Click accessory has been redesigned, and now has directional buttons that let you control the swivel camera. It can be used to locate your phone as well.

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Aloysius Low/CNET

Outlook

I have to admit, the Oppo N3 is certainly an intriguing device, and the phone will stand out just as much as its predecessor. Having a 16-megapixel camera that works for both the front and rear makes a lot of sense and the swivel mount usually works well as a conversation starter, based on my experience with the N1.

The chunky build and the not-so-smooth edges of the phone aren't terribly attractive, but I'll wait for a review unit and ample time to try out the phone before I deliver my final verdict. Check back soon.