Mobile World Congress 2017

Ever heard of Oppo? Its phone camera sports a 5X zoom

Oppo, the largest-selling smartphone in China in 2016, is counting on its 5X zoom phone camera to help retain its lead.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 February, 2017, 6:48pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 11:43am

Chinese smartphone maker Oppo announced a new mobile camera technology on Monday, vowing to challenge standalone cameras in picture quality and retain its sales momentum as a market leader.

The latest dual camera zoom unveiled by Oppo is able to achieve a lossless 5X zoom even within the confines of a thin smartphone, the Chinese company said during the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017 in Barcelona.

The lack of an optical zoom has always been the major obstacle holding back smartphone cameras from competing with standalone cameras in terms of photo quality. Oppo claims its latest technology is able to avoid blurry photos even if the lens is fully zoomed in, while the phone camera is just as slim as cameras without zoom lenses.

Jiang Anyi, an Oppo vice president, said the company has been committed to invest in mobile camera development as demands for “clear and beautiful pictures” remain a mainstream requirement among consumers.

Jiang regards 2016 as a milestone for the company as IDC research showed that Oppo shipped 78.4 million mobile phones on the Chinese mainland during the year, becoming market leader for the first time. Huawei and Vivo trailed behind, with 76.6 million and 69.2 million handsets respectively.

Aside from its commercial strategy involving sales channels, marketing campaigns and advertisements, it is the mobile photography capability that has propelled Oppo to No 1 in the mainland market, and Oppo will continue to “focus on users’ core photography needs” to hold onto its lead, according to Jiang.

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Oppo has been one of the few Chinese smartphone brands to emphasise the mobile camera feature since it entered the handset business in 2008. Oppo’s R9 series, the first smartphone in the local market equipped with a 16-megapixel front camera, was the best-selling handset on the Chinese mainland last year, with shipments approaching 17 million units.

“Photography is a critical feature in smartphones today, and Oppo did a really nice job of that 5X zoom. One of Oppo’s strengths has always been in its aggressive engineering compared to the competition,” said Bryan Ma, vice president of device research at IDC.

Oppo said it has filed more than 50 patents for the 5X dual camera zoom technology, with the technology development taking more than a year.

“Good technology alone doesn’t guarantee success. Indeed, one of the bigger reasons for Oppo’s success is its strength in distribution channels and marketing,” Ma added.

Thomas Husson, principal analyst with Forrester Research, told the South China Morning Post that Oppo has offered appealing features to the younger generation, as well as quality products that were good value for money. The company also leverages its strong distribution network and was smart in positioning itself as the “selfie expert”.

However, Husson said camera quality alone was not the decisive factor. “At the end of the day, innovation and value perceived by consumers does not come from hardware features alone but from the integration of the camera with software and services,” he said.