Fast forward to the latter months of 2013 and Oppo had introduced the Oppo N1: another flagship to take over from where the Find 5 left off. This time, the headline spec was the rotating camera, a feature not seen since the Nokia N90.
Its latest flagship the N3, takes queues from the N1 and enhances the camera's rotational skills as well as bumping the other specifications all round.
Alongside the 16MP rotating camera, there's a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS LCD screen, a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.3GHz, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of onboard storage, fingerprint reader and dual-SIM capability (and one of the SIM slots also doubles as a micro-SD card reader).
These are most of the specs you'd expect, meaning the N3 matches up with most other 2014 top-end phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the budget-priced OnePlus One, but has the Chinese smartphone giant done enough to entice a Western audience to try a brand that is still relatively unknown?
Right off the bat there's a few things to notice; most other top smartphones of this size are now rocking a QHD-resolution screen, and while Oppo has skinned Android 4.4.4 with its very own Color OS interface, the downside means there's no Android 5.0 Lollipop onboard just yet.
The swivelling camera and Chinese roots meant the Oppo N3 was never going to be totally down to earth, and the overall design is a bit of a mixed bag. I was impressed by the solid build quality and the premium feel that the circumferencing aluminium band lends it.
The rest of the phone however, is plastic. The back and front trim that surrounds the screen is made from a matte polycarbonate, which feels nice in the hand, but isn't overly exciting.
The faux leather stitching that borders the camera module is a visual styling ripped straight from the memories of Samsung's Galaxy Note 3. It's certainly not my idea of stylish, and I honestly think the N3 would have looked better sticking with the same matte plastic on the camera module as used on the rest of the body.
The N3's screen is a 1920 x 1080 5.5-inch IPS LCD which equates to a comfortable 403PPI resolution. Sure, some other flagships are running QHD displays, but that's for little other than bragging rights on screens of this size. There's a natural colour temperature and whites as bright as you would expect from an IPS panel.
Auto-brightness can be a little slow to respond, and isn't always smooth, but I suspect this could be fixed in a future software update. It could be something to do with the fact that the auto-brightness sensor is built into the camera module, so you need to always ensure it's the right way round in order for auto brightness to respond properly.
Oppo has chosen a combination of capacitive buttons below the touch-screen in lieu of on-screen adaptive icons, which is not necessarily a bad thing as it affords more usable screen real-estate. The downside is that they are only visible when the backlight is in operation, meaning you may well end up pressing the wrong button if used to an alternative button layout.
The backlight is also disappointingly weak; I don't want to be distracted from the screen by super-bright LEDs, but equally they could have been at least half as bright again.
On top of the right side of the phone you'll find a 3.5mm headphone socket and lower down, the curiously diminutive volume rocker. The left edge is home to the power/wake button with the SIM/micro-SD tray above it, and a micro-USB connector down at the bottom.
The buttons sit almost exactly where you'd want them to with the phone firmly positioned in your hand, but I'm at a total loss as to why Oppo would put the micro-USB and headphone sockets on opposing corners. It looks untidy when you dock it, means that the phone feels even more gigantic if you have it in a pocket with headphones plugged in, and generally seems like a compromise was made somewhere along the way.
The bottom has a curious 'bridge' that covers the primary microphone and speaker grille, from which the 'Skyline' notification LED also radiates. This bridge helps the glowing notification LED illuminate more widely, and possibly helps direct the sound from the speaker back towards the user, while making it almost impossible to inadvertently cover over.
Oppo's reasoning behind this additional curve and choice of notification LED positioning means that the it's altogether less distracting and works whether the phone is facing up or down.
The back houses a secondary microphone just below the 16MP swivelling camera module, an embossed Oppo logo and recessed fingerprint reader in a similar position to that found on the HTC One Max.
Key features and interface
While the camera is clearly the headline on the Oppo N3 (more on that later), there are a number of other features to note that help the N3 stand out against the vast array of other smartphones.
First and foremost, the fingerprint reader, while not being a feature Oppo is shouting about particularly loudly, works surprisingly well. With the N3 held in the right hand your forefinger rests pretty comfortably onto the reader, allowing you to unlock the phone with a simple click, rather than the unwieldy swipes some other phones demand.
Pressing the reader also wakes the phone, meaning you can wake and unlock the N3 quite simply with just one finger. Should you want to share the phone with others, or have the flexibility of using multiple digits, the N3 can be taught up to five fingerprints.
A relatively standard feature in the far-east perhaps, the dual-SIM capability is now finally becoming a more wide-spread feature in phones here in the UK, including the incredibly cheap Huawei Honor 3C.
It essentially means users can choose to use their phone for both business and pleasure; the N3 is capable of taking one nano-SIM and a secondary micro-SIM.
One slight downside is that the micro-SIM slot also doubles as the micro-SD card slot, meaning users will have to choose between either additional storage on top of the phone's 32GB built-in capacity, or a secondary SIM.
Oppo has included a little gadget called the O-Click. It's a key-fob sized accessory that can be used to remotely trigger the camera, find your phone or control playback music.
You can even set it up to give you an alert if it goes out of range of your N3, meaning you'll never forget your phone again. It's a nice little extra that feels like a welcome bonus Oppo could have easily charged a few extra quid for.
Android 5.0 Lollipop is finally making its way to a variety of smartphones, including many that were launched in the earlier part of 2014 such as the HTC One M8.
The N3 is still on Android 4.4.4 and because of the heavily skinned Color OS that Oppo has employed, it is unlikely to see the Lollipop update until later in the year. if ever. Fortunately, this previous version of Android has full compatibility with all aspects of Google's services, and it doesn't hamper the experience in any way.
Color OS is a Chinese version of Android that is heavily skinned to look drastically different from the stock Google OS. It has been used previously on a variety of phones in Mainland China, and featured on the Asian version of the OnePlus One.
The first main difference you will notice when you first start using the N3 is that Color OS does away with the Android app drawer, keeping everything on the home screen. You'll have to be pretty diligent and employ the folders to keep your home screen tidy.
Fortunately Oppo offers a seemingly unlimited amount of home screens at your disposal. I got bored after adding a 28th home screen page, so I'm pretty sure no one will ever run out of space to add as many widgets and shortcuts as they desire.
Like many other Android skins, there is the ability to change the theme, with Oppo pre-loading its own 'theme store', which is filled with a wide variety of themes that change the wallpaper, icons and the overall look of the operating system.
Some of the themes are childish, others are chintzy, but there are one or two that are worth the download to customise the look of your phone. Personally, I switched onto the 'Jelly Bean' theme and breathed a partial sigh of relief.
Whatever theme you choose, the notifications pane has had the once over by Oppo, offering all the setting toggles you might need at the flick of a finger. There's everything from Bluetooth and NFC switches, to an emergency 'lock now' toggle, and a very handy flashlight toggle.
Should you have lots of notifications pending, the toggles will shuffle upwards and only consume a single line, offering the most popular setting adjustments; to access the full quota, a settings shortcut is always to hand in the top right of the pane. To clear notifications, simply tap the 'brush' icon that shows up at the bottom of the notification pane.
Speaking of settings, Oppo has split the settings menu into three separate tabs, similar to that which you would find on the Touchwiz-toting Samsung Galaxy S5. The 'general' tab houses most of the main settings, covering wireless and networks, accounts & security and system options.
The second tab covers everything concerned with the phone's sounds and notifications, and also allows you to enable the 'Maxx Audio' setup, which offers a selection of preset sound modes, and the ability to manually adjust them with a graphic equaliser or bass, treble, volume and dialog sliders.
Color OS comes pre-loaded with a bespoke weather app, backup and restore functionality, as well as access to the NearMe cloud services that allow contact and SMS backup, and a 'find my phone' function.
Overall, it isn't the worst Android skin I've used and I'd honestly rather use this than Samsung's Touchwiz, but I'd still choose Google's original OS interface any day.
Performance and battery life
Having a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor on board, accompanied by an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM it's no real surprise that the Oppo N3 flies along in day-to-day usage. It's a similar combination of hardware found in the OnePlus One, Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2.
There was not a hint of slow-down, no matter which apps I was zipping in and out of, and top-end games that have started to show the age of my own HTC One worked flawlessly on the N3.
So now you may be wondering whether the N3's apparent speed translated well into a good set of benchmark scores, and happily the answer was yes. I ran the Geekbench 3 app, which tests a variety of performance aspects, to come up with two scores: one for single and one for multi-core processing.
The N3 scored an average of 963 in the single-core test, and 2763 in the multi-core test, putting it in the same realm as Samsung's S5 and the HTC One M8.
For making the most of the 3000mAh battery, Oppo has included a battery manager, which allows you to turn down the power, and in return get a little more longevity out of the N3. There is also a 'Super Power-saving' mode, similar to HTC's Extreme Power Saving mode, which limits the phone's functionality to give even longer battery life. It's a feature that many brands are now incorporating into Android in one form or another, and is gladly received here on the N3.
Although it doesn't have the latest Qualcomm processor onboard, and chooses to stick with 2GB of RAM rather than the 3GB you'll find in the Sony Xperia Z3, everything I could throw at the N3 was handled quite admirably, without a hint of slow-down.
A 3000mAh battery is now par for the course on top-end Android handsets. Anything less and the phone would likely struggle to make it through the day.
I'm happy to report that the N3 made it through a long day full of music play back, the odd dabble in games, as well as regular checks of social media apps and my regularly-visited web sites of choice.
It's not inconceivable to think that the N3 could make it close to 48 hours of uptime with careful usage, and by employing the power-saving modes available.
As always, I put the phone under an intensive test by running our HD video of choice at full brightness with all the power-saving modes disabled and volume turned up.
After running the 90 minute video, the battery had dropped from fully charged down to 75% - a drop of 25% which betters the iPhone 6 Plus, puts it right alongside the LG G3, but doesn't manage to perform quite as well as the Nexus 6, which only dropped 17%.
The essentials and camera
Let's not forget the bare necessitates when we look at an all-singing, all-dancing smartphones such as this. There's still the ever-so-2005 functions of telephone calls and SMS messaging to consider.
In this department I'm happy to report that the Oppo N3 makes both functions straight forward and easy to get-to-grips with. Calling and texting can be accessed directly from the lock screen for fast response to missed calls and texts.
Neither are crammed with any particularly ground-breaking special features, but they are the definition of functional. There's a whiff of Apple's iOS that binds the design of both apps, though this isn't necessarily a bad thing, just a bit lazy.
The primary internet browser included on the N3 is based upon Android's stock browser, but, as with many other aspects of the phone, it has had a fresh lick of paint applied in the form of an overhauled UI.
Perhaps because of the over-sized display, Oppo has cleverly moved the main navigation and menu buttons to the foot of the browser window.
There are front and back keys; a home key which brings up a page of easy-access bookmarks and well known favourites such as Google, Facebook and Twitter; and a menu button which brings up a further set of options such as a high-contrast night mode, a full screen browsing toggle and various other additional settings.
Overall I rather liked Oppo's own browser, and think it has done a good job of making it work well on a large screen. If, however, you can't get on with it, Google's Chrome is pre-installed as a safe alternative.
Music playback is handled via a relatively sparse app that allows you to create playlists, choose favourite tracks and even search for new music via the phone's mic, similar to Shazam.
On the homepage, Oppo dedicates a special page to music playback that presents you with a record-player interface that allows you to swipe the needle arm onto the record in order to start music playback. It's quite fun the first few times, but ultimately a bit of a worthless gimmick.
Browsing photos and other pictures on the N3 is also taken over by Oppo's own app. Like all the other Color OS apps I've encountered so far, the interface is simple yet acceptable.
Pictures are displayed in a collage-like fashion, though there doesn't appear to be any special algorithms behind the screen making 'better' photos stand out.
One built-in feature that users might enjoy is the ability to create photo collages from any of the photos or pictures on your phone and save them as a single image. While there's a million other apps out there that will do the same thing, having the feature built into the gallery is a nice little touch.
The video app? Oppo's designers clearly ran out of steam with this one. It's bland and totally devoid of any special features. One major upside, however, is that the app natively plays MKV files, a common format for 'downloaded' movies, without a hitch.
Here's the bit you have probably come to this review for, and overall it doesn't disappoint.
The Oppo N3 is the first smartphone to have a fully motorised camera that is both your front, and rear facing camera. This means the 16MP camera with Schneider Kreznauch lens is for both high-res selfies and gorgeous landscapes.
After a little glitch with the app which caused the screen to go black when changing to front-facing mode (fixed with a side-load of the latest camera app), I was away and snapping. Slowly swipe downwards on the camera preview screen to make the camera module tilt upwards.
This gives you quite versatile shooting angles, although a colleague pointed out that it could be responsible for some rather naughty candid-camera public photography.
A quicker downward swipe flips the camera around for your selfies, and once you're done, another fast upward swipe brings the camera back around to rear-facing mode. Fortunately, when you do switch modes, the camera app knows what to do and spins the view around too, otherwise all your selfies would be upside-down.
The module itself, apart from the ghastly faux leather stitching, feels solid and secure, and can be manually positioned should you wish. One neat feature that I found really handy is that even with the phone in sleep mode, you can quickly wake and get straight to snapping photos by spinning the camera around.
My biggest concern? Cases. What kind of fully-protective cases will accommodate for the camera module? The answer, unfortunately, is a case that won't cover the camera module whatsoever.
As for the camera app itself, more work has gone into this than most of the other replacement apps, and considering the camera is the phone's headline feature, this is no real surprise.
Swipe up from the shutter icon and you are given a range of different camera modes such as 'Ultra HD', a night mode, an 'auto panorama' mode (which automatically rotates the lens to capture a wide panorama), 'beautify' mode and an 'expert' mode.
'Normal' mode is more like an automatic camera mode, and does well to cope in most lighting conditions without the need to switch settings.
The 'expert' mode allows easy control of exposure, ISO, white balance and manual focus. It's definitely a nice touch and afforded the opportunity to tinker with photos when the opportunity arose.
Get bored of the included photo modes? Well Oppo has made it easy to add on more. Currently available are a HDR mode (which probably should have been pre-installed), alongside a unique RAW capture mode and a'super macro mode' (read: digital zoom).
There's also an 'after focus' which, as the name suggests, lets you change the focus of an image after you've taken the photo. It's a great idea in principle, but as it relies on software processing, the effect isn't that pronounced.
If you are willing to spend the time in Adobe Lightroom, the RAW mode can gift you some truly excellent photos, but at the expense of phone storage. Each picture weighs in at about 30MB rather than the usual 3-4MB.
There are plenty more features to explore, such as a 'soft light' mode which turns on just one of the two LED flashes to illuminate a scene without 'flooding' the image with harsh white light.
As for the photos themselves? Overall I was really impressed. There are a few minor hiccups such as the really poor stitching of panoramas which makes the auto panorama mode a bit of a let-down.
Having all those megapixels means that using it in front-facing mode is a real joy compared to a lot of other hampered low-res snappers such as the low-res 1.2MP front camera on the Apple iPhone 6.
For day-to-day snapping, the camera launches quickly and has all the features and filters you could want, and admirably keeps up with competition from the other top smartphone snappers such as that found in the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 or the Nokia Lumia 930.
Where video is concerned, I was surprised to see 4K and HDR video omitted, though the 1080p video is still of usable quality. It's almost like Oppo got so carried away with making the N3 great at stills, it forgot to do anything with the video capabilities.
The Oppo N3 is a top-tier smartphone in many ways, with some truly unique features and an operating system that might be quite different to stock Android, but doesn't ruin the phone.
While some of the key specifications compare with flagships that were arriving this time in 2014, there's nothing onboard that hampers the performance. A speedy quad-core processor, decent screen quality, good storage and SIM options make the N3 a definite contender, if a bit of an oddball.
If you like standing out from the crowd, are sold on the quirky camera, and don't mind the rather large form factor, then the N3 should definitely be considered alongside other 5.5-inch phones like the LG G3.
The camera is undoubtedly unique, and a feature you'll be showing off to anyone who cares to notice. Fortunately, it's not all show without substance, there is some good hardware underneath and the camera app is packed with plenty of features.
The body feels solid and well made compared to many other Chinese smartphones hitting the European market. Even with the spinning camera module, there aren't any squeaks from the chassis when put under pressure.
The positioning of the notification LED is well thought out, and the rhythmic pulse is far less annoying than some overly-bright blinking LEDs found on other handsets.
The O-Click Bluetooth fob was a welcome addition I hadn't expected, and has some legitimately useful features for the forgetful among us, while doubling as a remote camera trigger that opens up the capabilities of the phone's camera even further.
The headphone and micro-USB ports are in totally daft positions. Whether this was a limitation imposed by the design of the internal hardware, or a short-sighted decision by Oppo is difficult to determine, but whatever the excuse, it's plain nuts.
The swivelling camera might be fun and afford some great quality snaps, but it throws up a couple of pitfalls. Firstly, it limits the options of protective phone cases considerably, meaning you would have to take good care of this large handset. It can also mean that the auto-brightness sensor is often in the wrong place, which considering that the auto brightness is already a bit poorly executed, is a bit of a let-down.
This may well be subjective, but the N3 is a rather large phone. It's in the same territory as the Google Nexus 6, and other top-end 'phablets', but doesn't quite keep up when it comes to screen resolution.
Color OS has some nice features, but it's certainly not my Android skin of choice. Oppo has almost gone too far to replace apps that aren't broken in stock Android phones. Overall, I'd rather have Android as Google intended.
For $649 (around £400, AU$800) the Oppo N3 is a considerable amount of phone for your money, and has some well executed features. The most obviously of which is the swivelling camera that'll wow your friends and change the way you use a smartphone camera.
Of course, you may be afraid to go for a brand that is relatively unknown in the western world, but in its native China, Oppo is fast becoming a household name, and are renowned for building quality electronics with novel features: the N3 is no exception.
Yes, there are a few quirks and bugs in the Color OS interface. I'm not generally a fan of third-party Android skins, and that hasn't changed with the N3, but I can certainly say that at all times it felt speedy and responsive.
Want a phone with a party trick, big screen and novel features? The Oppo N3 should at least be in your 'maybe' pile.