Foldable phones so far have had the problem of being either too big and bulky, or too small with a tiny cover display and poor battery life, and I don’t think anybody is a fan of the visible crease in the middle. Enter the Oppo Find N, the company’s first commercially available foldable phone that solves all these problems in one go.
It’s delightfully compact to hold when folded with the cover display covering nearly the entire front surface. And it unfolds into this pocketable tablet-sized display that’s wide but not too tall, and THAT DOESN’T HAVE A CREASE IN THE MIDDLE! At least one that’s not immediately visible. You can use it like a regular mini phone in its folded form, availing all the comforts of the compact form factor, but can also kick back and relax with a larger screen to watch an episode or get some serious work done.
And all this, for just a little more than the price of the Galaxy Z Flip 3. It costs 8999 RMB in China, which roughly comes down to one lakh seven thousand. But before you get your hopes up, this won’t be launching in India. Oppo said it’s planning to keep it China-only for the moment,and I don’t think anyone from China is reading this review, but if it does go global, there’s a lot of reasons to buy it.
It all starts with the design. Oppo said they experimented with many foldable form factors, including a rollable one, before zeroing down on this design. And I think Oppo has hit the jackpot with this one. It’s just as compact as the iPhone 13 Mini, but the foldable display inside won’t make you miss out on the Pro Max Ultra experience. The rear panel has a frosted glass finish with a camera module very akin to the Find X3 Pro, there’s dual speakers at the bottom, fingerprint sensor embedded in the power button, and a THICC hinge with DESIGNED FOR FIND engraved on it. It doesn’t carry an official IP certification but Oppo said the phone can survive some amount of water splashes, but not the full swimming pool treatment. There’s also Gorilla Glass Victus on top of both the displays.
The hinge is the engineering showstopper of the Find N. Because unlike the Z Fold 3 which still doesn’t close completely, the Find N doesn’t even allow a thin sheet of A4 paper to pass through the fold. It shuts flat like a book. How did Oppo accomplish this? The hinge creates a water-drop shaped fold from the ultra-thin-glass, which then lets the rest of the glass fold flat. The rounded bit of the fold is tucked away under the hinge enclosing, so even when you unfold it flat, there’s no crease visible.
It’s certainly ingenious, but I’ve always regarded the crease as a minor inconvenience of using a foldable phone. The real issues arise from the cover display being either too small (like in the Z Flip 3) or too narrow (like in the Z Fold 3). But the Find N gets around it with a curved 18:9 cover display on the front measuring 5.49-inches, and a large 4:3 panel inside measuring 7.1-inches. The result is you get the best of both worlds. The cover display is large enough to be used independently. Whip it out of the pocket to reply to a message like you would on a normal smartphone, or unfold it for a large-screen experience. You get the best of both worlds.
To keep the costs in check, the outer display is only 60Hz but the 7.1-inch UTG screen inside gets the full LTPO treatment with variable refresh rate of up to 120Hz. As a result, there is a noticeable difference in the UX going from the cover display to the inner display, and it sort of incentivizes you to use the inner display more due to its smoothness. The inner panel is where the real magic happens. It’s a 1080p screen, once again to keep the costs in check, but it hits a peak brightness of 800 nits typically and 1000 nits in HBM and supports HDR10+. It does feel just as plasticky to touch, and you can sort of make out the two ends of the hinge on the screen, but there’s no visible crease interrupting whatever you’re watching on the screen.
Using the phone feels surprisingly natural. I can’t say the same about Samsung’s foldables. Both the Flip and Fold had me relearn my smartphone habits all over again. The Flip had me flipping it open for everything outside of just glancing at my notifications, while the Fold 3 felt unnaturally narrow and tall to even carry around in the pocket. The Find N is perfectly pocketable.
Folding and unfolding is a two-hand job. And the hinge did feel a little too stiff for my liking. But it’s a free-form hinge, meaning you can keep it folded at any angle between 45 to 120 degrees. Anything more than this, and the phone automatically settles for the closest resting state. This lets you keep the phone raised for a stable video, or a time lapse. The cover screen can also be used as a viewfinder for the rear cameras.
Oppo has also made changes to ColorOS 12 to make room for the large screen. A simple two finger swipe along its spine splits the screen to run two different apps. That’s probably the simplest split-screen gesture I’ve encountered. First party apps are, of course, tailored for the foldable form factor. The Settings app gets a two column layout, the keyboard is split from the middle for better typing, and you can access multi-app split-screen layouts you regularly use in a snap.
Popular global apps like YouTube and Instagram, are naturally not optimised since this is a China-only device and most of the global apps are not available there. Heck, my unit didn’t even have Google services available. So if Oppo ever plans to release it to regions outside China, there still is a lot of work left to do in optimising the popularly used apps for the new form factor.
All said and done, the Find N is very much a flagship smartphone. The foldable form factor aside, it has the Snapdragon 888 under the hood combined with 12GB LPDDR5 RAM and 512GB UFS 3.1 storage. That’s just as powerful as the Z Fold 3, but Oppo also managed to include a larger 4500mAh battery in a smaller chassis. So, at least on paper, I’m expecting the Find N to deliver longer battery life than the Z Fold 3.
More than the benchmark scores, I wanted to know whether this design can handle the Snapdragon 888 with all its thermal insecurities.
While the cores weren’t throttled much, there was a significant increase in surface temperature, which makes me wonder if there’s still some more work left to satisfy power users.
The camera stack includes a 50MP Sony IMX 766 sensor for the primary camera, along with a 13MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom and a 16MP ultrawide camera. For selfies and online meetings, there’s a 32 MP camera on both the cover display and in the inner display. More than how the photos come out, I wanted to see if the benefits of the foldable form factor was leveraged by the camera. And for the most part, it does. The hinge turns the phone into its own tripod, letting you suspend the camera at any angle between 45 to 120 degrees, or you can use the cover display as a viewfinder. The camera app also adjusts itself into a large viewfinder when completely unfolded, and goes split-screen when the panel is flexed. The photos come out okayish from the main camera in the day, and somewhat good at night. But the ultrawide and telephoto cameras are just average.
Not Perfect but..
Now, so far I’ve only explained the good parts of the Oppo Find N. And the good points surely outweigh the bad, but it’d be unfair if I didn’t address the cons. For one, at 15.9mm, the Find N is thicc AF when kept folded. It’s also slightly heavier than the Z Fold 3 despite being smaller. Small things like not being able to set a separate wallpaper for the outer display, and Android’s general inability to run multiple instances of the same app side by side, keeps it from becoming the real multitasking large screen phone right now.. But has Oppo found the best foldable form factor? That, it absolutely has. With a wider and more compact design, the lower price tag and the flagship performance, the Find N feels less of a novelty, and more mainstream than what Samsung has been able to offer. I’m surely going to have a hard time going back to my Z Flip 3 after knowing this exists in the wild.
Photos by Amit Mishra